Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Page Turner

As part of the overhaul of my social life at the start of the year, I joined two book clubs. One with friends and the other with strangers.

The one with strangers soon became the one with new friends, for they were a lovely group of girls.

And so it was that after six months, the group was well and truly established. While we didn’t really talk about books and most people didn’t read the book of the month, one was still suggested each month, just to keep things ticking over.

At last month’s group, Gemma suggested the Piano Teacher. Fine by me, I like pianos.

Fast forward to the weekend and Gareth, his mum, his dad and I were walking through a quiet village in Cambridgeshire. Denise and I happened upon a cute little church-run book store, with books stacked as high as the ceiling, all costing about 25p.

Denise and I could hardly contain ourselves, stocking up on all sorts of cookbooks and novels. And what should I see in the bargain bucket? None other than the Piano Teacher. Well, if it wasn’t my lucky day… I was used to paying over a fiver on Amazon every month just to try and keep up with my clubs. Now I was parting with just 25p and it was going towards a church roof restoration, probably.

Shoving the book in my hopefully-one-day mother-in-law’s face, I declared: ‘Look, Denise! My new book club book!’ I don’t know if she really had the look of startled dismay on her face that I now, in hindsight, remember her having. I don’t know if she knew then what I know now. All I know is, I’m very embarrassed to have shoved this book under her nose.

‘Well that’s handy,’ Denise smiled, leaving me in my glee at my bargain book.

That evening, I decided to make the effort and at least start the book club book.

It didn’t take me long to realise I was reading no ordinary novel. I was reading adult fiction. I clicked early on, around the time that the piano student got her first spanking from the piano teacher.

Now, let’s not forget the suggestion came from a girl I’d only known a few months – I was puzzled. Was the group getting on so well that we were now going to chuck out our pretence at being an intelligent group of young women who wanted ground breaking works of breath taking fiction, in favour of cheap thrills that make Mills and Boon look like bedtime stories?

I checked her email. Yes, it was the Piano Teacher.

Oh. But hers was set in Hong Kong. Hers was aimed at the intelligent reader, not the thrill seeker. According to Amazon’s summary, hers sounded pretty bloody dreary, post war, poverty stricken glum.

Did I ditch my book and quickly order the correct namesake?

Did I hell.

Engrossed isn’t the word. It took me a matter of days to read and is now making its way around my much amused friends.

I was exhausted by the amount of spanking my poor protagonist received. And yet, I couldn’t put it down. I was up till 1am most nights. It was as if I’d been given the keys to a forbidden castle and had but a few hours to run amok before I was caught out, because I’m pretty sure I’d never have intentionally bought adult fiction.

Whenever I read a passage out to Gareth, he balked at the ridiculousness. And I knew it was ridiculous, but also utterly unputdownable. You can’t say that about post-war Hong Kong.

As I turned the last page, I was greeted with the information that, lest I despair, there were plenty more titles available from the perverted people at Chimera Publishing. Titles that stuck in my mind include ‘Susie Learns the Hard Way’ and ‘Betty Serves the Master.’

I kid you not. I feel like a little piece of me will be missing if I don’t read these titles too, and yet simultaneously know any book that I regret flaunting to my boyfriend’s mother doesn’t really require space in my memory box. It’s akin only to watching awful day time TV. Sometimes you do it, but you don’t admit to it, because you know there are better things to do with your time than watch Jeremy Kyle or read about Lucy getting her scales wrong again.

Believe me, the girl’s a fool. After the first punishment, you’d have thought she might have practised.


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