After his events at this year’s Sydney Writer’s Festival, John Purcell’s bestselling Secret Lives of Emma trilogy has reached new audiences. We asked a fan of the series, writer Ariane Beeston, to share her thoughts. Unfortunately this wonderful review will do little to stop the boss gloating around the office.
For much of my early twenties, I spent hours wandering through the labyrinth of shelves in John Purcell’s secondhand bookshop (John’s Bookshop) a beautiful store tucked into the corner of a small shopping village in Mosman. The huge selection of novels, combined with John’s encyclopaedic knowledge of all things literary was a true bookworm’s heaven.
And so, it was lovely and a little intriguing to discover that the tall, mysterious man behind the counter of this much-loved little bookstore had penned his own novels, under the pseudonym Natasha Walker.
The Secret Lives of Emma is a wickedly sexy series. The heroine, 32 year-old Emma Benson, is a recently married Mosman woman, with a past. Uninhibited and with a constant string of lovers, Emma surprises everyone, including herself, when she chooses to settle down. While she initially attempts to remain loyal to her banker husband and her new, quieter life in the suburbs, ultimately, Emma’s desire for the sensual is bigger than suburbia, the trilogy chronicling her secret, erotic adventures.
“She was not unhappy, not all at, except in this: she needed from time to time to be very naughty.”
Emma is a psychologically complex woman, both scheming and reflective. She’s beautiful, but she’s clever. Beguiling. There’s an intelligence to Emma’s encounters, to her analysis of situations, emotions and of course, the people she meets, lusts after and loves.
The novels are written in such a way that the experience is seamless, creating the sense that you might miss out if you stop reading, that the characters will simply continue on without you.
Purcell writes sex brilliantly, even elegantly at times. The language is perfectly sexy, avoiding the sorts of clichés that can make erotica more cringeworthy than sensual. There’s a wit and playfulness to the overall tone of the books, something which sets them apart from other novels in this genre.
Sex aside (which is as titillating and fantasy-fuelled as you’d expect from good erotic fiction) the books are full of astute insights around the nature of friendship, of marriage and monogamy and of lust and love. Concepts like jealousy, possession and attraction are also explored through Emma’s liaisons and the life choices she makes.
The Secret Lives of Emma is intelligent erotica. It’s multi-layered, funny and at times, even wise.
A tease and a treat.
Ariane Beeston’s writing has appeared on The Good Men Project, Mamamia, ivillage Australia Role/Reboot and Essential Baby.