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With the Kisses of His Mouth Hardcover – 23 Jun 2011
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'An intelligent, dark, thorny but redemptive book about sex. Men, read it at your peril' --Robert Rowland Smith, author of Breakfast with Socrates
At last a book about female sexuality that isn't coy or vainglorious. With the Kisses of his Mouth is a fresh look at love, lust and longing in the 21st century. And it's funny too'
--Daisy Goodwin, author of My Last Duchess
'Honest, self-exposing... a candid exploration of the vulnerability of middle-age, as well as a fairly brutal examination of the human heart and its endless capacity to be broken... I want to stick up for this book. It is astoundingly brave. It is funny. It speeds along. It has magic at its heart - that indefinable sliver of human warmth and hope that all the best, most searching memoirs seem to have. Moreover, Roffey's somehow irrepressible willingness to share begins to seem generous, infectious even. As she finally manages to let go of her ex and view their intense, yet largely platonic, love affair as something to celebrate rather than regret, I found myself knocked off course in a rather moving and indescribable way...
Isn't this exactly what we need writers - the brightest, most adventurous and self-scrutinising ones, like Parks and Roffey - to do: to take that same darkness and turn it into something so blazingly alive that it can shine a little light on the rest of us?' --Julie Myerson, Observer 12/6
`From Craigslist to tantra classes, this is a heart breaking and, at times, explicit memoir of rediscovery'
--Elle Magazine, June issue
`A Sexual Odyssey; In a quest to heal her broken heart, Monique Roffey started seeking answers to some powerful questions. Does ruling out love have to mean ruling out sex? Can you have great sex without love? Can a great love survive without sex?' --Psychologies Magazine
'Thanks for Monique Roffey's `A Sexual Odyssey' [article]. Since my first relationship ended, I have had casual sexual relationships, and emotionally fulfilling, non-sexual relationships. Still, I have struggled to replicate the sexual fulfilment of my youth, something I believed could only change with a long-term partner. Roffey opened up the possibility that true sexual fulfilment can be experienced in the absence of a relationship - a breath of fresh air' --Psychologies Magazine, October issue
About the Author
Monique Roffey was born in Port of Spain, Trinidad, and educated in the UK. Her highly acclaimed debut novel, Sun Dog, was published in 2002. Since then she has worked as a Centre Director for the Arvon Foundation and has held the post of Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Sussex and Chichester universities. She currently lives in Harlesden, north London, where she spends most of the day in her pyjamas, writing. www.moniqueroffey.co.uk
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MR makes the common human mistake of looking for simple answers. One of the main characteristics of human psychology, and one that we kid ourselves about over and over, is that our behaviour is over-determined. That is we do the things we do for multiple reasons not just the one or two we give ourselves and others.
These are some of the questions posed by `With the Kisses of His Mouth':
Why does love turn cold? It inevitably does turn cooler in most long-term relationships and requires commitment and effort to kindle and rekindle desire against a background of daily companionship. In this specific case, MR suggests that it is ultimately because she has never really desired her partner. She certainly goes to great pains to remind the reader over and over of his physical unattractiveness in a way that would be decidedly ungallant in a man describing a woman.
How could he betray her? This is the area I struggled most with. Adultery happens. It's a staple of novels, drama, gossip and life between men and women. Email makes it easier and, regrettably for this couple, leaves an evidence trail. He is in a stale relationship that is on the point of ending and it's a commonplace that men often start new relationships with foot still in the old one. Her surprise on finding out about the affair by receiving a letter from the other woman is perhaps an indication of how little she knew about her partner. I wish she'd read Louise de Salvo's intelligent book on the subject. If her partner is a loving, sociable man, in a sexually dead relationship that's obviously coming to an end and has the added advantage of being pursued by a series of writing students, it would be surprising if he didn't succumb.
Why was it such a disaster? Her unfaithful partner insulted their relationship by saying he'd stayed with MR for `career reasons'. A horrible thing to say. My instinct is that MR's massive grief reaction was triggered partly by the shock of finding out about the affair when she was already unhappy at the relationship ending along with their joint job but was probably also about earlier losses and previously unexpressed grief.
Why the rush into `no strings' sex? This puzzled me. MR is relaxed with sexual encounters with strangers. In the course of the memoir, this includes twelve men she has intercourse with from Craig's List ads, a few professional tantric masseurs / ses plus there are numerous people she engages in tantric structures with that include intimate touching. Yet, she is still furious at her partner's betrayal. When she starts falling for one of the tantric masseurs, who doesn't want monogamy, lots of old buttons seem to be pressed. There's an overlong section where she describes a visit to Cap d'Agde, a naturist town in the South of France, which incorporates a `libertine complex' which in a cariacture of most pornography, populated by orange, shaven and pierced people having sex, with single men wanking around them. Even MR, open to everything, finds it all distasteful at first. Why, I kept thinking, are you there? I can't imagine what answer to what question she'd hoped to find. She does try conventional internet dating but doesn't explain why she preferred Craig's List.
Those are just some of the puzzles. On the plus side, the description of tantric sex was fascinating and the way in which MR reclaims her body, not just sexually but in many ways is heartening. Like yoga, I can see how tantra can benefit the whole person. I was fascinated to learn that women's genitalia are one of eight types and not surprisingly, that the way vagina and clitoris are put together, impacts her sexual response. That so many women don't enjoy conventional heterosexual intercourse largely for simple anatomical reasons is deeply sad. I wholeheartedly agree that we are doing girls a dreadful disservice by not talking openly about sexual pleasure, power and responsibility.
I enjoyed too the bigger picture and would have liked more on MR's Catholicism and why the Song of Songs meant so much to her. The Mary Magdalene pilgrimage was beautifully described.
MR is a lively writer and the book is full of her asides so it feels like she's right there at the kitchen table chatting over a glass of wine. In fact, I'd like to invite her via this review to pop round, so I can ask her some of these questions in person! She's also gossipy and names names. Although I've never met her, I found I knew some of the people she mentions and was amused by an incident she describes with my former step-son.
But where was the editor? There were so many repetitions which excised would have reduced the book by a quarter. Spelling mistakes. Weird sentences like `The students, were on average, mostly female' which conjures a sex club for transgendered people rather than Totleigh Barton.
But, yes, read it and, even more, talk about it.
I feel regret that she has been encouraged by her 'therapist/s' and publishers to continue her unconscious need to exhibit her wounding in such a way that seems exploitative to me. Shame on you, therapists. If only she could connect with herself and her grief, the rest is a red herring.
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