WHAT THRILLS HER IS SIMPLY HONEST, LOVING SEX
the padlock and beneath each symbol is an epigraph from another modernist, Woolf. On Mel’s bookshelf Connie finds a copy of Woolf’s To the Lighthouse, and later in the work Connie tells herself, ‘‘ Yes, yes. Woolf will be her guide, her beacon. All her novels, her essays, her certainties and admonishments and eviscerating truths.’’
But the guides and beacons in Gemmell’s work are all too prevalent. The book is itself pierced with literary allusions — to Lawrence, Woolf, Reage, as well as smaller references to Tracey Emin, EL James, Marguerite Duras. It is so aware of the tradition in which it is set that it struggles to be anything itself. Gemmell becomes as submissive to the original text as Connie is initially to Cliff, or O to Sir Stephen.
Gemmell is a skilful and talented writer of erotic literature, and the work unfolds sumptuously and compellingly. She has a way of writing sex that is pared back but still affecting. Connie’s moments with Mel convey the depth of wanting, passion, tenderness: