Quite some time ago, author Lee Kofman contacted me to see if I’d be interested in reviewing her book, The Dangerous Bride. A book that, in her own words, ‘tells the story of my misadventures in trying to be non-monogamous in the context of my migration to Australia and of my upbringing in an ultra-orthodox Jewish family’.
Hard to resist, right?
I said yes, and read the book, and then sat with the book and my resulting head spins for a while, and then read the book again. And now, here is my review.
The Dangerous Bride / Lee Kofman
(Melbourne University Press, 2014)
What do you do when your husband claims to be madly in love with you, but doesn’t desire you sexually? When your therapist is more interested in opening an online sex-toy shop with your husband than in saving your marriage? Do you try yet another counsellor, get divorced or settle for a sexless marriage?
This book is about lots of things. It’s about marriage. It’s about relationships. It’s about sexuality and sexual expression. It’s about convention and unconvention. It’s about culture, security, insecurity and self.
Kofman sets out to determine if love (and/or marriage) necessarily needs monogamy to be sustainable. Can love only be present when there is sexual exclusivity? Or can sexual freedom co-exist with love – or possibly even enhance it?
Kofman’s marriage provides the backdrop for this research, and she interweaves other elements of her own story, jumping from time to time, relationship to relationship, to better illustrate each discussion. We meet lovers past and present; lovers willing to share and those keenly possessive (and some who are both at once).
We read interviews with polyamorists and swingers. We read poetry and love letters from history. It is an incredibly fascinating read that asks far more questions than it originally sets out to answer.
Kofman doesn’t shy away from revealing herself; she presents herself as she is. She also, in her reflections, presents herself as she was rather than how she wishes she could remember herself, and is unflinchingly honest about her feelings and thoughts throughout.
I enjoyed reading this book. (Both times.) The experiences outlined within are so very far removed from my own life that I just had to read on. (I married my high school sweetheart. The idea of monogamy is something I’ve never questioned, nor felt the need to; not only is my husband my only lover now, but my only lover ever.)
Not everything grabbed me; at times, this book was hard work. (Both times.) But it always paid off. Mostly because of Kofman’s writing style. Which brings me to the standout lines:
- Beginning anew so often wasn’t easy, but I kept craving that feeling when you arrive somewhere foreign – whether cities, faculties or bars – that everything hadn’t happened yet.
- There was fun to be had, but eventually the freedom felt more like a pressure to be wilder than you wanted.
- Despite my lack of interest in J, I was preoccupied with my desirability in his eyes. I wanted to confirm my worth through charming a man I didn’t want.
- I turned to him and, even through the haze of glittering darkness, I could see in his face the ancient ruins of our marriage.
- I liked myself better when I spoke English, even if I often failed at it.
The Dangerous Bride is a wonderful, engrossing and thought-provoking read. Recommended for anyone who likes memoirs, non-fiction, philosophical questions or glimpses of historical literature (or any combination thereof). You can purchase The Dangerous Bride from Booktopia here.
Have you read The Dangerous Bride? What did you think?
(This is not a sponsored post. I received a copy of The Dangerous Bride for the purposes of review. All opinions are my own.)
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