Transgressions Paperback – Mar 3 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
There's a lot of showy exposition about the complicated ebb and flow of sexual power and violence, but, in the end, this thriller is about cheap thrills. Dunant, author of the popular Hannah Wolfe mystery series (Under My Skin, 1995, etc.), tells the story of Elizabeth Skvorecky. Recovering from a bad split with her live-in lover, Lizzie hunkers down in her London mansion to translate a trashy Czech police thriller. At first she resists the tale, internally railing against its images of mutilated female torsos and women chained up as dogs. But she gradually discovers that the misogynistic violence has "burrowed its way under her skin." In fact, it makes her hot. Meanwhile, someone appears to be infiltrating her home: CDs are disappearing, possessions are moved and then the manuscript of her translation is smeared with ketchup. Her vindictive ex? A ghost? When Lizzie awakens one night to find a stranger perched on her bed clutching a hammer, she seduces him proactively and is unexpectedly, and disturbingly, aroused. But when she learns that a serial "hammer rapist" is amok, she stops congratulating herself for surviving and begins stalking her stalker, baiting him with throbbingly sadistic chapters ostensibly translated from the Czech thriller but which, in fact, she has written herself to spook the prying rapist. Dunant "quotes" long passages of both the porn thriller and Lizzie's addenda, and then dismisses them as "total crap." Presumably, Lizzie is somehow empowered by writing bad porn, but we're certainly no better for reading it. Ultimately, it's hard to distinguish between what Lizzie writes and the ill-conceived, poorly disguised appeal to prurience Dunant has penned.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Kirkus Reviews
A London Czech translator threatened by a rapist goes after her tormentor with a vengeancein this straight-suspense holiday from Dunant's Hannah Wolfe detective stories (Under My Skin, 1995, etc.). The false notes in Elizabeth Skvorecky's life begin so quietly that she assumes she's imagining thingsthe Van Morrison CD that's disappeared from her collection, the replacement CD that vanishes from her disc player. Surely there's no reason for her departed lover Tom, a classical music buff, to have helped himself to music he despised. And Tom himself, though not above a supercilious sneer when Lizzie calls to ask him to return his housekey, ends up sending back the key, and a Van Morrison disk to boot. But then somebody repeatedly breaks into her house, marking his place with uncanny signaturesstacking up all her CDs in a neat pile, setting the kitchen table for two, spattering the manuscript she's been translating with ketchupand leaving Lizzie almost as confused as frightened. What's going on here? The locksmith she calls to beef up her security respectfully suggests she may be harboring a poltergeist; the local vicar she consults talks about outbursts of suppressed emotion. Then, shortly after Lizzie's responded to her importunate friends by pulling herself away from the translating job long enough to restart her sex life, she confronts her nemesis, a hammer-wielding rapist, face to face. So far everything has been routine, if breathlessly so; but with Lizzie's obligatory scene with the intruder, which she transforms from rape to edgy seduction, Dunant strikes out into new territory, as Lizzie declines to call the police on the departed attacker, determining to hunt him down herself, and baiting a trap for him with salaciously, subversively altered passages from her translation, and with the promise of settling scores with her for good. An unsettling, often chilling, portrait of a compulsive predator and the woman who refuses to be his prey. -- Copyright ©1998, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.See all Product Description
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Until the night she wakes up and hears another person breathing in her bedroom.....
The story Lizzie is translating throughout the book is cheap, nasty and degrading, but I found it necessary as an explanation for Lizzie's behaviour. Despite the necessity, I still found the transcript quite boring, and it was only in retrospect that I began to believe Lizzie's emotions at the end of the story. "Mapping the Edge" is a much better book from this author.
Recently, someone has been entering Lizzie's London flat. Little things like a Van Morrison CD have either been stolen or moved elsewhere in the house. One particular night, Lizzie awakens to see a man holding a hammer sitting on her bed. She manages to seduce the man, but later on learns about the serial "hammer rapist". Though knowing the danger she might face, Lizzie decides to turn the tables and stalk the rapist.
TRANSGRESSIONS is a novel that should have been great but falls just short of the mark. Lizzie is an interesting character, whose motives may seem strange but are well developed and comprehensible. However, the poignant story line is hampered by the intrusions of translated extracts from the Czech novel and Lizzie's own porno additions. Apparently, the talented Sarah Dunant purposely added a poorer writing quality to these sections to keep the overall flavor and authenticity of the books premise. Skip those pages (unless the reader needs a cheap thrill) and peruse the main plot because that is an intriguing cat and mouse thriller.
As a member of modern society, I cannot stomach the key scene of the novel. In this scene, our heroine chooses, when confronted with a rapist, to pseudoseduce him instead. Yes, she convinces herself that she controlled an otherwise horrible experience, but Dunant's describing our heroine as aroused and emotionally not affected during or after the assault is pure stupidity. Trying to see it otherwise really doesn't work.
I don't have too much of a problem with the rest of the story, and there's a good climax. Again, however, her response to her would-be rapist at the end shows Dunant hasn't quite thought it through. She needs to read a few true-crime accounts of rape to clue her into the devastation that accompanies every moment during and after that trauma. The story is an interesting concept, but I would read other Dunant novels instead of Transgressions.
But, much different from the book mentioned, we're not talking about a detective book here. TRANSGRESSIONS is much more than that. It has power, a good plot and, the most interesting of all: it's well written because the writer has criated her own style. She knows exactly how to keep the reader on the edge the whole book, without start to seem dizzy. It's not the kind of summer reading because that's not "just one more novel". It's a triumph.