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3.9 out of 5 stars
3.9 out of 5 stars
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on 5 April 2005
Lizzie is a translator, of Czech to English. Her relationship of seven years has ended and she is a few months into the single life and celibacy. At times, her large London terrace seems an empty place, animated only by the presence of her cat, Millie. But Millie has made the house vulnerable to the predations of a prowling tomcat which has learned to use the cat flap to enter, rob the food bowl, and dole out a few wounds in the process.
Lizzie's friends worry about her. She reassures them, and herself, that everything is fine. She has a new contract, to translate a European bestseller for the English-speaking ... and Hollywood ... market. It's a tale of cops and robbers, a high body count, and explicit sex, and it will keep her too busy to fret about her own life, loneliness, and celibacy.
Is it her imagination? One of her albums is missing. When the second disappears, she suspects her ex is playing tricks. But the third incident with the CD's shakes Lizzie's confidence. Someone, or something other than the tomcat, is getting into the house.
Sarah Dunant writes a very sophisticated, very elegant thriller. Juxtaposing the violence of excerpts from Lizzie's translation with the psychological chill of her own fears and realisation of what is happening, this is a first class novel.
Dunant is a very fine writer. She dissects the sexual mores and sexual desires of her characters with a skill and sensitivity few other novelists manage. Lizzie is no passive victim. She is a literate, intelligent young woman who opts to fight whatever it is that has determined to invade her world. In places disturbing, even shocking, certainly explicit, Dunant delivers some fascinating insights into her characters.
This is a tense, well-paced novel which obliges you to keep turning the pages. Exceptionally well written and beautifully structured, Dunant's writing style is dynamic and economical, each word, each phrase, each sentence delivered with poise and purpose.
This is the first Sarah Dunant novel I've read ... I'll certainly read more. First class writing, compulsive story-telling, and an author with class, style, and personality.
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on 8 August 2014
As a fan of Sarah Durant`s historical novels, this book came across as a forced transition into contemporary writing. The beauty of her talent was there but it was tarnished by what seemed to be glassy eyed sex scenes throughout, off-key characterisation and an incredibly odd ending.

The whole thing made me wonder if her publishing company were pushing her in this direction. Due to her spectacular writing ability, the book does well to hold your attention. But if you're familiar with her work and love the poetic spirit of her books, you may find yourself disappointed.
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on 21 November 1999
Dunant has real mastery of the suspense narrative -I certainly couldn't put the books down - her heroine is in one of those alienated, lonely moods in which the world seems hostile, reflecting her own coldness. The worst (nearly) does happen but she survives, and finds surprising strength in the psychic battle her intruder subjects her to. There's no flinching at examining the layers of sexual fantasy most of us won't look at but the shocking quality is softened by Dunant's refusal to resort to anti-male rhetoric and actually you finish the book feeling that you understand better the mind of the rapist, that there is hope for sexual relations between men and women inspite of all the traps. My only criticism is that the genre militates somewhat against real insight and the end seems a bit ot a cop-out.
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on 7 December 2013
The thinking woman's 50 shades! A book I could not put down, grabbing pages between cooking, washing and other places. a compelling seediness with a shocking but entirely understandable middle and end. A tremendous complement to the Renaissance genre.
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on 26 October 2002
A very strange story. Elizabeth has recently split up from her long-time lover and is trying to adjust to life on her own terms. She begins to translate a novel from Czech to English for a job assignment, but then strange events occur and she becomes suspicious that her ex, or even her best friend, is responsible. Soon, to Elizabeth, the line between fact and fiction becomes rather blurred. The tension mounts as Elizabeth thinks she is losing her mind only, when confronted by the truth, to struggle with obsession and reality. I thought this book was very "edge-of-your-seat", but (although I'm not prudish) I did think that some of the sexual scenes were too vulgar. The author seemed to be fixated on female violation and some of the descriptions made me squirm as I felt they were gratuituous. "Transgressions" started out as a promise of enjoyment, but then became something that I wouldn't have necessarily read by choice.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 23 September 2012
`Transgressions' is not a book you'd want your maiden aunt or anyone under 15 or so to read as it deals with sexual obsession. There are two particularly upsetting scenes that make the hairs rise on the back of your neck. On the other hand, this was an outstandingly good book part thriller, part subversive of that genre.

Elizabeth is a translator, busy working on a thriller which is also going to be made into a film. Elizabeth doesn't much care for the book, which is casually misogynistic and rather clichéd, but she's getting paid so why should she worry? We are treated to selected excerpts of the novel being translated and Elizabeth begins to interpret rather than translate. That is, she gives the token female love interest a consciousness and an active part in the denouement of the book. She plays around with this part of the book quite a bit, changing it back and forth, to its original simplistic shoot-em-up sleaze, and then back to her inventive diversions. Meanwhile she is being undermined by the activities of someone, or is it something that is messing with her head in a big way.

Gradually it emerges that she is being stalked. There are some genuinely creepy moments in this novel, and the majority of the novel is taken up by the spine-chilling activities of the stalker. This is the kind of book you don't want to put down. It's not a conventional thriller and though sex is depicted, some of it is more likely to turn you off than on. You can't quite see where it is going, too, which is all to the good. The denouement is especially satisfying, given that Elizabeth is continually considering gender roles in her writing life. Women with nurturing roles or just as providers of sex; men seen as action figures, always tightly in control - this book strips these roles down and puts some of them to the test. This may not be everyone's cup of tea, but it is very well-written, well-characterised and compulsively readable.
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on 12 July 2015
Elizabeth, after splitting up with her long-standing boyfriend, finds herself more and more isolated in her big house, immersed in the translation of a Czech thriller into English. As she progresses in her work the violence of the book and the sexual aggressivity shown towards its female protagonists has an uncanny effect on the young woman who also has to deal with strange happenings in her abode. CDs go missing or start playing when she comes home... Wondering whether she has to contend with supernatural manifestations Elizabeth seeks the advice of her local vicar but she will soon discover that the danger facing her doesn't come from the nether world... I found myself enjoying the story at the beginning except for the trashy extracts from the book the protagonist is translating and which I knew to be necessary in the unfolding of the tale. But after a while a sense of unease crept in and I found Elizabeth's character and the choices she made less and less plausible. There's something unsettling in this story of her growing obsession and I couldn't relate or understand her after a certain point. There's a good amount of perfectly
unsavoury details, which didn't seem indispensable so all in all the book didn't find that much favour with me...
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on 10 January 2010
This book was basically about a woman getting over a long term relationship and exploring her sexuality. She explores her feelings about rape and whether women can turn a rape situation into a consensual sexual encounter. Themes include power, control isolation and loneliness.
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on 27 September 2013
Makes you want to explore even more of Sarah's books. Watch out guys, this gal's on a mission. You need to read Sacred Hearts to get the balance, breadth and depth of her talent.
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on 4 January 2010
This is beautifully written nonsense. The idea that a woman would feel sexual desire for a man who has broken into her house to rape her is not just ridiculous but offensive.

I found the character of Lizzie completely self-obsessed and therefore unsympathetic, but her reaction to the intruder was a step too far for me.
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