Monday 6 July 2009

Lessons in Gender

I'm proud of you all - everyone seems to be out buying their copies. I popped into Waterstones and Blackwells today - found one copy of each new Bloomsbury book in Waterstones, and about a dozen of each in Blackwells. Tick, gold star.

Now o
nto other recent reads - and another Bloomsbury book, actually. One of my favourite books read last year was Yellow by Janni Visman - to read my thoughts on that brilliant book about agoraphobia, jealousy, and cats, click here. It was only a matter of time before I went back and read Visman's first novel, Sex Education. Now, usually I like to post a picture of the book cover, but with Sex Education I'm not going to... it's a close-up of bikini-clad gals (and by close-up, I mean we just see neck-down, thigh-up). Not really the sort of picture I want to put on here, especially after somebody called me 'knowingly old-fashioned' (which I take as a compliment!) So you'll have to make do with a sketch I've done for the occasion.

Sex Education is a tale of competition, jealousy, friendship and passion between friends Maddy and Selina. We see the girls from young childhood, through puberty, to adulthood - all the way through the characters have an uneasy balance of closeness and rivalry. Selina usually gets the better of Maddy, and is the more powerful of the two, destroying while Maddy creates. Throughout the novel various other characters are introduced as appendages to these - another friend, a boyfriend, a parent - but bubbling through is the intense relationship between the girls, and the effects it has on each.

To start with the good - I read it in one sitting, which is unusual for me and my short attention span. A very involving novel, which is very nearly very clever. But, having had Yellow, I can see how Janni Visman was on a stepping stone. The intensity is not quite as intense as Yellow; the insights not so insightful, the tautness not so taut. Occasionally Sex Education feels a little like a grown-up Jacqueline Wilson book. Which is far from the worst thing a book can be, since Jacqueline Wilson writes intelligent, involving children's books - but where Yellow was starkly memorable, Sex Education is occasionally a little predictable. Yes, it's a presentation of the rivalry between friends, and the damaging effects of jealousy - but a quirkier edge would have catapaulted the novel into a higher league. I've no idea how the quirkiness could have been added - but obviously Visman did, because she delivered it in Yellow.


  1. That looks interesting, I've not come across Visman. No copies in the public library, so it'll have to be the Bod from Cheshire!

  2. If you're going for one of them, I'd choose Yellow - but I think both are available from 1p on Amazon... tempt tempt tempt

  3. Nooooo - I'm not supposed to be buying any more books until August. Given my indiscretions of the past 7 days, I think I should really make that September :s

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