The Dangerous Bride – Lee Kofman (book review)

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)

The-Dangerous-Bride-Lee-Kofman

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.)

* Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you click to purchase the item, I earn a little commission, but you don’t pay any extra.

Comments

  1. says

    Hi Em, this is an appealling review and I’m sure I’d enjoy the book. Love, sex, long-time relationships are huge topics and one’s own experiences can also do with some re-examination. As my older boys move into the love/sex/girlffriends phase I often find myself hoping they don’t make the errors I did… hmmm…. I was also listening to a Womans Hour from the BB show about fidelity and many people talked about sexless marriages, interesting too. Thank you!

    • Emily says

      You’re welcome! And that’s a fascinating listen – will have to check it out. I think my favourite thing about this book is that it combines the research and discussions so well with the personal.

  2. says

    This sounds fascinating. I love to read about relationships with different dynamics to my own. We are monogamous but not each other’s firsts in any sense. Both pretty open minded but very content with each other. So it fascinates me to know about how such things work for others. I’ll have to pop back and buy this on pay day!

    • Emily says

      Very complex! And Kofman herself suggests that there are no answers, no rights and wrongs, and plenty more to think about.

  3. says

    I’m impressed you read it twice! I love those books that get you thinking and entice you back to read some more, sit with it some more and think about it some more. People definitely have complicated relationships. I hope writing this book was therapeutic to the author. #teamIBOT

  4. Kit@lifethroughthehaze says

    Interesting book. I can’t say without your review this would be the normal type of book I would pick up and read. Will definitely check this out.
    Thanks Em xo

    • Emily says

      Without the offer, I’m not sure I ever would have read this book either. So we’re on the same page! (HA. PAGE. ME SO WITTY.)

  5. says

    Wow. It does sound interesting and they fact you read it twice… I’m curious to read it to understand it. Your review makes me want to read the book.

    • Emily says

      Thank you! Glad you like the review. I think that’s why I read it twice – once to blow my mind, and the second time to wrap that blown mind around it.

  6. Michelle V says

    Hi, I haven’t read this book as yet. I have recently started my own book blog so it’s nice to see others who share a love of books.

  7. says

    I had images of a Georgette Heyer type novel from the title. Nothing could be further removed!

    A fascinating read about a way of living far removed from mine.

  8. says

    This sounds a fascinating, if not challenging read. It’s good to read something outside the (usual book) box and now I think of it, the books that have been the hardest and/or the most thought provoking to read, are the ones I’ve read twice. I think I will have to add this one to the To-Read list! You’ve definitely piqued my interest!

    • Emily says

      It is, and I think that’s a large part of why I enjoyed it – I’m varying the kinds of books I read, and getting more from them as a result. I hope you like the book!

  9. says

    It doesn’t sound like something I would love, but then I’m also not really a memoir fan either.
    I’m intrigued though just because you read it twice. That must make it worth it.

  10. says

    Intriguing! I love memoirs and the topics this book covers sound right up my alleyway! Reading this would be a great follow up to the one I’m reading now, Alain de Botton’s “The Course of Love”

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