First, a word of caution: this book is not for the sexually faint at heart.
Not because it’s wildly explicit. This is no Bared to You or one of Tiffany Reisz’s Original Sinners. Yes, there is some hot headboard rockin’, and, yes, it is deliciously detailed, but the problem you might have is that the female member of the party is underage.
The thing is, though, if you let that stop you from reading With My Body, you will be missing out on one of the more original erotica entries to show up in years. It’s so well written that I hesitate to put it in the erotica category because to do so might diminish it to some degree. So let’s call this genre “erotic fiction,” shall we?
Part of the hypnotic mood of the novel is due to how Nikki Gemmell approaches it. She writes in second person, so rather than an “I” or a “she,” we get a “you.” We never know the name of our heroine, and when we meet her, we must face the full force of her dissatisfaction. She is forty, married, and with three young boys. She and husband Hugh love each other, but it’s the love borne of the exhaustion and chaos. She tells us that they haven’t had sex since the birth of their two-year-old, and neither seems terribly upset by this.
As we get to know her, we see the mundane routine of her life and her restlessness. Whether combative school moms or a son’s perception that she yells too much, her life is not where she thought it would be. We slowly come to understand what that life looked like to her, at one point: it was one of passion. She tells us, though, that the man who gave her passion also showed her not to make herself vulnerable to it ever again.
With this, we are propelled back to her girlhood in Australia. She lives alone with her widowed father until the day he remarries. Her new stepmother clearly does not embrace her new stepdaughter and ships her off to boarding school. After a rather awkward and suspenseful first sexual encounter (at age fourteen), she finds her curiosity piqued.
While we are never told the length of the time lapse between that encounter and when she meets the older, mysterious writer Tol, an interview with Gemmell at the back of the book informs us that she is 17 and he much older (I found that somewhat surprising – he does not come across as significantly older; in fact, I pictured him in his late twenties).
She and Tol begin with a friendship, and despite their clear sexual attraction to each other, nothing happens. Until it does.
Tol suffers from writer’s block, and when he meets her, she brings such upheaval to his life that she becomes his muse. In a sort of unspoken quid pro quo, he begins to teach her about sex and her sexuality. His constant refrain is that they will stop when she wants to stop, but her burning curiosity and overwhelming desire for him leads to to keep saying “yes.”
The sex scenes, while explicit, further pull you into their story. It is easy to see why she can’t stay away from him, just as we can see why Tol needs and wants her. She is open and vital, unlike him. He exhorts her to “live audaciously,” largely because he is incapable of doing so. He works in a nearly dilapidated country home and occasionally travels to Sydney, but yet he seems stymied and almost paralyzed when it comes to living audaciously himself.
The weaknesses of the book have nothing to do with underage sex. The story goes on too long. There are several stopping points that come up long before Gemmell brings this to its merciful conclusion. By the time it ends, I’ve stopped caring about the narrator. I just want it over.
I enjoyed this book tremendously (despite its drawn out conclusion). Gemmell is an evocative, provocative writer, and she crafts a mesmerizing story. What will happen to “her”? And Tol? And how does she go from the wanton passion she shares with Tol to the staid, dull life she shares with Hugh?
If nothing else, you will find yourself wondering if you are living audaciously.