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Book Reviews

Perihan Magden, 2 Girls (Serpent's Tail)

It's summer, and Istanbul-based Behiye is ready to enter Bosphorus University. She should be happy because she has reached this important goal in her life, but she is actually very depressed for too many reasons: she is overweight, angry, frustrated, embarrassed by her family and basically hates the rest of the world. To her rescue arrives a beautiful and gentle girl, Handan. The two become best friends, and Behiye's love for Handan soon turns into obsession when she moves with her and with her mother, the icy Leman. At the very beginning things go rather well and the two girls even plan to run away from their families and go to Australia where Handan's father lives. But Behiye's blissful life doesn't last long: Handan discovers boys and their fast cars, and gradually neglects her devoted friend. The story of this obsessive friendship is interspersed with the discovery of the bodies of murdered young men and with forensic descriptions of the corpses, and the readers are left to find out if Behiye is actually responsible for the killings.

2 Girls - recently turned into a film directed by Kutlug Ataman - is a tale of teenage anger and frustration, but it's also a tale about young women in Turkey. Behiye feels indeed trapped in a world made of "money and penises", a world in which her psychotic ex-army commando brother seems to have all the rights to beat her senseless for stealing his money in front of their helpless mother.

Perihan Magden's use of language is fresh and engaging, studded with broken sentences and random punctuation, yet it becomes repetitive and boring towards the end of the novel and you naturally start wondering if a great part of the charm of this book was lost during the translating process.

As a whole, this gritty and controversial novel about teenage life in modern Turkey is a disturbing, but powerful drama.

Valérie Tasso, Insatiable (Corgi Books)

While reading the first few pages of Spanish bestseller Insatiable – The Sexual Adventures of a French Girl in Spain, based on Valérie Tasso's diaries, you start thinking this book is another of those tales of sexual promiscuity in which the main character keeps on having sex with strangers from one chapter to another. Yet, right when you're beginning to yawn and getting bored by reading about the author's sexual adventures in hotels, parks, graveyards and such likes, things change. Indeed, Tasso meets a man with whom she really falls in love: everything seems idyllic for a while, but her new partner is in fact a man with too many secrets who eventually runs away with her money, leaving her destitute. Betrayed and suicidal, Tasso decides to move on and turns to prostitution, going to work in a brothel where she finds new hopes and rediscovers herself.

The most interesting parts of this book are the ones in which the author recounts how the brothel works, who are the other girls employed there and why they do that job. Yet, there are at times sections of the story that make you wonder if what Tasso tells is actually true: after all, her "continental" clients seem to be quite decent, interesting and charming, apart from the occasional masochist or obsessive man, while, towards the end of the book, we meet a stereotype, a handsome Italian man with whom the author falls in love. You could also argue that Tasso deliberately chooses to become a prostitute, satiating in this way her thirst for sex and her need for money, and, more often than not while writing, she talks about prostitution as the best profession on earth, forgetting that, for many women out there, it is a nightmare from which they can't escape.

Tasso's story first appeared in Isabel Pisano's bestseller about the hidden lives of prostitutes, Yo Puta, and was later published in Spain as Diario de una Ninfómana (The Diary of a Nymphomaniac). The book has recently won comparisons with One Hundred Strokes of the Brush by Melissa P., The Sexual Life of Catherine M. by Catherine Millet and the anonymous Belle de Jour: like all these diaries, Insatiable can be included in that new genre publishers call "pro-sex feminism", which is nothing more than explicit women's literature, sexually graphic books that are meant to appeal to a new generation of young women. Probably, reading this supposedly autobiographical novel bearing in mind that it will keep you engaged for a while, though it won't do anything else for you, will be the best way to go through this book.

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