Landscape with Animals, by Cameron S Redfern (Sonya Hartnett) 2006. I read the kindle version. Genre: Literature. Might also be classed as Erotica. (spoiler alert)
This book has many literary elements: you can read it for the sex scenes; you can read it for a brilliant portrayal of the circumstance of a love affair; you can read it for Sonya Hartnett’s intelligent, insightful, to be envied writing that I hope comes from hard work and doesn’t just drip from her fingers, or I give up now.
If you want to read a book for the sex scenes then this is the one: inside, outside and every which way, in succulent detail. At times it does get tiresome – I did think, oh no, not another one, where’s the story? But this is not without purpose.
The relentlessness of the sex is significant and essential to the story. The story is of an affair, our female protagonist is in love, but, as affairs go, she is only given access to a small part of her lover. (No, his penis isn’t small – I mean a small part of his life and psyche.) Therefore, the sex is all that she can have, and she takes it with gusto. If a love story can be divided into public and private, she only has the private.
The public and private here are sliced up definitively and cleanly. It’s a love story divided into accessible and non-accessible parts. We, as a reader, are given only the accessible part. I can’t say enough how brilliantly this is done.
In my uninformed opinion, the reason for the relentless, and after a while tedious sex scenes is to have the reader live inside her, the character’s, world. This, the sex, the private life behind doors, is all she has access to, is all that he gives her access to, and is all she can hold on to. This is the brilliantly portrayed world of a woman in love with a married man who has no intention of disrupting his life for her.
It is so perfectly done. As a reader, at no time do we enter any other world but hers. We never go to her lover’s wife/partner, we never go to any part of his life other than that that involves her. We, as a reader, are locked in her limited life with her. At story end, I was, due to Hartnett’s insightful and masterful prose, sincerely heartbroken.
This book is brave. Sonya Hartnett is known for her Literature and received much criticism for the sex scenes, that are not simply sex scenes, but are the idea of sex, which is integral to the telling of the overall story – the heartbreaking exclusion of all else in the normal scenario of a love story, and therefore the immersion in the only aspect of the love story that the female character has – the sex.
That Hartnett is able to place us as the reader right in there with her is nothing short of masterful and a lesson in writing that I am taking away with me. Oh, and the sex is great.
She feels battered, purple and blue. Her skull feels shattered, her throat cut, her eyes gouged and streaming liquid. She won’t walk in the park with him, won’t help him pick fruit from the trees. She won’t go window-shopping with him or watch him sort through the mail. Her lungs feel packed and flooded, her heart wrested from its cave. She won’t run down the street after him when he leaves his wallet behind. Her spine is snapped, her ribs are kindling, her teeth are torn from her jaw. Her hands between her pulverised knees are smashed, the fragile bones jigsawed. She’ll never see him cook dinner, won’t dry dishes as he washes them. She won’t buy him socks or tug his sleeve or put a blanket on him when he sleeps. Nothing will happen. Her stomach aches. The soles of her feet are skinned raw. Her ankles are splintered, her toes ripped away, her nails are seeping blood. She won’t grow old with him, won’t watch him growing old. Sorrow is purring her as it consumes her. She wonders if this is supposed to feel.