I received my copy from Sphere through Nudge and rated it 3.5 stars.
Every now and again I finish a book and find that I don’t know how I feel about it or what rating to give it. This is one of those books.
A few weeks ago I read an article about Sasha Grey and she fascinated me. She started a career in adult films shortly after turning 18 and turned herself into one of the world’s most successful porn actresses only to shoot her last pornographic movie when she was 21. Not surprising, when somebody with her history decides to write an erotic story it more than arouses my curiosity. And the description of The Juliette Society only made my curiosity stronger:
“A secret club where the world’s most powerful people meet to explore their deepest, often darkest sexual fantasies.”
It sounded absolutely fascinating and potentially quite dark; I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this book.
And then I read it. And, if I’m honest I have to admit that this is indeed a fascinating book. However, it is not a book about a society named Juliette; not really. Certainly, that society features and is as sinister as the description on the back of the book suggests but it doesn’t really play a large part in the book. Because this is a story about Catherine, a film student with a long-term boyfriend and a strong infatuation for one of her teachers. She is also a girl who enjoys sex, is adventurous in that department and has very vivid and explicit, even dark, erotic fantasies.
When Catherine hooks up with fellow student Anna she slowly finds herself descending into the world of kink. It is with Anna that she visits The Fuck Factory:
“A pansexual laboratory of carnal pleasure where anything and everything goes. There are things going on in here that, hard as it is to believe, you won’t even find on the internet.”
And it is Anna who will introduce Catherine to the Juliette Society:
“A people united by one idea, a shared philosophy, all dedicated to the pursuit of sublime pleasures. We have common interests, shared goals and unlimited means.”
And although the Juliette society will give Catherine the opportunity to live out one of her more extreme fantasies, it also makes her vividly aware of what she really wants and values in her life and how easily she might lose it.
So I liked the sound of this story before I started the book and when I re-read the description I’ve just given of this book, I still like the sound of it. However, strange as it may sound, that description doesn’t really tell you what this book was about. And, if I’m perfectly honest, I’m a bit at a loss trying to figure out what this book was about exactly. At times it read almost like a sex manual. At other times it felt more like a lecture about movies. Most of the time however this was a story about a girl who seems to have everything her heart could possibly desire yet is determined to throw it all away for no good reason I could determine. In fact, this book felt more like an opportunity for the author to share her thoughts, feelings and experiences with sex, than a balanced story. Another thing that bugged me a bit was that the actual story seemed to play second fiddle to the vivid and very kinky fantasies the main character has to such an extent that at times it was almost impossible to distinguish between fact and fantasy. Finally I have to add that for a book with this much sex in it, the story was surprisingly non-erotic.
On the other hand, this book was well written, the story at times fascinating, and I did find myself caught up in the narrative. Yes, I’m conflicted about this book but maybe the only thing we can accuse this author of is that she took the advice “write what you know” a bit too much to heart. The (porn) actress wrote a book about sex and movies, two subjects she obviously knows a lot about. She wrote about them in an engaging and at times funny way but didn’t manage to include enough story. And that is a shame. The idea behind this book was and is absolutely fascinating and I can’t help feeling that this book could have been a whole lot more.