Elizabeth is a modern woman. Smart. Independent. As sexual as she wants to be-with whomever she wants to be. But a breakup with her academic boyfriend has hit her harder than she cares to admit. And while her latest gig, translating a glitzy Czech thriller into English, offends her literary sensibilities, it arouses others with its steamy scenes of eroticism, violence, submission, and dominance. Then, when her favorite Van Morrison CD disappears from its rack and her house is inexplicably violated, Elizabeth is afraid she's starting to lose it-she even consults a local vicar about the possibility of poltergeists. But what this woman in the lovely Victorian is experiencing is not supernatural. Nor is it madness. For in the dead of night, she will suddenly come face-to-face with her tormentor. She will smell him, she will touch him, and she will make a choice. Then the real haunting will begin.
There's a lot of showy exposition about the complicated ebb and flow of sexual power and violence, but, in the end, this thriller is about cheap thrills. Dunant, author of the popular Hannah Wolfe mystery series (Under My Skin, 1995, etc.), tells the story of Elizabeth Skvorecky. Recovering from a bad split with her live-in lover, Lizzie hunkers down in her London mansion to translate a trashy Czech police thriller. At first she resists the tale, internally railing against its images of mutilated female torsos and women chained up as dogs. But she gradually discovers that the misogynistic violence has "burrowed its way under her skin." In fact, it makes her hot. Meanwhile, someone appears to be infiltrating her home: CDs are disappearing, possessions are moved and then the manuscript of her translation is smeared with ketchup. Her vindictive ex A ghost When Lizzie awakens one night to find a stranger perched on her bed clutching a hammer, she seduces him proactively and is unexpectedly, and disturbingly, aroused. But when she learns that a serial "hammer rapist" is amok, she stops congratulating herself for surviving and begins stalking her stalker, baiting him with throbbingly sadistic chapters ostensibly translated from the Czech thriller but which, in fact, she has written herself to spook the prying rapist. Dunant "quotes" long passages of both the porn thriller and Lizzie's addenda, and then dismisses them as "total crap." Presumably, Lizzie is somehow empowered by writing bad porn, but we're certainly no better for reading it. Ultimately, it's hard to distinguish between what Lizzie writes and the ill-conceived, poorly disguised appeal to prurience Dunant has penned. (Apr.) -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
There are no customer reviews available at this time. Would you like to write a review?
Random House Trade Paperbacks
June 13, 2005
Number of Print Pages*
Adobe DRM EPUB
* Number of eBook pages may differ. Click here for more information.
Excerpt from Transgressions by Sarah Dunant
It first started four months after she had separated from Tom, although at the time, of course, she didn't think of it as "It." At the time, it was simply the morning when she walked into the kitchen and couldn't find the Van Morrison CD. She hadn't given it much thought then, just flicked her way through the rack and chose something else.
But over the coming weeks she had missed the album. Called Enlightenment, it was recorded at the turn of the nineties (years that seemed to have passed her by musically) and had a great opening track that roared out of the speakers, high and sassy, suggesting that there might indeed be life after the end of a failed relationship. In those scorching, high-summer days when there was so much sun that even the plants were calling for mercy, it had become a kind of anthem for her, offering a vision of a future that she couldn't quite let herself believe in.
It had been her custom to play it first thing in the morning, as she opened up the French windows onto the garden and laid breakfast for herself on the slowly yellowing lawn. The day after Tom had moved out, taking his half of the kitchen with him, she had gone to the local department store and bought a whole set of absurd, brightly colored plates and breakfast cups and a shiny black cappuccino maker, stylish, very Italian. It had taken her a while to fathom the instructions?she was one of those independent women who nevertheless left the electronic part of her life to whichever man was in it at the time?but once she had mastered it she was able to conjure up fabulous cupfuls of frothy coffee, which she sipped luxuriously while sitting on the lawn and which left thick white mustaches on her upper lip. There was, of course, no one to lick them off. Not that she minded that. On the contrary. After so long living in the shadow of a slow death, she felt a quiet, almost triumphant sense of release.
Still, she missed the Van Morrison. There were other albums of his she could have played, but they all came from different parts of her life, fragments of a musical autobiography that predated Tom, and were therefore so long ago now that it was hard to remember that they had happened to the same person. The pleasure of this album was that it felt new to who she was now. It had come the same week as the breakfast set, along with a brooding, melancholic version of Leonard Cohen songs sung by an American singer named Jennifer Warnes with a voice like raw silk, flaws and all.
This new music became a kind of benchmark of her progress. One day when she was in the car, "Famous Blue Raincoat" turned up to top volume, she imagined herself hearing it again in a couple of years, when the emotional landscape was different, and saying to herself, "Ah, yes, that was one of the records I split up with Tom to," as if the act had been just another event in a life unfolding and not the end of it, as it so often felt now.