|Image Credit : AThingofBeauty|
After a bit of a hiatus, a hiatus that I am not fully able to explain to myself - I am back here. Doing what I don't do very well, which is to write book reviews. And especially to write a review of a book that I am not sure I understand well either. It's the first day of the Chinese New Year, and one of my friends in China with whose family I once spent the New Year, sends me voice messages capturing the fireworks celebration. Here I was, the wind rustling outside on a rather windy February, and I could hear fireworks far away in this little town called Xuchang. It felt wonderful, in a way that can bring tears to your eyes because you miss a place so much, and you wonder why because a place is just a place, and home is after all home, but somehow these things get mixed up and you are drawn into a vacuum that doesn't end...
Taming the Beast by Emily Maguire was a strange book. I had heard so much of this 'mommy porn' phenomenon without really feeling the need to succumb to it. What attracted me to this was not that I feel it belongs to the same category, but because the story had shades of Lolita. I was right to a certain extent, but wrong greatly. Taming the Beast is a provocative first novel - 14-year-old Sarah falls into an obsessive relationship with her then English teacher, Mr. Daniel Carr, a married father of two. He is 38. It isn't an ordinary romance. No. Shades of BDSM abound here. Brutality. Violence. Abuse. And beneath it all, the wretched remains of what can be called love. Stung by Mr. Carr leaving her to reclaim his own sanity, Sarah embarks on a series of affairs. By her own admission, the men she has had sex with reach into the hundreds. I couldn't understand what made Sarah that special to all the men. She is not painted as a particularly beautiful woman, but perhaps, this novel is not about the beauty, but it's about the sex. And what you can do with it that makes a man turn to a woman - and Sarah refuses nothing. The one constant in her life is her best friend Jamie. Their friendship offers a strange backdrop of sanity even though they sleep together, and Jamie's adoration of Sarah is complete - indeed, she credits him with keeping her alive.
At this point, I stop a while. Gather my thoughts. Turn to read other reviews on the Net. Find out that my friend, Vishy, had read this book a while ago as well. And reviewed it way better than I did. I wish I can snatch a few lines from his review. I turn the pages of Taming the Beast over hoping that it would give me some inspiration. I stumble upon what I think is the most beautiful passage in the book, and find that it's the same that Vishy has quoted as well:
...life is a constant withering of possibilities. Some are stolen with the lives of people you love. Others are let go, with regret and reluctance and deep, deep sorrow. But there is compensation for lives unlived in the intoxicating joy of knowing that the life you have – right here, right now – is the one you have chosen. There is power in that, and hope.
It seems an odd choice. That quote doesn't quite fit in with the theme of sexual abuse that dominates the novel. But Taming the Beast doesn't fit so tamely into that. This is a novel that can make others cringe - the prudish revolt and others repulsed. Yet, there is a certain sadness, a melancholic search for that beast within us that can only be tamed by finding that other beast. It's that madness that drive Sarah to Daniel Carr again and again. Beaten and bruised, she is not to be pitied. It's her choice. She is a slave to him out of choice. Her countless men are all her choices, except once. And perhaps, that's where I need to suspend judgement and read the book for what it throws at your. Shock, pity and awe. I cannot write like Emily. I cannot even think like Emily has! Yet, there is a common chord - a primeval base that lies at this book.
Verdict : Wouldn't ever want to compare it to Fifty Shades of Grey - this was an interesting choice for me, one that tested me in what I would read. And it turned out not so bad after all.