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Published: HarperCollins on Apr 15, 2010
ISBN: 9780007372058
List price: $2.99
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In August 2002 I started the month in the 18th century, reading 'According to Queeney' by Beryl Bainbridge, the story of Samuel Johnson's relationship with Hester Thrale and then 'Fanny Hill' by John Cleland, which is a classic of 18th century erotica.read more
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Audiobook - well there is a lot of sex. The story is ok I guess - but too much sex with little of much else just did not work for me.read more
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I am utterly prejudiced about this particular edition since I put together this version of Fanny Hill with the great Herb Lubalin. It is a particularly beautiful piece of book-work and I am very proud of it. Oh yes, the writing is loads of fun, and the illustrations are very sweet as well.read more
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In August 2002 I started the month in the 18th century, reading 'According to Queeney' by Beryl Bainbridge, the story of Samuel Johnson's relationship with Hester Thrale and then 'Fanny Hill' by John Cleland, which is a classic of 18th century erotica.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Audiobook - well there is a lot of sex. The story is ok I guess - but too much sex with little of much else just did not work for me.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I am utterly prejudiced about this particular edition since I put together this version of Fanny Hill with the great Herb Lubalin. It is a particularly beautiful piece of book-work and I am very proud of it. Oh yes, the writing is loads of fun, and the illustrations are very sweet as well.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
A funny, iconic, but mostly smutty eighteenth century novel about a young provincial lass who travels to London in search of work after her parents die, and naively moves into a brothel. By the time Fanny realises exactly what kind of 'position' she has accepted, the shrewd madam has already initiated Fanny into the tricks and 'delights' of prostitution. Over the course of a few years, Fanny is nearly raped, escapes the brothel to live with her lover, becomes a kept woman, returns to prostitution, has various lovers of different ages, sizes, tastes and duration, witnesses a homosexual tryst, which disgusts Cleland (sorry, disgusts Fanny), and a good time is had by all. Honestly, at first I found the erotic passages quaint and amusing, full of curious euphemisms (the 'cloven stamp of female distinction' and the male 'machine') and repetitive scenes, but then Fanny's cynical narrative voice soon faded into a series of male fantasies where women enjoy being forced into sex. Prostitutes are always pretty and healthy young girls who are in the trade seemingly through personal preference, and the harsh reality of diseases, unwanted pregnancies and rape are not allowed to ruin the illusion. Rape especially, because women who refuse to have sex are just being coy, and can be beaten into submission with that wondrous 'machine'. Fanny Hill is basically a constant and ever inventive series of scenarios, helpfully illustrated by Paul Avril, where heroine Fanny scores a quick poke from wealthy noblemen, doddering old fools, masochists and even the village idiot, and any pretence of plot, prose or morality (Fanny claims to love Charles, but forgets about him completely until the end of the book) is soon abandoned, and then even the sex gets boring! Good for a laugh, if nothing else.
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Fanny Hill is important because of its place in the history of the end of censorship in America, but it's also a fun read. The book takes a positive view of sex generally - the first-person narrator enjoys sex for its own sake, and isn't consumed with guilt over all the sex she has, but she also acknowleges that sometimes bad things happen because of sex or the desire for it. The book is unusual for a book which graphically depicts sex acts in that there are no "dirty words" in the book - the characters don't swear, and the narrator uses coy euphemisms to describe the details.
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There is not one filthy word in this book. And there is barely one non-sexual scene in it. The story of young Fanny's downfall from sexual purity and rise to upper middle-class comfort is infamous, of course and earned Cleland immortality which, based on the writing he hardly deserves. Sometimes it was obvious that he realized how tedious the descriptions of Fanny's various encounters were getting to be. It is curious to think how limited is our ability to describe genitalia and the use thereof. Cleland's choice (or more likely the writing style of the 18th century) to write about sex the way in which he did gave him more nouns and adjectives than the modern writer might use, I thought, but even then, reading about the 'machines' of Fanny's different partners and the ladies' mounds and 'mangled' and suffering parts so endlessly, was tedious indeed. It was far more interesting to wonder about the staying power of this book. I can only assume it has something to do with its reputation and its being one of, if not the first, English erotic novel.Reading it as an 18th century novel, I am able to give it 3 stars. Written at a later time, it would surely rate much lower and garner at least a 4 on the yawn scale.This year I am on the hunt for books found within books. Naturally there are no other books mentioned within this book - Fanny did not seem to have time for or interest in anything other than her throbbing, hungry, nether regions.
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