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The Sexual Life of Catherine M. [Hardcover]

Catherine Millet , Adriana Hunter
2.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Jun 2002

'One of the most explicit books about sex ever written by a woman' Edmund White

A window into a life of insatiable desire and uninhibited sex - this is Parisian art critic Catherine M.'s unabashed autobiography, the story of her sexual awakening and unrestrained pursuit of pleasure. From the glamorous singles clubs of Paris to the Bois de Boulogne, she describes her erotic experiences in precise and beautiful detail.

A phenomenal bestseller throughout Europe, The Sexual Life of Catherine M., like the recent Fifty Shades of Grey, breaks with accepted ideas of sex and examines the alternative manifestations of desire. Told in spare, elegant prose, her story will shock, enlighten and liberate you.

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press (Jun 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1852428112
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802117168
  • ASIN: 0802117163
  • Product Dimensions: 21.8 x 14.7 x 2.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 473,744 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

A publishing sensation upon its original publication in France, Catherine Millet’s The Sexual Life of Catherine M is one of the most sexually explicit books ever written by a woman. Ostensibly a semi-autobiographical account of the sexual life of the author, the editor of an influential Parisian art magazine, the book is a frank and detailed account of Millet’s development from an awkward, guilt-ridden Catholic teenager to sophisticated Parisian intellectual and enthusiastic member of the singles bars, orgies and public sex spaces of Paris.

The book has no sequential narrative. Instead, it offers a frank and extremely graphic celebration of the pursuit and gratification of sex. Millet praises the virtues of anonymous sex, admitting that "I can account for forty-nine men whose sexual organs have penetrated mine and to whom I can attribute a name or, at least, in a few cases, an identity. But I cannot put a number on those that blur into anonymity". Nevertheless, she proceeds to offer page after page of exhausting descriptions of sexual couplings in groups in houses, car parks, offices, toilets, museums--the list and the permutations are endless, as are Millet’s descriptions of her own sexual organs and her ability to perform oral sex. Millet wants to celebrate the personal freedom and physical pleasure that casual, anonymous sex offers a woman, but this is never fully explored beyond her assertion that "the certainty that I could have sexual relations in any situation with any willing party" was "the lungfuls of fresh air you inhale as you walk to the end of the pier". Much of the book’s language is equally prosaic. Ultimately, this is a book about sexual fantasy, but as Millet herself admits, "sexual fantasies are far too personal for them ever really to be shared". Millet is too busy describing the literal nuts and bolts, the grunts and bumps of (resolutely heterosexual) sex to produce eroticism on a par with her obvious models, Pauline Reage’s Story of O and Georges Bataille’s Story of the Eye, which leaves The Sexual Life of Catherine M feeling rather naughty, but strangely dated.--Jerry Brotton --This text refers to the Paperback edition.


"'Millet writes extremely is neither pornography nor her coy younger sister, erotica, but a work of libertine philosophy'" (The Times Literary Supplement)

"'Unabashed erotica...a straight-talking romp catalogued with savage wit by a Parisian intellectual'" (The Scotsman)

"'A brilliant testimony of a life spent at the sexual front line' " (Independent on Sunday)

"'One of the most explicit books about sex ever written by a woman'" (Edmund White)

