This novel arrived on my doormat unexpectedly, like the best kind of gift, and I read it over a couple of days while feeling feverish and achey. I was totally blown away by the power packed into this slim volume, and spent the next few days trying to find the words to put in this review. When I was on the edge of sleep, they seemed to come, and by morning, they were gone. The more I’ve loved a book, the more afraid I am of not doing it justice.
The novel’s protagonist is unnamed, and so is the university town where she goes to work as a creative writing lecturer. The reader is given great insight into her MA classes, with portions of the students’ work included in the book, along with the critical discussions that take place and the dynamics between the students. One student in particular is clearly troubled, and his involvement with our heroine is the subject of much of the novel.
This is a book that defies classification. It is, at once, a literary examination of the way women’s bodies are treated and a taut, page-turning thriller. I finished reading it a little breathless and totally awed. And the thing I keep coming back to is why this woman wasn’t given a name. I think it is because she is every woman. What happens to her in this novel is extraordinary, and it’s everyday. It – or something like it – could happen to anyone, anywhere, at any time. Because we’re living in a world where women’s bodies are not wholly their own and are susceptible to exploitation. What could be more timely?
Reviewed by Laura Pearson
Permission is a coming of age story set in Los Angeles. When Echo’s father is swept out to sea, Echo is left to navigate her way into adulthood alone. Aching for friendship and love, she meets Orly, a dominatrix who appears to be both caring and nurturing. Orly’s life is complicated in ways that Echo cannot at first understand, and within her grief and longing, Echo is forced to consider who she is, and what she wants from life.
Beautifully written, this feminist novel encompasses important issues including consent, grief, love and pain. Elements of BDSM are woven into the plot, but do not overpower it, and Vogel has written frankly about sex, fantasies and fetishes in a way that does not alienate those who are not part of that world. Throughout the novel, profound observations about sex, desire and our sense of self nudge the story along. This novel is different to any other novel I have read in recent years, and this change was refreshing. My beliefs were questioned, and I found myself with a lot to think about. After reading this debut, I’m looking forward to reading more from Saskia Vogel.
Reviewed by Hannah England
When you’re reading a book, you’re living in two worlds. Your own world, and that of the book. All too often, I find myself in between, trying to get into the world of the book but not able to become fully immersed because I can’t shut out the noise of the Octonauts theme tune in the background. But that didn’t happen with Cape May. Every time I picked it up, I was right there, with Henry and Effie. Slap bang in the middle of their world. Feeling their excitement, and their pain.
Cape May is set in New Jersey in the late 1950s. Henry and Effie are young newlyweds, exploring their relationship and one another on their honeymoon, when they happen to meet the enigmatic Clara, her lover Max and his half-sister Alma. From that moment, they are thrown into a world so far from their Georgia hometown as to be unrecognisable to them. A world of glamour, excess and debauchery. Giddy with it all, Henry and Effie go along with things they later regret, things that will impact on their marriage forever.
I was addicted to Cape May, and read it with an urgency I don’t often feel. Just as the characters are seduced by their new companions, I was seduced by the setting, the sex, the atmosphere. My only regret is that I didn’t take it on holiday and read it by a pool or on a beach in one big, gorgeous gulp.
Reviewed by Laura Pearson
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