ShortBookandScribes #BookReview – The Men by Fanny Calder @TheRealPressPub

The Men by Fanny Calder is my review for today. It’s not the easiest of reads but I’m pleased I gave it a go. My thanks to Sue Fuest and The Real Press getting in touch and for sending me a copy of the book for review purposes.

A darkly brilliant debut novel by Fanny Calder, and arguably essential reading for the feminist hedonist woman in your life. City life in the 1990s. Anonymous, intense, paradoxical and sometimes lonely. A young, haunted woman falls in love with a singer. She finds she has been consumed by the relationship and when it ends – as it inevitably does – she feels unable to quite rediscover herself. Cities can draw you into even darker places, and she embarks on a series of intense relationships with thirteen men of very different types, from a rough sleeper to a millionaire, and from a transvestite to a leading politician. As she is propelled through a series of extraordinary adventures and wild parties she finds she begins to lose her own identity. Is there a way out? A raw and unflinchingly honest narrative with stripped down language that is liberating and sometimes challenging. It is a tale of urban human connections crafted with no judgement or deep introspection – a window on the author’s own life at that time that will resonate and stay with you.

This is an unusual read with a pared back quality to the writing. Although it’s a novel, it’s based on the author’s own experiences in the 1990s and certainly reads better as a memoir.

Our unnamed narrator tells us about thirteen of the men who have been a part of her life, starting with The Singer, the one who affected her most deeply and in the most enduring way. Not all the men are ones she had relationships with, some are friends, but each makes an impact on her life. Some I liked more than others (I wasn’t at all impressed with Noel but I did like The Transvestite!). Each one has his own chapter but there is some overlap too.

There’s a strange lack of emotion in this book, it’s all very matter of fact. The narrator seems to flit around from party to party, man to man, in a rather careless fashion. Yet there’s a sense of sadness underlying these episodes, a feeling of a woman who is unfulfilled in many ways.

I’m not sure this book was quite my thing. Maybe I need to feel more for the characters, maybe I need more emotion in the writing. Despite that, I think it’s a book that has its own appeal, a vulnerability in the telling of the way the relationships affected the narrator. Maybe she had to take a step back to deal with it. Anyway, I’m glad I read it, not least because I thought it had a touch of the Sex and the City vibe to it, those heady days partying with friends.

Fanny Calder is a writer and environmental campaigner who lives in London with her daughter, her poodle and her whippet. She no longer goes to quite so many parties.

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