he & She

Feb. 27, 2014 by Clover Mancusi (Smashwords) | 5 stars

When introduced to our hero, he’s been so damaged by a stroke that he feels nothing but irritation and does nothing but masturbate. So, you know right from the start that the story will end badly, but still, you’ll be surprised at just how depressing things get. And I don’t think that the book is being presented for consumption properly. Anybody reading the summary would think that He & She is going to be uncomplicated smut – which is supposed to be fun. Fun, this ain’t.

Kit, or K., has no living family. He has a job as a translator, but he works from home and thus is not obliged to interact with other humans on a daily basis. He’s in a stagnant relationship with a woman who has never loved him. He’s an alcoholic, and he feels bored and old and numb.

A one night stand with an aggressive woman makes him confront his desire to be dominated. He’s convinced that exploring this desire will transform his humdrum life. He seeks out a dominatrix, and finds The Egyptian Princess.
The reader never really gets to know what makes her tick. She is, by turns, cruel & sadistic and warm & affectionate. She seems to have a genuine fondness for K., but she rebuffs him whenever he tries to get to personal. They begin a relationship separate from paid “sessions” and they hang out as friends. But then she cuts off all contact with him after she loses control and is intimate with him.

The story is a field day for an amateur psychologist. You wonder what happened to The Egyptian Princess to make her so afraid of (or is it revolted by?) physical affection. You wonder why K., an otherwise normal guy, craves violence. Or at least, I wondered. Maybe I’m not the correct audience for this novel. I didn’t understand K. Yet, I sympathized with him.

The writing is way better than you’ve got a right to expect from a self-published novel. K. is compelling, complex and his downfall is heart-wrenching. So, I’d recommend this if you’re looking for an emotionally draining novel, not so much if you’re just looking for something to wank to.

(reviewed long after purchase)

Wayne is a Montreal based writer, editor and translator.

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