But then, once the surprise wore off, what was I really left with? The writing’s of a reasonable standard, but it lacks narrative arc, and the lists are just plan irritating. At times, it read like someone trying very hard to be every man’s sexual fantasy; at others, I felt that Belle had forgotten to edit out the boring bits.
This book has been much-criticised for failing to portray the grittier side of prostitution, but that misses that point. This isn’t even trying to be accurate, let alone gritty. It’s a piece of escapism that aims to titillate men and to both thrill and cosy up to women.
At the same time, it talks about a version of female sexuality that’s unpalatable in the mainstream: Belle is a submissive, and in her personal life enjoys her sex with a side order of humiliation and borderline fear. Perhaps this is an attempt at exploring the psychology of Belle’s profession; I’m not sure. But it’s interesting that this has largely been ignored in mainstream commentary. I wonder if most people actually read it to the end.