"'I thought it was the most honest book I had ever read on the subject of sex'" (Rown Pelling Daily Telegraph) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars More Carry On than Kama Sutra 17 Dec 2003
Readers familiar with Fanny Hill by John Cleland may experience a sense of deja-vu on reading The Sexual Life of Catherine M. When not gracing the reader with intellectual insights on the relationship between space, sex and the natural environment, the author is variously being 'rammed' or 'filled' with a variety of 'members' 'rods' or 'organs'. The author herself is constantly 'taken' by 'insistent' men, and even ends up being pounced upon 'from behind' when she has a stomach upset - not the first thing which would occur to me to ease a case of Dehli belly.
For a memoir touted as a narrative of sexual liberation, I found this book not so much shocking as tedious, mundane, even flaccid. The descriptions of sexual liaisons are phallocentric and repetitive, and the tone is more prudish than provocative in its use of stock pornographic vocabularly. I'd recommend that readers stick to Anais Nin who writes with a truly female voice, and leaves out all the intellectual navel-gazing in which Catherine M indulges.
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The mechanical adventures of the Duracell bunny 12 Jan 2004
An astonishingly dull, tedious and mechanistic book about a life spent in the pursuit of clockwork sex. This woman humps her way through dozens, possibly hundreds, of faceless men rather like the Duracell bunny - with considerably less excitement, pleasure and imagination than a trainspotter recording serial numbers from railway engines. All the characters including the author remain resolutely two-dimensional and bloodless throughout. A deadening book which summons up rather more vivid images of the psychiatrist's office than the bedroom.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The Empty Life of Catherine M 14 Mar 2003
It is said that to write a good memoir, you have to have lived an interesting life. Catherine Millet easily passed this test, unfortunately she dismally fails the second implicit requirement, an ability to write well.
The book portrays, in a seemingly random sequence, the author's uninhibited experiences of group sex; where no man, woman or sexual practise was taboo. Surprisingly, given the potential gold-mine of salacious stories, the resultant book managed to make orgies as exciting as going to the toilet. There rarely seems to be any attempt to provide anything more than the shallowest description of the mechanics. Ms Millet maintains that her sexual pursuits do not revolve about pleasure, something I find easy to believe as enjoyment, excitement and emotion of claringly missing from the book. Where she does occassionally discuss her pleasure, it just becomes another cold facet of intercourse; an orgasm without feeling.
I also suspect that Ms Millet is trying to provide some philosophical underpinning to her experiences; an attempt to provide some insight into how people relate. However, her style is so jumbled and opaque - with some of the most ridiculous metaphors - that it would be impossible to identify anything of value.
Overall, do not buy this book! The most jaded bodice-ripper would be a better buy than "The Sexual Life of Catherine M"; at least it would have some excitement.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, if a struggle after a while 11 July 2004
By A Customer
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I don't know - when you've decided to write a book about sex, it's bound to be a bit of a chore after a while, especially as she's chosen such an clinical style. Yes, the repitition of the sexual act so many times does drag, but there's quite a lot to interest too. Ultimately, I did find it rather interesting following the tireless Catherine going about her daily grind (no apologies for the pun). But as another reader has guessed, it all seems a bit more serious in French (I've only glanced at the translation).
But I have to say that if you've not enjoyed this book - and even if you have - "One Hundred Strokes of the Hairbrush before Bed", by Melissa P. is a sight more dull, and rather less convincing. And if the Italian's that bad, God alone knows what the English translation will be like.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good book although not for the repressed! 20 April 2012
I was surprised at all the bad reviews! Reading them I probably have to concede that I'm in a minority enjoying it, reading about sex in this way isn't for everyone.
I enjoyed it as I was quite young when I read it, and it was quite a revelation to read about such freedom. I admire her endlessly for the book - she's very open with her entire sexual past and it can't have been easy to write. She holds nothing back and is truly honest about sex.
It's not a book written for titilation and that could have easily happened.

I always enjoy reading autobiographical type books about other people's lives and can't deny this was interesting. But maybe not for everyone.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Female "Walter"? 11 July 2002
By A Customer
For those of you who know "My Secret Life". Not a great comparison, perhaps, but not a totally wrong one either.
I found this book very erotic in places, and yet, terribly monotonous in others. Catherine Millet is an art critic who has had countless lovers, 45 of whom she can put a name and face together. She has indulged in orgies, group sex, outdoors and indoors with many, many men, often offeriung herslef to large groups in the Bois De Boulogne and other public spaces. And this is the problem with the book. Eventually the encounters blur into one long orgy, with Catherine the only fixed point in sight. She has obviously enjoyed her life, and her encounters, and has relished telling us all about them, but there is, for me, a sense of emptiness that creeps in early on, and only grows.
At times Catherine is a sophisticated woman who decides what , and who, she wants and gets it. At others she seems like an innocent, and others like a child reveling in being rude in front of her parents.
All that said, a book well worth reading, but don't expect porn, it is much more like "Story of O" than that.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
love it
Published 21 days ago by Mrs Gisele Thuau
1.0 out of 5 stars pornographic memories, no story, could not finish
i quit reading after some 30-35 pages... when i read a book i want to read a story, some kind of plot. Read more
Published 5 months ago by laros76
4.0 out of 5 stars An eye opener, not porn nor erotica, its a woman exploring her sexual...
Catherine; her level of detachment allows for a more nuanced appraisal of her own experiences, which bring in things from pseudo psychoanalysis. Read more
Published 9 months ago by justonelulu
1.0 out of 5 stars Discredits the book as an object
Aren't the French interesting? On the one hand they can produce the most sublime culture......literature, art, cinema etc. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Erlen Haus
2.0 out of 5 stars Don't bother.
Very boring and no real story .. Very detached reading. Nothing really shock you..totally made up story in my opinion
Published 16 months ago by jimknowl
3.0 out of 5 stars Bit of an effort to read but interesting insight..
Potentially very interesting subject matter, but way it was written made it slow and difficult to read. It was a little to poetic and 'arty'. Read more
Published on 8 Feb 2011 by Mr. R. O'regan
1.0 out of 5 stars The Dullest book about sex ever written
This is another one of those books where the glowing reviews on the cover seem to be entirely at odds with the opinion of the reading public. Read more
Published on 14 May 2009 by Alexis Paladin
3.0 out of 5 stars Sex, not love
This is a compelling read of the most promiscuous of lives a woman could lead. Catherine has no sexual boundaries. She tries everything. Read more
Published on 9 Oct 2008 by N. DAVIES
3.0 out of 5 stars Frank and honest
Unsurprisingly, this is very frank and graphic in detail, but it's not really what I would describe as pornographic, despite the language used (yes, there are "unsavoury"... Read more
Published on 2 Mar 2007 by Mrs. K. A. Smurthwaite
1.0 out of 5 stars Dire, Self-Absorbed Tripe
This has to be the most self-absorbed book I've read since Prozac Nation. Agreed the sex scenes are very graphic, but even they are boring.

A very, very dull book.
Published on 18 Sep 2006 by Ms. Joanna L. Bragger
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