on 2 February 2008
The cover of the erotic novel Amorous Woman has a seductive-looking Japanese woman tempting you to come hither and read the story that is clearly for "adults only" (as the cover warns). The prologue has the title character, Lydia, looking at her reflection in an airport mirror and swearing off sex in any form as she departs Japan for the United States, her homeland. Lydia isn't Japanese--she's a blonde American--but the reflection she sees (or imagines she sees) could very well be the Japanese woman from the book's cover. Lydia is in love with Japan, and her move there was an attempt not just to become Japanese, but to become part of Japan itself. Yet she'll always be a gaijin, a foreigner.
Lydia had moved to Japan to teach English, and to immerse herself in the Japanese culture. What follows is her sexual awakening, one that is driven by a fantasy life that barely stays one step ahead of Lydia's sexual reality. In fact, one feeds off the other. And don't forget, this is an erotic novel, and nothing is left to the reader's imagination. Yet, Amorous Woman is so much more than just the sex. Lydia's sexuality awakens, true, but so does her yearnings for romance, her lost father, and for just plain more out of life. This leads to a self-destructive lifestyle, as far as relationships go, that escalates to a point of no return.
The book begins with Lydia back in the States, telling her story to two young men who are her students (now she's teaching Japanese to Americans set to work in Japan). We get to hear the story along with them, and learn what happened to drive her out of the adopted country she loves. And what a story! Author Donna George Storey holds a Ph.D. in Japanese literature from Stanford, and like her character Lydia, spent time in Japan teaching English. She knows the territory. Storey's writing is very descriptive, and brings you right into Lydia's fantasy world of Japan. From the traditional marriages, to the fine restaurants (serving exotic, dangerous dishes like fugu), to the "love hotels" where married people go to cheat on their spouses and live out their wildest fetishes, to the hot springs resorts in the mountains north of Tokyo:
"The bathhouse was deserted, the water smooth and glassy. Hot spring baths in Japan usually follow a guiding fantasy, transporting the bather to a rocky grotto, a tropical garden or terrace with the perfect view of Mount Fuji, even if the mountain itself is an image set in mosaic tile. This inn was more ambitious than most. The soaring cross-beamed ceiling, glowing pedestal lanterns, and swimming pool-sized cedar tub brought to mind the cathedral of a cult that worshipped both purity and indulgence. I was more than eager to make my own offering on its altar."
Lydia affairs aren't only with the men of Japan, but with Japan itself. And we get to go along for the ride. But what eventually makes the love affair end, what drives her back into the arms of America? What happened in Japan to have her swear off sex forever? The answer to those questions is why this book is a page turner--and not just because of the hot, steamy sex scenes.
But does the Amorous Woman really change her ways when she gets back to the States, and live a chaste life? Or will the old pull of sex draw her back into a self-destructive lifestyle? Will she ever find love again? Will the two young businessmen she is telling the story to revive her amorous ways by the end of the tale?
Maybe this isn't the last we've heard from the Amorous Woman. It's definitely not the last we've heard from Donna George Storey.
on 3 December 2007
Donna George Storey's Amorous Woman is extraordinary. I don't know too many other novels that manage to be so thoughtful, exciting, arousing and just plain fun to read all at the same time. The plot is modelled after a 17th century Japanese novel and features a first person narrator called Lydia Yoshikawa, a Caucasian woman who got her last name through marriage to a Japanese man. Lydia is not your typical heroine; she's a complex, finely drawn character who re-fashions herself in the Far East, using her outsider status to explore different personae both in and out of bed. I love Lydia's protean, adventurous nature. I also admire her strength, independence, and determination but what I love best about Lydia is her sense of humor. Lydia's subtle wit and sharp, funny insights make her a fresh, compelling protagonist--I miss her now that the novel's over!
Amorous Woman is structured around a series of stories Lydia tells to two young American men upon her return to the United States. The stories, told in chronological order, depict her erotic relationships with different men in Japan. I don't know anyone who writes about sex better than Storey--she's a master. But there's much more to the novel than this. Through each erotic encounter, we gain fascinating, intimate insights into Lydia's love affair with the country and with Japanese culture. This feels to me what the novel is ultimately about: the fascination, admiration, and ultimately love of a foreigner for a country notoriously hard for outsiders to gain access to. Storey has this access and the novel reflects it. What's more, she includes mesmerizing details about Japanese life, including courtship, marriage, food, and art. By reading Amorous Woman, you're guaranteed not only to enjoy every page, but to come away feeling like you've experienced a little of Japan yourself. I recommend this book not only to fans of erotica (who will certainly love it) but to anyone who loves travel writing or literary fiction or just good, old-fashioned storytelling.
on 29 October 2007
The cover of AMOUROUS WOMAN promises a sexy read. The book is that, and so much more. Donna George Storey is a gifted storyteller. Her voice is both lyrical and immediate. When I met the protagonist, Lydia, and her affair with all things Japanese began, I knew I wasn't going to be able to put this book down. I never had a clue where she was taking me next but I was right there with her, every step of the way. Rich with sensual detail, humour, and emotional complexity, AMOUROUS WOMAN is both a sensual and cultural journey. Highly recommended!
on 5 December 2007
Amorous Woman is a marvelous debut novel from the noted short story author Donna George Storey that appeals on many levels. Spicy scenes pepper the compelling storyline, drawing the reader in to share all types of exotic adventures - some as fantasy and some as real as everywoman's life story. Providing a distinctive view of Japanese cultural quirks, a young woman's hopes and heartaches, and the search for true love and romance, Amorous Woman leaves you rooting for the smart, passionate Lydia, knowing that she will never let you down.
on 3 January 2008
I've been a fan of Donna George Storey's erotic fiction for many years now.
I've seen her short stories in several of the most prestigious anthologies, and she always delivers a sexy narrative with strong characters and a cleverly twisted plot.
Amorous Woman is Donna's first full length title and it doesn't disappoint. The writing is fluid; the central character's journey of discovery through Japan is skilfully documented; and the whole experience is well worth enjoying.
on 18 October 2007
Donna George Storey has written a book in which escapism (to Japan in this case) and hot and gritty realism (in the sexual sense) run hand in hand through the pages. Her descriptions of Japan make it seem a fairytale setting, but what happens to Lydia in those settings in anything but fairytale - it's sexual encounters that intrigue, arouse and frighten this young Westerner in almost equal proportions and as we pursue her geographical and erotic journey with her, we're introduced to Japan and the Japanese obsessions, desires and perversions in such a smooth fashion that there's no doubt Storey really knows her stuff.
The book is packed with erotic content, but there is also an emotional component, Lydia is not just a good time girl, she's looking for a future and that stops this book being just another bonk-fest. We care what happens and invest in Lydia's journey, even as we enjoy her experiences and egg her on to fulfil each and every passion of an 'amorous woman'