What sort of woman has a taste for middle-aged, married men? Ellie, twenty years old and living in Paris, leads a light and carefree life until she meets “Mister”—a married surgeon approaching middle age. Beginning with their frenzied affair in a hotel room in the fifteenth arrondissement, Monsieur details the clandestine Tuesday morning hotel meetings and fleeting phone calls spanning several months of sexual adventure. Generous with her body and never lacking erotic imagination (or partners—men and women), Ellie illuminates her deviations in a lucid, ferocious, and passionate tale.
Often shocking but never gratuitous, Monsieur is, paradoxically, a coming-of-age story—her seduction of the married man and its devastating aftermath leaving Ellie older and wiser than she once was after their four-month affair comes to its unpredictable conclusion. At once a novel-confession and a description of the descent from passion to cruel fantasy, this is the disenchantment of a contemporary Lolita.
A sexting young woman for the Facebook age tells her salacious side of the story in Becker's exquisite and explicit debut-a semiautobiographical exploration of sexual desire, erotic compulsion, and a dead-end May-December romance. Even 20-year-old Parisian student Ellie, with her lusty-literary ambitions-her hero is the late Mechanics of Women writer Louis Calaferte, and she has published erotic stories in magazines-and insatiable taste for down-and-dirty sexual risk-taking can see the futility of l'affaire with a family friend, Monsieur, a skirt-chasing, married plastic surgeon with five sons. He is a "forty-six years old baby who lives to play at scaring himself and terrifying me," Ellie complains, but she's ga-ga "every time I gaze into those eyes," a transparent act of self-love Ellie bestows on the equally sex-obsessed surgeon. There is a heartbreaking honesty about the saucy student who dissects Nabokov's Lolita and embraces the attraction of sexually adventurous young women and accommodating older men-boasting the "list of those who could worship me the way I wanted was in fact longer than Father Christmas' wish list." In the end, however, it's Ellie who longs for the furtive hookups even as her "mister" drifts away, having given Ellie enough material for a novel and relieved to be back in demand at home and the office. Both lovers score, in a way, but neither seem any happier for the win. Though some of Becker's sexual details may shock readers unfamiliar with Henry Miller, Ellie's poignant openness gives the novel depth. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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October 31, 2012
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