Combined Reviews: My Hundred Lovers by Susan Johnson

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my_hundred_lovers.jpg    My Hundred Lovers
Susan Johnson
Allen & Unwin

From the publisher's page:

That afternoon in the small bedroom the light was blue. The curtains were cream and blew softly in the wind. There was a cry, far off, almost out of earshot. There was a man in my bed and I did not know how he got there.

A woman, on the eve of her fiftieth birthday, reflects on one hundred moments from a lifetime's sensual adventures. After the love, hatred and despair are done with, the great and trivial acts of her bodily life reveal an imperfect, yet whole self. By turns humorous, sharp, haunting and wise, this is an original and exhilarating novel from one of Australia's premier writers.

Lyrical and exquisite, My Hundred Lovers captures the sheer wonder of life, desire and love.


Emma Young in "The Sydney Morning Herald": "Johnson's eighth novel is the chronicling of one woman's sensory memory. Deborah, the narrator, is a middle-aged woman reflecting on the touch and feel of years past. Her thoughts take the form of an unconventional memoir: 100 brief chapters catalogue her experiences of love. What she composes is a history of her body, her tiring flesh a map of what she has 'lived, loved and suffered'...The form developed by Johnson has as much impact as the substance it's shaped around. The short chapters, devoted to the evocation of sensual experiences and not the steady beat of chronology, construct a story that is meaningful, but also playful...In the literary tradition, men have largely shaped notions of desire and sexuality. Think Casanova, Henry Miller and Michel Houellebecq. Female writers such as Angela Carter, Erica Jong and Jeanette Winterson have negotiated the terrain, but with less frequency...My Hundred Lovers is an original imagining of one woman's waning flesh and the vibrant imprint of a life it still holds."

Felicity Plunkett in "The Canberra Times": "Since her debut novel, Messages from Chaos, Johnson's writing has explored the embodied heart and imagination. There, protagonist Anna defines and curtails her own happiness through her relationship with her married lover. Since then, Johnson's work has often taken in abjection and pining, perhaps most strikingly in the eroticism and loss of Hungry Ghosts, in which two women friends find themselves in a destructive triangular relationship...In her powerful non-fictional work A Better Woman, Johnson writes about birth and motherhood. While her craft is such that a fictional 'I' is often assumed to be autobiographical, in this case craft and crafting - and in very literal ways the making and remaking of women's bodies and lives - brings the necessary artifice of life-writing into focus. At the same time, it offers a raw expression of feelings of loss in motherhood...Johnson's melding of lyrical moments with anatomical detail and bawdy humour makes for a lively catalogue of 50 years of love, but wrapped around this is another layer that enriches the novel. Johnson returns to the observation that it is a rare kind of privilege that allows the sensual to be life's crucial focus...There's not much of the dull or leisurely in Johnson's novel, but her framing of the novel's pleasures with a similar philosophical stance is provocative."

Chris Flynn in "Meanjin": "My Hundred Lovers is a remarkable achievement, a genuine masterpiece of sensuality that took Johnson more than a decade to get her head around. The first thing to understand is Johnson's shrewd interpretation of the word 'lovers'. This is not the story of a woman looking back on her life bonking a hundred people--the lovers here take many forms, including sunshine, her fingers, a certain type of croissant, a cat, a bridge. There are people here too, of course, men and women, and sex is not always a prerequisite for them to be considered lovers...The French influence on Johnson is clear--parts of the story are set in a version of Paris that's as close as I've seen to the city being faithfully captured on the page for a long time. You won't find a better French book written by an Australian, and as far as erotic writing goes, forget the shades of grey and look a little closer to home. Australians have this genre well and truly licked."

Chris Gordon of "Readings": "This could be a corny novel, but no, in Johnson's hands reality and poetry mix to create a profound description of a woman's life. There is the rawness and the vulnerability that comes with such an expose, but there is also humour and humility."

Joanne Shiells on the "Fancy Goods" weblog: "Expected to attract a mostly female audience, this rich and meaningful novel deserves a broad readership. It is easily readable and poetic; Johnson's gift for language delights and some of her descriptions are to be savoured. With much of the novel set in France, it may also appeal to those with a penchant for the Gallic."


Helen Greenwood in "The Age".

The author answers "Ten Terrifying Questions" on the "Booktopia" weblog.


A little background from the author on how the novel came about.
You can read an extract from the novel on the publisher's website here.

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1 Comment

Thanks very much for the round-up Perry! Still very much enjoying your blog but not as regular a visitor as I was during my years in London, pining not just for Oz but for Ozlit chat, and being part of the conversation. Very much enjoying being back!
Hope this finds you well.
Warm wishes

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on June 25, 2012 9:20 AM.

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