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on 25 January 2005
Having read the other reviews on here (and Wildes recommendation!), and being a fan of this type of literature anyway, I decided to give this book a try. Despite having a cover that mimics a bad black lace novel (oh come on, it really does!) I was pleasantly surprised that the old adage is true and you can't, indeed, judge a book by its cover.
The book is divided into two distinct and utterly different parts. The first deals with society as a whole, discussing the various politics, hypocrisies and foibles of the (then) modern 'civilised' life and building up the introduction to the second part. On it's own, this text represents a wonderful and thought-provoking read, the only slight criticism being that it does lean towards being an unnecessarily long introduction to the second part of the book; The Torture Garden itself.
The second part is made up of wonderfully illustrative, creative writing which, when coupled with smatterings of horror and torture, make for a fascinating and interesting read. The 'love interest' in this book takes the form of Clara, a beautiful and wealthy woman with a taste for the unusual. Clara is described beautifully, as are her surroundings, and you read in fascination as she seems to become detached, lustful, unstable, perverse and everything in between throughout this incredible second part.
*Slight spoiler* The main character makes an interesting transition through the book; from a criminal and a rogue, who sees himself as the darkest and most evil of creatures, who becomes what can only be described as a simpering and whining fop who, by the end of the book, seems utterly incapable of controlling his emotions.
It does have to be said, the book is not quite as shocking as some of the other reviewers may have you believe. If you have ever been to Amsterdam, Prague or London etc. and looked at a torture museum, or know anything about historical torture (Dark Ages etc.), then there is nothing in here that you would not have seen before. Perhaps I am somewhat more jaded than others, but I was expecting to be shocked, horrified and disturbed and, when this failed to occur, I was unfortunately left with a feeling of disappointment.
Putting aside the ever-constant problem of over-expectation, this is an exquisitely written book with incredible dialogue, wondrously lush descriptive writing and a rather unique subject matter that is absolutely worth the read.
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on 21 August 2009
Having read other people's reviews of this book I can see that if you look at it from those perspectives then yes Mirabeau pushed the boundaries etc. What I found when reading this book is that I haven't the stomach for such horrors! I expected a trip into sensuality, instead I get a woman who is so demanding and changable that I want to hit her, a man so fauning and miserable I wonder why he continues on this horrific journey. The tortures themselves are so diabolical that I had many nightmares whilst reading this and I recommend that anyone who attempts this should seriously consider whether they really want to read a book which describes people being skinned alive, animals being trapped so that they will bore into human flesh and rotting meat being thrown to people being starved so that they will rip each other apart to eat it. I do believe people should be able to choose freely what they watch, read etc but at least have an informed choice!
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on 10 August 2010
This version of the book is dreadful. The text had mistypings on virtually every page, making an already obtuse read a real struggle to get through.

The content itself is difficult to enjoy, being both deliberately unpleasant and meandering. I will give the benefit of the doubt and say that I didn't personally spot any significant insight, skilled allegories or meanings in the story. Indeed the initial few chapters of discussions of the nature of murder left me completely cold and seemed to revel in pointless unpleasantness. I endeavoured to complete the book in the hope of some subtle story arc being resolved but I found none. I bow to any learned literature experts who can find the hidden value in this book.
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on 6 July 1998
Torture garden has been compared to the Marquis de Sade. It begins quite normal, a drawing room discussion, the subject however is murderers and their role in society. After this it develops into the most cruel book i've ever read, a decadent story that ends in the Torture Garden, a chinese garden with the most horrific tortures imaginable. Distorted views on beauty, mixed with blood and flowers. Life is as important as death. "Passions, appetites, greed, hatred, and lies; law, social institutions, justice, love glory, heroism, and religion: these are it's monstrous flowers and it's hideous instruments of eternal human suffering" Octave Mirbeau is an original and powerful writer. Underneath the surface of this book lies his motive, to expose the hypocrisies of society; to shock the reader into a realisation that much of what he takes for granted is cruel and ugly. Like Sade, Mirbeau was an atheist, and at that time that was something outrageous. he knew what good and evil was, but what bothered him was that in the so called civilised society, so much evil was portrayed as good, and most people didn't notice or care. In torture garden he set out to show people what their world, behind it's hypocrisies, was really like.
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on 8 October 2002
Wilde's beautifully poetic description of this materpiece of decadence is the perfect synopsis of this great work of nineteenth century anarchism. Mirbeau's form and style switch between the comic and caustic, as the narrator continues his Heart of Darkness style journey into the Orient. Set against the background of the opening of China in the nineteenth century by the European powers, Mirebau brilliantly explodes the myth of Western ideas of supperiority and insulaity that imperialism spreads. For many, the vivid metaphors of sado-masochism are difficult to stomach, but the juxtaposition of the depravity and exploitation with the decadence of nineteenth century French high society is perfectly pitched. A seminal, crucial work that firmly establishes Mirebau as one of the great French writers of the nineteenth century with Rimbaud and Zola. In these belligerent times, it is even more apt
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on 12 May 2012
I agree with other reviews that comment on how annoying the many typos are. Bookkake need to sack their proofreader. Unless you can cope with numerous errors, buy another edition.

Know what you're getting into before you read it as well - it contains graphic descriptions of torture and explicit sexual references. The book itself is fascinating: an English femme fatale seduces a Frenchman before having sado-masochistic romp in a Chinese ornamental garden where torture is practised as art. You'll need a fairly strong stomach, but it's definitely worth a read.
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on 1 December 2000
Mirbeau has came up with a book which mixes the corruption of "civilised" society and the brutality which he says lies in every one of us. One of the most disturbing passages in the book contains a torturer discribing "the rat torture", however it isn't the details of the torture that is so frightning, but the joy of which the torturer has in telling it to the narrator.
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on 22 July 2002
This book starts tame enough and you are thinking this isnt as sick as people have described, there are indeed some very good moments which question society, in particular a large passage from Clara towards the end of the first half. Then comes the Torture garden, and again you think you can take it. Then I began to feel physically sick as I read but inspite of this i could not bear myself to put the book down. As I read the nausea got greater but I could not release myself from the books grasp -the first time a book has had an effect on me- . This book is possibly the greatest book of all time and I strongly reccommend it to anyone.
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on 6 October 2000
There is not much to write on this book. It truley is a masterpiece. I cannot believe one mind can write such an amazing book. Its so compelling....even when your brain tells you to be disgusted or scared, and look away,you cannot help but read more and more, and feel sickened but strangely educated by it all.. amazing. BUY IT! NOW!
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Good, but I personally think it isn't really relevant to society today. Maybe some people see beauty in death and torture. However when the book focused on corruption in society it seemed more scathing and accurate. There are some fine passages in the book, but overall there is far too much of the book which is not important.
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