Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Bride Stripped Bare, Anonymous (Nikki Gemmell)

Posted by lea at 12:03 PM
The Bride Stripped Bare delivers what the title promises: complete and explicit disclosure on the most intimate thoughts of a new bride. After overhearing a conversation implicating her husband in an affair with her best friend, the anonymous bride (whom everyone considers 'the good wife') embarks on a journey of sexual liberation in some pretty lit-erotic scenes.

The book purports to be a manuscript written by the bride, a modern day parallel to a sixteenth century text called Woman's Worth, also a manuscript of liberation written by an anonymous housewife. Using a very intimate second-person narration (‘Your husband doesn't know you're writing this. It's quite easy to write it under his nose. Just as easy, perhaps, as sleeping with other people.’) in a series of 'lessons' (instead of chapters), the writing is lyrical and even almost poetic at times. It conveys the sensitivity and insecurities of the anonymous bride, even as she revels in living out her sexual fantasies in a range of illicit activities.

The author (now outed as Nikki Gemmell) said she published the book as anonymous because it allowed her to write without reservation or embarrassment (although she's now had plenty of both, as well as royalties to boot). I can see why that might be – it’s easy to assume that she’s channeling her own sexual fantasies and living vicariously through her character. But to her credit, the book has more depth than just ‘the sex parts’. The bride struggles to contain her conflicting desires – her love for her husband (who doesn’t fulfill her sexually) and engaging in an adulterous affair (which meets her every sexual need) – and it is this internal struggle that lies at the core of The Bride Stripped Bare. It's the age old question of Madonna or whore – submissive wife or sexual aggressor – told using a different perspective.

One big thing that I don't think works in this book is the 'grab' that sandwiches the contents – we are informed that the bride has suddenly disappeared. It's intriguing at first, but ultimately it's a flimsy device that doesn't quite have the intended effect because her disappearance isn't anchored to any event in the book, leaving us with a big ‘huh?’ at the end.

The Bride Stripped Bare is like reading the journal of an extremely insecure and confused 30-something woman – something that many chicklit readers may relate to and enjoy. Personally I couldn't relate to the character's point in life at all, but still enjoyed the book. Recommended.

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