Story of O – Pauline Réage

Story of OStory of O – the highly praised erotic classic – I was so very intrigued when I picked it up. Having not read any erotic fiction, I wasn’t too sure what to expect. I had certainly expected (and hoped) to be shocked by the language and content, but instead I only found the book emotionally draining.

I’d read that Story of O was a ‘…pornographic book well written and without a trace of obscenity’ (and who doesn’t trust Graham Greene?)

But I was still pleasantly surprised with the writing. And it’s true, there’s no obscene language and definitely no embarrassing moments to giggle at.

My feelings towards this dark and disturbing book are very confused. On the one hand I found the writing and the plot captivating, but on the other, I was disappointed that it was not at all (at least in my opinion) empowering. I was perplexed with the character of O, a sophisticated fashion photographer, who has consented to be a slave for the love of René. It’s partly her love for him that makes me angry – a love that is very one sided. A woman giving up her life and her free will for a man is not what I’d call empowering to women. And although O does not want sympathy – in fact she feels sorry for other women – I cannot help but feel deeply sad for her.

I would have liked to know more about O’s history with René. I also wanted to know more about the château, or ‘Roissy’, where O is first introduced to the chains. But perhaps that is why the story is so enthralling, because there is always an element of mystery. Characters such as Sir Stephen and Anne-Marie play huge parts in the subjugation of O, but we never find out who they are either. I’m sure a whole novel could be written about Anne-Marie’s past.

The fact that Story of O has made me think and made me feel so strongly, shows that it is worth reading. We don’t necessarily have to empathise with characters to appreciate a book, and in this case I think that’s why I kept reading – to try to understand O’s pleasure in the physical and emotional abuse that she receives. Instead, the more I read, the less I understood.

Most interesting of all is the fascinating story of the author and the reasons she wrote the book. I stumbled upon this article in the Guardian which talks about the real woman behind Story of O.

Intrigued? Get your own copy of Story of O by clicking on the picture below! 

3 thoughts on “Story of O – Pauline Réage

  1. Thank you for your review. I seem to recall feeling much like you did when I read this book many years ago. It’s interesting as, after I read it, I never considered O a piece of erotic fiction. Erotic, to my mind, should be about eliciting sexual arousal, whereas as O seemed to be more about the reader trying to analyze this woman’s desires (as you said). Erotica, to me, is more Anais Nin, something actually meant to titillate. Or perhaps O is meant to titillate, it just didn’t titillate me? I’m realizing I’ve never written the word titillate so often, especially not to a stranger. Sorry about that 🙂 It’s just impossible not to use it when talking about erotica, I guess. -Tania


    • Thanks for the comment! 🙂 I also didn’t find Story of O at all titillating. So, I suppose I would not class it as erotic fiction – although obviously other people do! I was actually going to use the word titillate myself in the post, but took it out for some reason. Oh well, at least we got it into the comments section!

      Liked by 1 person

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