Top critical review
I genuinely thought it was another book, m'lord
on 29 March 2015
The Ages of Lulu was written in 1989 by Almudena Grandes, b. 1960, and was translated into English by Sonia Soto four years later. It addresses the [sex]life of Maria Luisa Ruiz-Poveda y Garcia de la Casa, the Lulu of the title, from an impulsive fifteen year old to early middle age. As related by Lulu it addresses both the events of her life and her sexual fantasies, c.omplementary strands that eventually come together. The key event in her life occurs in 1973 when, as a teenage rebel, she is seduced by Pablo, her brother's friend, later to become her husband and father of their daughter, Ines
Before and during their marriage, when unsurprisingly has its problems, Pablo and Lulu engage in a wide variety of sexual exploits, some involving a transvestite prostitute, Ely, and this leads Lulu into dangerous areas that serve to heighten her pleasure. Bondage, incest, group sex with gay men and lesbianism are all given due coverage which should give readers an idea of what to expect.
The background is the final years of Franco’s Spain with its illegal protests, repression and concern for moral values. Unlike many teenagers who engaged in political protest, Lulu’s focus is on gaining as wide a range of [bi]sexual experience as possible. The writing is graphic in the extreme and the book ends with Lulu examining her life from the perspective of a thirty-something classics scholar.
Lulu’s compulsion to explore the limits of her sexuality are contrasted with the repression and tedium of the Franco period. When it was published the book was a literary sensation – no doubt its explicit language and scenes contributed to this – and it was adapted by various directors. However, reading it in today’s internet age it seems somewhat dated.
Soto’s translation is somewhat clichéd and does not adequately reflect the Spanish location and so reduces the impact of the periods under Franco and his democratic successors. There are periods when the individual vivid sexual encounters are strung along a none-too-convincing narrative thread and Soto sometimes fails in the difficult task of uniting the rather sordid, unprotected and largely anonymous sex with the joy and fulfillment that Lulu apparently experiences.
This book may well appeal more to women since it shows Lulu to be a powerful woman who is ready to exploit men to achieve personal satisfaction. On the other hand she is dominated by her lover and husband, selfish in the extreme and one feels particularly sorry for her daughter, a neglected and rather peripheral character.
6/10 from a reviewer who is probably not best suited to offer an opinion; I will look out for other books by this author but will take more care to read the blurb before I buy.