Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Review: Oh Claire! brings a well-deserved exclamation mark

Giula Napoli weaves a master tapestry of submission, lust and love in her latest novel, “Oh Claire!”

Arguably, her latest literary effort can be called a Cinderella story with a modern bend, as there are well-crafted scenes of tattooing and piercing that firmly plant this tale in the age of cell phones, social media and the super rich.

The novel's namesake, Claire, is an average American woman with an ambitious career. She quickly becomes the subject of ultimate submission, however, when she allows her lover and soul mate, Elliot, to take the seductive reins and steer her down a lusty path of wanton passion. Claire's submission is total when she agrees to become both blind and deaf, though only for a few days at the outset of the novel. Claire gives all control to Elliot for the promise of the pleasure to come, foregoing her career and most aspects of her life in the process.

While many might imagine a blindfold in an opening scene of surrender and ultimate trust, Napoli finds an intriguing alternative to the tried and true prop - and instead blinds her character for real, though only temporarily, near the beginning of the novel. While also serving as a unique vehicle to drive the story of Claire's submission to Elliot, the blindness also offered a chance for readers to explore Claire's sense of sexual arousal from the perspective of one with no eyes to see.

Napoli deftly explores the sensations of sex in her tasteful written words, finding the right tempo from the outset. Where other erotic novels can often feel clunky as the author works through the first few chapters to find their voice, she has no such difficulty, and has done her research in pinning the dainty details lacking in so many tales of submission that flood today's erotica markets. Descriptions of food, locales and sophisticated society read similar to the swanky prose found in Ian Fleming's early James Bond novels.

While the tale of a rich man granting the wishes, both sexually and financially, of a proper young beauty is a familiar story-telling device, partly thanks to EL James and others, Napoli brings a modern sense of education and intellectualism to her words – akin to Anais Nin penning pop lit – and gives Oh Claire! A well deserved exclamation mark.

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