Story of O written by Pauline Réage

From what I've heard of this French tale, it was a masterpiece, one of the greatest BDSM works of literature of all time. I took my time with Histoire d'O, allowed its pages to dissolve on my tongue before saying that it tasted of women who had not bathed in months. But after a couple of days, I got fed up with swallowing the disgusting lines, paragraphs all mushed together to make this one long, dull book. No, dull is not the correct word...more of horridly written, annoying, and aggravating.

O is the main character of the book, the submissive little tramp who is sent to a training home, "Roissy," because her manners are bad and she loves to show herself off to the world. Her original lover, René, leaves her there so that she can come out a changed woman, or a changed "slave." He gives her a taste of poison as they take a taxi there, telling her to lift her skirt and sit her bottom bare on the seat, and roll down her thigh-highs so that access will be easier.

In Roissy, O undergoes a number of trials and tribulations, seeing René from time to time, as she learns how to be a "slave" and a "proper submissive." The entire time, she says to herself "Oh, this is what René wants, so I must, blah blah blah," and it truly made me want to not only shoot her, but René too. It seems as if she's saying that René forced her, when he did not; they had agreed to this.

If you cannot tell by now, I really do not like O's character. She does not know her place in life. She does not understand life. She never once enjoys any of the domination that she receives, and it's understandable why she doesn't—none of the partners that she engaged with did anything to pleasure her, and I do not believe honestly that she wanted to be pleasured at all. When her lover René turns her over to Sir Stephen, she goes willingly and naively, but then complains yet again that René is not paying attention to her and sleeping with her at night.

Her entire stay at Roissy lasts a couple of weeks. Then she lives as a full-time slave to Sir Stephen, bowing to his will and getting whipped when disobedient. She eventually learns that she has submitted not only her body to Sir Stephen, but her soul and her entire being. The image is lovely (shame that the book is written so badly). The end part is apparently supposed to be some "big bang," but I thought it to be stupid and really unattractive. I am not going to spoil it if you're interested in reading the book, but if you have read it or do read it, you'll know what I'm talking about.

How were the sex scenes? Well, there were many. Every few pages were some badly written, polyamorous sex scenes that I honestly could not tell what was going on. They refer to O's vaginal opening as her "belly," and there are other terms used for penises that make no sense. Like "cords." Now, thankfully, I was not reading it to get myself up, I was reading it because of all of the praise it had gotten. If I had read it to be pleasured, I would have left it even more unsatisfied than I am at even writing this review, two or three months after finishing it. The addition of BDSM and consensual abuse in the scenes was really just unattractive, and poorly done.

Let me give you a quote, to show you how badly written and incomprehensible this book really is:
"René would arrive, he would be there, nothing was changed, he loved her but had been held up by a staff meeting or some extra work, he had not had time to let her know; in a flash, O emerged from her airless chamber, and yet each of these attacks of terror would leave behind, somewhere deep inside her, a dull premonition, a warning of woe: for there were also times when René neglected to let her know when the reason for the delay was a game of golf or a hand of bridge, or perhaps another face, for he loved O but he was free, sure of her and fickle, so fickle."
Quite a bit long for a sentence. Now, I have nothing wrong with long sentences, but this is just one example of the many throughout the book. And here's a little secret...this isn't even the worst! I will say, however, that there were some lines of Story of O that I enjoyed, but there were few. And with a book of 200 pages, having only a couple of lines that I actually enjoyed is sad. Very, very sad.

I've heard the story of why this book was written, and I've heard the story of how long ago it was written, so I excuse it for its poor BDSM knowledge and poor understanding of how real life actually is. But I do not excuse it for being a crappy read and a waste of time. I have read books that were written during that time period, and they were at least good reads; they were not horridly written books that had only a few well-constructed sentences.

Perhaps some of the book was "lost in translation," so to speak. If it was, then I apologize sincerely. But I also deserve an apology for having wasted my time on the English version.

I honestly would not recommend this to anyone. I've heard some people talk about recommending it to BDSM beginners, which as I read, I always thought, "NO!" because this is not something that someone new to that realm should be reading. It is not something realistic; it is a fantasy book, and only people who are experienced in the BDSM world should read it. Of course, if you are not easily swayed, by all means, read it; but do not assume that this is what really happens in a person's dungeon, or that that's how you have to act to be a submissive.

product picture
Book by Pauline Reage
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Ballantine Books

1 comment:

P'Gell said...

Sir, not only was this book written a while ago, but as you know, it was translated from the French. I think the poor writing, in places is due more to the translator than the original writer.

I hope, eventually, someone with a better writing style than the original translator takes a stab at re-translating this Classic.

You are right, it's not for beginners to the D/s M/s scene.

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