Tuesday, 10 April 2012

My Susan Lewis Shame

I like to think of myself as a bookworm.

No, let's go one better, an English geek. A literature NERD.

My Mum was a head of English, and she brought me into a world of the written word where I have happily dwelled ever since. A land where Lizzie Bennet, Captain Wentworth and -heaven forfend!- Mrs Norris become shorthand for the real people we come across in life. If you love the same books I do, I automatically think you must be a good person, and that we are bound to get along.

I am worse than a geek though, really I am a show-off about books.

I like good books. Books with substance. And I like to be seen reading them.

I spent my early 20s posing in the park with Russian literature and announcing to the fit sales assistant at Waterstones that I was purchasing Don DeLillo's Underworld as a light read after completing my finals.

I am a book snob,  un poseur des livres. I don't even know if that's the right French, but I'm going to say it anyway, because it sounds impressive.

This is a light that is a book, OH YES, and you can buy it, probs for a billion £, right HERE

So imagine my horror when one day, one of my favourite ladies at the gym (who must have clocked that I'm always furtively reading under the reception desk) brought me this....

ARGH! I thought. WHAT IS THIS MONSTROSITY? It's a soft-focus airport novel, the likes of which I had never seen before. This is because I am always rushing past those vile carousels of whimsy in WH Smith as I bound, open-armed towards the Thomas Pynchon section. Now I'll admit I've got a small, ironic soft spot for Jackie Collins and Jilly Cooper (just ask my book club about the time I made them read JC - I'm surprised Katie and I remained friends after Ridersgate), but THIS! It doesn't even have a proper cover! Just a low-res chunk of a woman's face!

I politely thanked the nice lady and put tucked it away on my bookshelf, never to see the light of day.

Then, months later on the Pen Do (AKA the great coming together of the supreme Lady-nerds) I heard this name whispered on the breeze: "Susan Lewis, Susan Lewis...."  and on day in the not-so-distant-last-week, I plucked the horrid tome down from the shelf to see if it was the same author. It was.

I had just finished reading Tender Is The Night, and was about to start (finally) reading Anna Karenina. "I'll just read a page of this first" I thought, "it'll be rubbish, but I owe it to the kind lady at the gym to try."

Oh my God.

I did not speak to a soul until it was finished.

"This is not a book you should be reading," I kept thinking, "this is not a proper book. There is too much sex and too many adjectives. There's too much information about how attractive and tortured the female characters are, and they spend too much time mooning over men, and it is not sitting well with your feminist principles. And where is the Po-Mo  man-against-the-system stuff? Even the Hunger Games was dystopian! This is just TRASH!"

Relieved to finish on Thursday, I lined up Anna Karenina in plain sight, ready to leap for it the minute the last page was done. Of course, I couldn't resist thanking my nice gym lady for being so thoughtful. "You can't put them down, can you?" she said. "No," I said, weakly, "I couldn't stop." "I'll just pop home and get you another," she said.

Tolstoy remains unbothered. I am now reading this, at light-speed, and not talking to anybody:

There's no hope for me.


  1. A French Affair, Dance While You Can and Taking Chances are the three best. I always wanted to have Susan Lewis sex. Sorry Pensky, you're on a slippery literary slope. Hide it in a Penguin Classics and no one will suspect! X

  2. Oh god, I'd forgotten how much I used to want Susan Lewis sex too!! Last Resort, Dance While You Can and Darkest Longings are my favourites. They're so brilliantly bobbins! In Dance While You Can she's a matron at a boys boarding school when she meets him (kinky!), Darkest Longings features a daring flee from Nazis (yes - smouldering hero, damsel in distress, smut - how do take it up to 11? Throw in some Nazis!!) and I seem to remember Last Resort just having lots and lots of sex in it!!

    I really want to read one now... Let's just all keep this our dirty little secret!

  3. NAZIS!!! Just when I thought it couldn't get any more ridiculous... I'm reading A French Affair now, pleased to hear it's one of the goodies (I actually really liked Chasing Dreams, in spite of shit cover).

    I LOVE the Lewis fans coming out of the woodwork - Gemma C-S was so embarrassed she commented on yesterday's post so nobody else would see!!


  4. Oh is THAT what happened?? I blame my work computer... ;) xx

  5. Haha, this post made me choke with laughter. Amazing. This is what double-stacked bookshelves are for, hiding the Susan Lewis behind Victor Hugo.

    K x

    1. I had Chasing Dreams on my bookshelf with the spine facing inwards for MONTHS. I am out and proud now.