The Bride Stripped Bare

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The author of the entries, a nameless something housewife, has disappeared, leaving behind what amounts to "lessons," written in the second-person, for her fellow archetypal "good wives.


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At first, marriage equals safety to the woman "it's a relief, to be honest, this surrendering To make matters worse, he may have engaged in an affair with her best childhood friend. Beginning work on her long-planned book might cheer her up—and so will an affair with lovely Gabriel, of the "cathedral-wide" chest and silky young skin.

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Thus she commences erotic adventures previously unimaginable. She also becomes pregnant, and the anonymous author is cannily perceptive about the vicissitudes of pregnancy and new motherhood; she writes strikingly of the surprising erotic passion, emotional upheaval and anger that can flare during pregnancy. This unusual but strangely compelling novel offers an intimate chronicle of change and self-discovery, of a woman who makes a final and unexpected choice.

The author stripped bare - Telegraph

Gallons of ink have been spilled overseas about this one—most of it on the question of the author's anonymity she's gone public there—or has been outed, depending on whom one asks. However forthcoming Gemmell seems, she says that her intention to publish her book anonymously was partly to spare her husband's blushes, and partly to spare her own. It has been suggested that it was more a cynical marketing ploy, and that she leaked her identity to a publishing contact.

Certainly, as she poses provocatively for the photographs, she seems happy to play up to her new role as a suburban sexpot. On the evidence of our meeting, however, I doubt she was acting a part. She becomes immensely agitated when recalling her "outing" by the press after the furore surrounding the anonymous manuscript at Frankfurt, she was eventually smoked out by this newspaper , and her regret seems genuine.

I just wanted to write a brutally honest account of a woman's sexual life. I wanted to metaphorically strip myself bare, but I would never have had the courage to do that if I thought my name would be attached to it. It was only when I decided to write anonymously that my work started to sing. I thought, Oh my God, I can say what I want to say!

On being exposed, she says her first concern was not for her husband but for her father, a former coal-miner in Australia. It is indeed hard to imagine. Much of the book is too explicit to be quoted here, and voices the sort of sexual fantasies most housewives would redden to think about, let alone write down. Television shows like Sex and the City feed us the idea that we are all like the predatory Samantha, confident and sexually aggressive.

In reality, we find it hard to say what we want. I'm writing for women who know what they want but might not get it from their husbands.

Bryan Ferry / The Bride Stripped Bare

Certainly, there is a lot for would-be husbands to learn - each chapter doubles as a self-contained "lesson", which embraces both emotional and bluntly practical issues, as well as continuing the narrative. Take, for example, lesson A touch that's gentle, slow, provocative, that builds you up, that makes you want it too much.

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Sex that's uncomplicated, with no ties, where the man will do exactly what you want. In Lesson 10, on the other hand, the author considers what sort of lovers women "remember the most", including, bizarrely, "the one who never took off his socks", and "the one whose touch hummed, who seemed to know exactly what he was doing and stood out because of that. This is salutary advice for any spouse, although Gemmell insists the book is not a glorified sex manual. Despite the "lessons", this seems fair enough.


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  • The book is also richly descriptive "Want, again, unfurls under your skin. I ask Gemmell whether the book is a graphic portrait of her own marriage or simply a work of fiction.

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    Unsuprisingly, she refuses to be drawn on this. We all have secret lives as well as our private and public ones. This might be of some concern to her husband, Andrew Sholl, an Australian public relations man, who formerly advised Tony Blair - particularly since in the book the bride's husband, Cole, is a selfish lover who doesn't fulfil her sexually.

    Nikki and Andrew have been married for five years and, as she points out, they intend to remain so. Although the book is dedicated to husbands "For my husband. She had never intended to tell him she was its author, she says, and even after her anonymity was blown she hoped he would not read it. I asked him not to look at this one.


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    He did, of course. We know each other so well, but that book ripped open a seam. He's seen a side of me that I didn't want him to - maybe that's a good thing for a marriage. Despite its explicit content, the book's appeal lies in the fact that it deals with issues that are fairly commonplace. For a start, there is the question of fatigue, which Gemmell believes to be one of the main blights on marital sex.

    THE BRIDE STRIPPED BARE

    In one scene, the heroine is in a hotel bed with her husband:. Cole and you have never done any of that making love twice in a row or knocking over lamps or pulling each other's hair. When you do make love you could describe each other as tidy. He doesn't come very often. Both of you usually give up before he has, and it's always with relief on your part. You wonder if Cole has a condition that causes him to take so long to come, or if he's undersexed, or just tired.

    Like you have been, a lot. It will be of some relief to Gemmell's husband to learn that much of the novel is drawn not from her own marital experience, but from that of her friends.