Read-a-long Part #3: My Hundred Lovers by Susan Johnson

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.


I am reading My Hundred Lovers (courtesy Allen & Unwin) as part of a read-a-long hosted by Bree at All The Books I Can Read over the next three weeks. Please be aware that it is likely that in answering the discussion questions, I will reveal spoilers. Read at your own risk!

Click here for my comments on pages 1-88

Click here for my comments on pages 89 -173

Pages 174-End

“She preferred herself now, less succulent and more loving, humbled, loved.”

While fiction, My Hundred Lovers reads as if a confessional memoir- brief memories of  physical and emotional awareness from the taste of a fresh croissant, her first knee trembling orgasm at the hand of a boy to the difficulty of her childhood as the daughter of an adulterous father and a narcissistic mother. I think its important to point out that the title is not literal – the chapters are not devoted to one hundred lovers – but  the sense memories of moments of pleasure and pain. There is sexual content, quite explicit as times, but the novel is  interspersed with  descriptions of moments such as the feel of mud oozing between her toes, or the scent of fresh bread baking.

This is not a traditional story, the snippets vary in length, each loosely linked to the next give some form to the narrative yet not linear, moving forwards and back in time at will and it can feel a little disjointed and I do usually prefer a more structured narrative. I can certainly appreciate the rich imagery and lyrical nature of the text, she writes beautifully of the small things that give us such pleasure.

For much of her life Deborah is hedonistic, tangling visceral reaction with emotion. Her inability to separate sex from love, pleasure from punishment, sees her make choices that erodes her self esteem. She uses her body to search for intimacy, certain that she is too damaged to love, or be loved, for more than the physical succor she can offer. It seems to me that it is her son’s birth that is a turning point for Deborah, her body perhaps finally sated by the experience. She writes of one lover after the collapse of her marriage, ‘the kind lover’, and what can be inferred is that Deborah relates to this man emotionally instead of physically, perhaps for the first time in her life. Deborah’s final lover could be said to be herself, having finally found some measure of wholeness, “My body, mine at last.” .

Overall I appreciated this book more than enjoyed it. There are insights that resonate with truth and wisdom but I also find it a little pretentious. The read-a-long has been a good experience though, and I have found the discussions interesting.  Thanks Bree, for hosting.

Visit All The Books I Can Read to see what other readers have to say.

My Hundred Lovers is available to purchase

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. 1girl2manybooks
    Jun 23, 2012 @ 21:23:38

    Glad you enjoyed taking part, thanks for contributing so much! 🙂



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