Y’all know that I read and pretty much hated the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. My friend, Jeanne (@einfach_mich on Twitter) and I started discussing the Erotica/BDSM genre and soon became fast friends over it. Her being the pro and me the newbie began discussing what it meant to read about what I call abusive relationships. She promised me that she’d scour her mind and the web and find me a series that depicts what a true BDSM relationship is like, with two consenting adults that are 100% into that lifestyle. (Ana from Fifty Shades is a “vanilla” sex character and never delves into the BDSM world as deep as Christian has) First came the recommendation of the Sleeping Beauty trilogy by Anne Rice, written under her pen name A.N Roquelaure. Let’s just say that it’s one of the few books in my history I couldn’t complete. I made it about 60-65 pages in before it became entirely too much to handle. Jeanne promised me she’d keep looking and I promised I’d keep an open mind. Yesterday, (yes you’re reading that right. I read a book and am reviewing it in under 24 hours) Jeanne contacted me RAVING about Tiffany Reisz’s book The Siren. Remembering our deal I pulled open my nook, purchased The Siren and began my exploration back into the world of BDSM.
The Siren begins by introducing us to the author Nora Sutherlin. A famous erotica writer, Sutherlin’s books are becoming more and more popular, but she hasn’t quite reached the point where she’ll be a full-time writer. She needs a critical bestseller, something that will shake up the traditional fare in bookstores and make her a household name. Fortunately, she thinks she has something in her latest book. Unfortunately, she needs a good amount of help to finish and publish it. Enter Zachary Easton, the well-to-do British editor who agrees to take on Sutherlin’s project before he leaves on a promotion to the US in six weeks. He only agrees to this if he has complete (and I mean complete) control of the writing process. This is something completely new to Nora, and her writing sessions with Easton are something that she’s never experienced before. They are in fact so new and exciting that she even finds them arousing despite how long and grueling they increasingly become. What will Nora do with this new submission she is experiencing? What sparks will fly between her and Easton? Will she be able to handle this new lifestyle?
Guys. For real I finished this book and was speechless. It blew me away and tore away any preconceived notions I had about the BDSM/Erotica genre of writing. Hell, frig that. This book doesn’t even belong in that genre! This is a work of literary fiction. All throughout my reading I kept highlighting whole passages that literally made me just stop and think. Case in point:
“I know people think erotica is just a romance novel with rougher sex. It’s not. If it’s a subgenre of anything, it’s horror.”
“Romance is sex plus love. Erotica is sex plus fear.”
Mind blown. I’ve never thought of erotica (both literally and literary) in this light. The entire book changed my view on so many things, not just those related to erotica. When a book forces you to step back and acknowledge that there could be another angle to something besides your opinion, it’s just amazing. This is what books are all about. They change your views, your opinions, your thoughts. They make you think. They open your mind. Challenge you. Excite you. Frighten you. The Siren is ALL of these things and more. It’s about so much more than a woman who writes about and participates in a BDSM lifestyle. It’s about being you in all aspects of your life. Being you even if that means giving up what you want and what you think you need. There is a great quote that sums this all up:
…sacrifice can only get you so far. And although two people can love each other deeply, sometimes love alone doesn’t cut it. We can only sacrifice so much of ourselves in a relationship before there’s nothing left to love or be loved.
Reisz is so freaking astute. This idea: how much can you change before you’re not you anymore, is the main theme strung throughout the novel. This is why I say this book breaks the mold in selecting a genre. With the turning of each page you are continually bombarded with thought-provoking statements that make you forget you’re reading “erotica.” There are even large passages in this novel about art, music, and religion that all continue this rapid attack on your brain, forcing you to re-think everything. My favorite quote, which I view as the most poignant of the novel is:
“Tell me something boss. What do you think is the highest form of art?”
“Literature,” he answered without hesitation. “Painters and sculptors require elaborate supplies and tools. Dancers must have music. Musicians must have instruments. Literature needs nothing but a voice to speak it or sand to scrawl it in.”
(Can we all just cheer for literature here for a second?)
Another fabulous aspect of this novel is its use of sex in a non gratuitous way. One thing about Fifty Shades that bothered me were the CONSTANT sex scenes. (Literally every sixth page was a sex scene just because). The Siren uses sex to unravel character layers and to ignite plot movement. There was nothing grotesque and abusive about these scenes even though they’re done in an erotic format. One thing I couldn’t get over in Fifty Shades was how abusive the sex scenes felt. As an outsider of this lifestyle I couldn’t understand why people chose this pain and abuse. The Siren was written so well, and gave such insight to this lifestyle, that I felt like I get it now. Maybe not 100%, but I have Jeanne to keep choosing new books for me to read and explore this topic.
The Siren will take you on a tumultuous and heartbreaking story. It will beat you, bruise you, and make you love it with each exquisitely written page. When it’s over you’ll feel torn apart yet sated, aching for the next chapter in Nora’s life. For those of you who are interested in this undertaking, I can assure you that it will be a journey you won’t forget. Comment below and let me know what you think!
5 out of 5 Stars
The Siren by Tiffany Reisz
eBook: 400 pages