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A woman’s quest to live her life on her own terms

Noni flies to Britain and falls in love with the tattoo artist who inked her just below her breastbone. He looks like a viking. His favorite movie is Breaking point (Keanu Reeves version). He has a 16 year old son whom he calls Zeppelin. He tells Noni that she is beautiful while they are having sex.

As cardboard Prince Charming as he is, his Beau (his real name) always gave me that feeling I get when I watch a romcom from the early 2000s. You know that will work out eventually. And that sensitivity seems so incredibly rare and precious these days – like a scarce natural resource.

After masturbating on a hardwood floor in front of Beau, Noni feels “… a kind of freedom, a kind of power, that I don’t think I’ve ever felt”.

I wonder why her self-esteem task has to involve accomplishing sexual empowerment in front of a man, as if her attention is required for her to manifest a full spectrum of individuality. In 2020, I wonder why women’s stories are still calibrated this way? But as John Updike once said, men might not be the answer, but they can be the question.

As Noni begins her “Quest for Pleasure,” her desires morph into a standardized pattern for the straight white woman of the 21st century. She buys lingerie. She gets a new haircut. She continues predictably, on the counter-range of “fun-directors”. This is the 2020 version of Eat Pray Love, minus the cultural fetishism. But Noni’s comedic voice is so refreshing, so endearing, I’ve forgiven her for her basic tastes.

It is not until the end of the novel that our heroine realizes “I don’t want a quest for pleasure. I just want to live my life my way. Simple.” Clearly, it is not easy. Otherwise, a book would not have been written on this kind of ordinary but extraordinary quest.

I really felt a little more daring after reading this book. As someone who already has a tendency to do / eat / complexion / buy / get / fuck / f — / tattoo / let / say whatever I want, there was always something so uplifting about this story. It was nice – and we can all do with a little more fun this year, right?

Jessie You A lonely girl is a dangerous thing is published by Allen & Unwin.

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