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Fanny Hill

Fanny Hill is a famous, nay notorious, novel by John Cleland, whose heroine is a self-described woman of pleasure. The edition I read was the LibriVox audio version, recorded by multiple readers in the early part of 2006. It is the story of a young girl (she is no more than 20 years old at the end of the novel) who falls into “bad” ways. She tells her tale very explicitly, and it seems that the novel was the first widely read book in the English Language that was labelled erotica. At the end of the story, however, Fanny chooses the path of virtue, citing her pleasure in her vices as a measure of how good it is to be virtuous!

Erotica, my arse! This is pornography plain and simple. The characters barely attain two dimensions, even Fanny herself. Most are thin and sketchy, and little more than caricatures. Good characters are all uniformly good looking, and give Fanny a good time sexually, while bad characters are ugly, and they bore and pain her. Worst of all, to my mind, is Fanny’s intolerance of male homosexuality, even though she is thwarted in her attempts to have the only two men she ever sees together arrested for their “crime”.

I didn’t like this book at all. I finished it, just. I made the effort to finish it in tribute to the LibriVox readers who volunteered their time, and partly also because it is so well known that there must be something to it. I kept hoping that there would be more to the book than mere titillation, but the story finished before the quality arrived. My loss. Don’t let it be yours. This book is a warning that notoriety is not a good reason to read a book.

Verdict: no (and only just escaped being a NO).