Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Book Review : Fanny Hill (Memoirs Of A Woman Of Pleasure) - John Cleland 7*

Cleland's work of erotic fiction was first published as two volumes in 1748 and 1749. Fanny Hill writes two long letters in which she traces her life story but especially her sexual awakening and subsequent sexual adventures. Cleland's writing is typical of its age, dense and flowery, but still surprisingly erotic two and half centuries on.

The books caused a furore soon after publication, probably due to the homosexual acts that Fanny spies upon, and Cleland was twice brought to prosecution, in court he disowned and renounced the books which were then banned by the court. Fanny Hill remained banned until a further obscenity trial in 1963 brought the book to wider public attention again, finally in 1970 a full, unexpurgated version of Fanny Hill was again published, legally, in the UK.

Cleland champions, albeit with anatomical errors and a rather phallocentric point of view, female sexuality. His women are creatures of lust, love and passion, who revel in and draw great joy from the act of sex. His book spares no detail, from straight sex through homosexual couplings and exhibitionism to a violent and brutal sado-masochistic scene, Fanny Hill explores sex and delights in almost every aspect of it. Fanny's reaction to seeing two men having sex though reveals something of the attitude of the age or the author though, although Fanny has experienced a lesbian encounter and enjoyed it, she wishes to see the gay men punished.

Fanny does not really grow as a person through the book, her changing fortunes are governed by the men whom she attaches herself to, but still Cleland created a strong female character. Like many male protagnonists Fanny seeks out what she wants from life and does not hesitate to satisfy her own needs and desires.

57 of 1001.

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