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on 27 July 2014
A masterpiece of new feminist writing. In departing from academia's traditional dry, rational style of analysis, Angel tells us far more about need, desire and femininity than most authors achieve, but without sacrificing intelligent analysis or a contribution to our understanding of the world. Fantastic!
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on 29 June 2017
I'm not sure where this book would be shelved in a bookshop - I stumbled across it in the best charity shop on Walworth Road, and it's the best thing I've read this year so far.Judging by the reviews on amazon, people seem confused as to whether it's a poem, an essay, a memoir or, comically, an attempt at erotica. Even this starting point illustrates the usefulness of "Unmastered", because readers' approaches to any text are normally extremely carefully filtered by publishers through some heavy categorisation, with the genre flagged up on the cover in many different ways. Any paperback that doesn't tell you straightaway how to read it is already an object of suspicion. In this case, the author is deliberately inviting that suspicion; she wants the reader's mind to be primed and open and curious. And I would suggest, as gently as I can, that readers who don't commit fully to the experience, who skim through the text in an hour - you could probably do that - while looking for a specific effect, who are so uninterested in their own interior lives that anyone else's self-examination is immediately dismissed as "navel-gazing", won't get much out of it. The words, "Go to the pub", spring to mind, in fact - but that may already have happened, reading between the lines. It really can't be laid at the door of a writer if a reader chooses to dip into their carefully assembled words while dripping Stella on their kindle, while darts and pool cues fly around their head.

And it's a shame if that's the beginning and the end of anyone's attempt to look into what sometimes seems to me the only real dilemma we can really look at or do anything about - the balance between men and women, not just sexually but in the world. Because we can do something about it, while we can only look on and hope as billionaires coat the homes of low-income families with inflammable substances or the leader of the free world masquerades as a cartoon villain. This is one of those rare books that opens up a discussion - and it totally changed the way I see my own functioning within a relationship, not least in the sparky early section where she looks at how the man needs to be king and how the woman for her own protection and gratification but also to her disadvantage supports this need. Katherine Angel puts it more subtly than that, and expresses it not as an opinion but as something she has experienced, as a way of looking. And it seems to me almost a lost skill, the ability she has to present these integral questions not as opinions that can immediately be refuted but as observations and challenges based on something profound, these days when opinions based on air and lies are inescapable.

With almost every page, there's a sense of a door opening onto a female experience - and it's a privilege, actually, to feel on the inside of something that strong, intense and real. There's something beautiful and passionate about it, but also something very useful. It's very moving towards the end when with great poetic conciseness she describes how she felt after her abortion and the effect it had on her relationship, an account which will displease anyone with an agenda on either side of the argument. But that is the point - yes, there are political agendas, and lost inside those agendas is our personal experience. And all this is done not with academic detachment or any claim to be special or unique, which is often the default tone with life-writing, but with a sparkle in her eye, with wit, with Morrissey and Kate Bush references. No one needs to feel threatened by any of this stuff, really. Nobody's going to get hurt. This is just someone trying to talk to you - communicate. You just have to listen and respond.
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VINE VOICEon 25 November 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is a most unusual book, part meditation, part struggle, part celebration, part memoir and well-read as I am, it's unlikely that I will ever read another book quite like this.

The prose is elegant, intimate, sensuous, exhilarating, and whilst the author carries us through a realm of sensation, light, fluid, yet intense, there is darkness here, as indeed there must be, since this is nothing if not a searching look at the roots of desire, it's peaks and troughs, the evanescent presentiments of the occulted Id, and yes the ire of the dragons in Eden, the rivening, aching pain of loss. It is too about that apogee of feeling that takes us to the very edge of identity, where gender dissolves in the search for oneself in the Other, to become one with the Other, to become the Other, to plunge into the abyss that is the sum of all fears, all doubts that we may encounter within ourselves, about ourselves, both within a relationship and perhaps beyond. As such it is also about the struggle for open-ness, to transcend all boundaries, to give voice to and communicate our darkest, most erotic visions with the Other, calling for a level of trust beyond all travelled abandonments. Anyone who has truly loved will find themselves here regardless of gender and will I think, marvel at the level of courage and insight that the author brings to her brief. There is poetry here too and much, much more, since this is beyond the merely poetic.
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VINE VOICEon 5 December 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
It's hard to know how to describe this unusual book. Put simply it's a series of bullet points, each of which sits on its own page: most are brief, some just a few words, though some constitute passages. They way they relate to one another is indirect, glancing; they don't add up to a coherent narrative, and they raise more questions than they answer. But how else to approach the shifting, mysterious concept of desire, a subject so chimerical it's almost impossible to describe in words?

