Saturday, June 23, 2012

Readalong Week 3: My Hundred Lovers by Susan Johnson

This week is the final week of the My Hundred Lovers readalong which was being hosted by Bree at All the Books I Can Read.

This is a book that I probably would not have picked out by myself to read but I am glad that I read it. I enjoyed it so much that I already have my next Susan Johnson book waiting to be picked up at the library.

Whilst the author may have set out to deliberately shock and surprise people with some of the things that she talked about in this book, ultimately I found myself having to think, which isn't always a bad thing.

There were whole sections in this book that I could quote as the writing was just bursting with life. There were also sections that had me cringing in my seat and having to read again because I wasn't sure that I had really just read what I thought I read! As I mentioned in last week's post I had to take to dog-earring the page as I didn't have enough book marks with me to keep on marking the passages that I found beautiful or moving or compelling in some way. This book definitely has the distinction of being the most dog-earred book in my library!

As a central character, Deb was compelling and confusing to the reader, searching and confused as a character but ultimately I was surprised at how well I was able to relate to many of the emotions that she allowed to play out through her actions and reactions during the book..

The book is written in short, sometimes very short, chapters that chop and change from each of Deborah's love and they aren't necessarily chronologically ordered. Some are lovers in the amorous sense of the word but other chapters talk about the feeling of the sun on your skin, or crisp, clean sheets on a bed, gelati on a hot day and so much more.

One of the questions that Bree asked in her wrap up post was:

Do you feel you were given a whole picture of Deborah, her life and her lovers? Or do you feel there were things missing, things you would’ve liked elaborated?

I don't think we were necessarily given the whole picture of Deborah because that would imply more of the day to day life than most of us would have wanted to read. What we were given were glimpses into the life of a woman, from her own perspective, about the things that were important to her. I think she was honest with us about many of the incidents in her life and the impacts (for example, how she met Celestine, who became her lover, in a doctor's clinic where she was being tested for AIDS), or at least as honest as she could be.

Many of the relationships were, however, very filtered. For example, we knew that right from childhood there was a lot of jealousy in regards to Deborah's relationship with her sister, and that continued right to the end, and deservedly so, but there was just one chapter where the two sisters shared a tender moment and I think the same can be said of her father - just the one tender moment for her to grasp onto. There were a few details about her son but not a lot. I particularly loved the chapter titled Breast where she talked about looking down on her newborn son as he breastfed. I remember that feeling of wonderment so clearly which is kind of hard to believe as I look at my 13 year old son who is now taller than I am.

I was glad that by the end of the book, Deborah appeared to have found a place where she could be content. Ultimately, I suspect that is what we all want.

This is a book that I can see myself perhaps rereading and savouring again in a few years time!

Thanks to Bree for hosting the readalong and to Allen and Unwin for the providing a copy of the book for the readalong.

Rating 4.5/5

A woman, on the eve of her fiftieth birthday, reflects on one hundred moments from a lifetime's sensual adventures. After the love, hatred and despair are done with, the great and trivial acts of her bodily life reveal an imperfect, yet whole self.

By turns humorous, sharp, haunting and wise, this is an original and exhilarating novel from one of Australia's premier writers.

Lyrical and exquisite, My Hundred Lovers captures the sheer wonder of life, desire and love
This book counts for both the Aussie Author Challenge and for the Australian Women Writer's Challenge.


  1. At first I wasn't too sure about this book, but after reading your reviews I've added it to my list. My local bookshop has sold out, so I'm going to try to get it as an ebook.
    Thanks for changing my mind on what sounds like a great book!

    1. Sam, I really enjoyed it in the end, but at the beginning I was a bit WTF? I would suggest perservering

  2. I participated in the read-along with you and enjoyed your review. Pity it's come to a close now though isn't it? I've really enjoyed the online discussions and interacting with fellow booklovers.

    1. Talking to other book lovers is always so much fun!

  3. Eep, I really need to catch up on my posts for this--I've been commenting but not posting!

    I actually found the readalong really tough, as I typically read books all in one go. Reading this one in sections (and reading about 5 books between each section) meant that I found it really hard to connect with. I did appreciate the story as a whole, but section-by-section, less so.

    1. Stephanie, that is something that I often struggle with in readalongs. I didn't notice it as much as normal with this book, mainly because of the choppy nature of the chapters.

  4. Read A BETTER WOMAN years ago & found it riveting: intimate, unafraid, shocking. Really looking forward to this one.