Fresh FIction Box Not To Miss

Literary Book Club reading — COURTESAN

June 14, 2005

You know when you read a book and it doesn’t make you feel good, it just feels like a chore? Or you’re educating yourself or something “worthy” like that? Well, trust me, COURTESAN is such a book.

COURTESAN by Dora Levy MossanenI can see it being read by the women’s book club where everyone pretends literary ambitions. So an exotic locale — Paris at the turn of the 20th century (I’d do it the French way but I haven’t figured out the extra characters yet) — with the mishmash of clashing cultures, in the land where “anything goes,” COURTESAN is the story of a young girl “trained” by her grandmother and mother to carry on the grand tradition of being a courtesan.

Now, when I was younger and a college student, this would have been so romantic — women in charge of their financial and social position. Well, not quite social since “bad girls” only last as long as their protectors are in power. And sad too, since the bad girls still wish they knew their fathers and were accepted everywhere.

So instead of a romantic read: revenge by the young wife on the murder of her Jewish husband in Persia, turning to the life of male manipulation she fled to find the murderer. It is instead an almost laugh out loud groan. Sorry, but having some French guy turned on by the glance — just a glance mind you, of pubic hair — made me almost lose it all in the bathtub. And this happened twice. Now, I thought French guys were more together than that! Okay, so the first one was a Shah, but even so. Is pubic (to say nothing of underarm hair) compulsively attractive and erotic?

I finished the book and I’ll say this, if you are a member of a ‘boring’ book club and need to suggest something that won’t totally bore you to tears, suggest “COURTESAN.” PSSST: she includes book club questions in the back, so you won’t be at a complete loss if you’re asked to say something witty.

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