I say 'almost' because in 'Unmastered' Katherine Angel comes breathtakingly close. These aphorisms somehow add up to far more than the sum of their parts; lewd in places, funny, at times romantic, at times deeply sensual, they play off one another, slowly building into a picture of desire that is both unique and personal (and very brave on Angel's part), and at the same time common, I suspect, to heterosexual women in general.

I raced through this book, spellbound, smiling in recognition again and again. Parts of it have made an enormous impact. I plan to revisit it again and again.
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VINE VOICEon 30 October 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is a long poem in the form a book with 11 chapters. At 347 pages it may look longer than it is - the layout of the pages makes much use of space, and on some pages the text is minimal.

The poem's subject is identity and eroticism, and the narrator is a woman who writes this as an autobiography of her desire. She is also apparently well-read in the area of cultural studies and identity, and reflects on Sontag, Woolf, Foucault, etc.

The poem has some narrative drive, though nothing like a linear storyline. Instead it twists and folds on itself like the smoke on the cover, building resonances, and building to a dramatic peak.

It's about sex. About being a sexual being.

I'm sure any reader who has ever wondered about their own sexuality will recognise many of the passions, questions, influences, conflicts and compromises continually in flux here.

As a male reader I was constantly conscious of the female narrator (and author) but the poem spoke to me as a male as well. Will be reading it again. Resonances.
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VINE VOICEon 31 December 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Katherine Angel's Unmastered kind of blows the format of a book apart. There are no named characters, only the protagonist 'I' (the entire book is written in female first-person) and 'Him' (her lover) and only a couple of other characters referred to briefly. It reads as a collection of thoughts throughout the evolution of a relationship, the giddy-love, the intense passion, the love-making, the doubts, the fears and ultimately a tragedy that leaves the protagonist re-assessing all of those feelings earlier stated in the book.

I found this an interesting read, the expletive-filled pages are shocking when a page on has "F me, oh yes, F me" written on an entire leaf. Separated by a blank leaf, then a single roman numeral on the next page, then another page of a handful of lines. Frequently there are less than 20 words per leaf. Consequently, if the story grips you (initially it's not all that clear that it's a story at all) you will speed through the 336 pages in less than an hour.

Whilst its format of the collection of thoughts is novel and intriguing, it's nothing new and I did not feel that the book lived up to the blurb whatsoever; "allowing us to think afresh about desire" - it wasn't eye-opening or educating at all, merely a collection of statements, some shocking, some touching, others random and derivative. Might raise an eyebrow in the raunchier parts, but ultimately, it's all been done before.
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on 25 June 2013
A book on desire. You would expect it to be the kind of book that is doing the rounds today - possibly S&M or some erotica or the other, however maybe a book might surprise you with its content, even though the title says otherwise. It could be about desire for sure, however put differently. A different perspective is always needed given what people are reading.

"Unmastered" by Katherine Angel does just that. It talks of desire like no other book on it I have read. Maybe Nightwood by Djuna Barnes or anything by Anais Nin, but this one is definitely in their league, if not a step ahead. What I loved the most about this book is that it isn't alone about desire. It is about love, loss, and also part-memoir about the author's life and the people in it.

The book borders on madness at times, in the sense, that you want to take all of it and then reread it. The book pushes you to the very edge of identity and how easily it can get lost along the way, between love and desire. "Unmastered" may seem a little weird to begin with, given the way it is written. However, once you start it, there is no turning back.

Katherine's take on things - from love to desire, to the way humans must make love, are vivid and detailed. The borderline and danger of crossing over to love is deliciously put and yet somewhere down the line, the reader is not left hanging. I could connect to almost everything she wrote.

For anyone who wants to read about desire and what it does to you, in its various forms, then "Unmastered" is the book for you. I would highly recommend it.
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on 5 August 2017
This is such a wonderful book. It's well arty. #review
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VINE VOICEon 13 November 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
A book with swirly graphics on the cover, by someone called Katherine Angel, on the history of her own feelings: this gives very much the wrong impression of what's inside. Instead, this is the book I'd like to write. Short section upon short section, each word, each space, considered, valued, Unmastered crosses genres: fiction, non-fiction - ?faction? - autobiography - to expose women's feelings, a woman's feelings, womanfeelings, women feeling, from Woolf to Sontag to Cixous. This book is potent, powerful, erotic: don't forget to read the white spaces.
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VINE VOICEon 16 April 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I don't really know what to say in regards to this book. Its a very strange concept and perhaps if I had more time to really delve into it I'd apreciate it more. As it is I have dipped in and out of it and not really felt that lovely feeling when a piece of writing sucks you in so to speak. I wouldn't write it off but I think I'll keep it for on holiday when I can read the whole book in a short space of time.
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