Story of O - erotic fiction by Ballantine Books - review by Lara

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Story of O

Book by Ballantine Books

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a timeless classic in literary erotica

The Story of O is driven by a fierce erotic intensity that only begins loosening its hold well after the first 60 pages are behind you. It's the story of a beautiful fashion photographer, O, and her initiation and subsequent voyage into the world of the submissive.
Published:
Pros:
beautifully written and translated, deeply engaging story
Cons:
none
Rating by reviewer:
5
extremely useful review
My stumbling across The Story of O on my mother's bookcase came at a remarkably young, impressionable age. I was a geeked-out 11-year old who read indiscriminately and the surprisingly plain cover was all the incentive I needed to wade directly into the deep end.

FYI for parents... Unless you're willing to shell out the big bucks for therapy down the road, you might not want leave this book out where your unsuspecting pre-pubescent darling will find it.

As the book begins, O's lover, Rene, is in the process of delivering her to a chateau in the Parisian suburb of Roissy to begin her training as a slave. She is beaten. She is f***ed mercilessly. She is constantly available to any and every man who may want her... and she considers it an honor and a privilege to serve her lover in this way. That submission continues as O leaves Roissy and is given to Rene's best friend, Sir Stephen. With Sir Stephen, the beatings become harsher and the humiliations more complex, but O continues to view her docility as the ultimate proof of her love for Rene. Her complete and unreserved yielding to authority reaches its emotional, spiritual, and physical climax when her labia are pierced and hung with chains and her ass is branded with Sir Stephen's monogram.

Legend has it that the author, Anne Desclos (writing under the pseudonym of Pauline Reage), wrote the book after her publisher and lover, Jean Paulhan, told her that erotica was not something a woman was capable of writing. Paulhan was wrong. It has also been said that Desclos wrote The Story of O as a love letter to Paulhan. Regardless of the story's origins, the book pulls you in with page after page of some of the steamiest bdsm scenes I've ever encountered. The beatings and tortures turn pain into something to be actively pursued. Humiliation becomes a creative act rather than a punishment.

I've spoken with acquaintances about what got them into BDSM. The vast majority say that this book served as a pivot point. It struck some chord within them that had previously been unexpressed. In a lot of ways, The Story of O is to BDSM what Romeo and Juliet or Oliver Twist is to English literature. You just know it. You can't provide a superficial account of something that's so deeply engrained in a culture.

The Story of O is a classic and deservedly so. As such, I don't think it can be summarized in a way that would do it justice. I do, however, think it can be engaged with and talked about. Rather than view this as a review of the book (or - heaven forbid! - something as banal as a book report), I'd like see my "review" here as a way of opening a discussion on one of the more important contributions to literary erotica in the last century.
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Comments
  • Betty Rocket
    Betty Rocket  
    Great review.....nice to see someone research their subject a little :)
  • Cock Wrangler
    Cock Wrangler  
    Lovely. Clearly, I'm going to have to read this book sometime, though I don't need any prompting to embrace BDSM. I'll be back to comment after that. ;)
  • Airlia
    Airlia  
    I absolutely loved reading this. I've always had this on my to read list, but now I think I shall bump it up.
  • her.royal.redness
    her.royal.redness  
    I love Romeo and Juliet!! I've been looking for a new book to add to my collection, based on your fantastic review I expect this one to be a jem! Thank you!
  • Backseat Boohoo
    Backseat Boohoo  
    Would you recommend this book to somebody who isn't really in to BDSM? I only like the very light stuff, like tethering and some light spanking; the really kinky stuff doesn't do much for me, and some of these scenes sound very hardcore.
  • Lara
    Lara  
    I think there are a lot of ways to read this book. The scenes are definitely hardcore, but they're told in a tone that's very genteel - imagine a stereotypical victorian lady telling you about being sodomized by 8 strangers the night before.

    What comes to mind first is the book as erotica - if you are turned on by bdsm, the book creates sexual excitement - and that's the perspective I focused on in the review. Going beyond the sexual aspects, though, there are so many other ways to look at this book.

    One of the things that kept on popping out at me during my last read of it is how relevant it is to political and feminist philosophy. What does it mean to be a woman? What is equality? What does it mean to be free and is freedom something that we can give away?

    Like all good books, O exists on a spectrum... On one hand you have a book that can be a damn hot read if that's what you're into sexually. On the other hand, the writing uses sex in a way that gets to issues that are fundamental to being human. There's lots of stuff in between those two poles and lots of ways to jump in and get something from the book even if it's not your sexual cup of tea.
  • Backseat Boohoo
    Backseat Boohoo  
    Hmmm, sounds interesting...I may have to pick up a copy!
  • Miss Voluptuous
    Miss Voluptuous  
    Wonderful review! I love the larger perspective you take.
  • cocomo
    cocomo  
    great review thanks
  • alayamae
    alayamae  
    Thanks for the review!
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