BOOK REVIEW: Story of O by Pauline Réage

Story of OStory of O by Pauline Réage

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Amazon page: See Here

I haven’t read 50 Shades of Grey, but was surprised to hear that it began as Twilight fan fiction. From the descriptions that I’d seen, it seemed much more like a relatively softcore, commercial-fiction version of Story of O. I don’t whether the Story of O fits into this recent genre development called “mommy porn,” because the book predates that terminology.

In Story of O a successful fashion photographer named “O” is in love with a man whose tastes run to the extreme. Her lover, René, asks her to come into this lifestyle, and she willingly submits to his wishes. Submission involves some harsh tests of her willingness to endure.

I expect the initiated will point out that one major difference exists between the two works. 50 Shades seems to involve a monogamous relationship, whereas– in the Story of O— O is handed off from René to a more senior dominant for her “training.” O then begins to fall for her new master. Moreover, there is no monogamy in Story of O–whatsoever. (i.e. O is passed around like a doobie at a Greatful Dead concert.) I’m not saying they are the same books, just that they seem similar. They are both books about women who willingly surrendering to men with exotic (re: freaky) desires.

There also seems to be a difference in endings between the two story lines (vis-á-vis who walks), but I will not go into that.

Actually, one major fault of Story of O is that there is not a proper ending (completion of a narrative arc.) The version I have has a brief annotation that says the ending was suppressed. It goes on to give a description of two alternate versions of a similar ending. I suspect the drafts of those endings were lost to the ages because I have a copy of the 1973 edition (the book came out in the 50’s) and to my knowledge there is no subsequent edition.

Those who are freaked out by kinkiness will find Story of O hard to stomach. In terms of language, I’ve read that it’s calmer than 50 Shades…, but in terms of the actions carried out I suspect it runs a bit more toward the exotic. Another group that will find this book to not be their cup of tea are those who have strong feelings about women’s empowerment. If that’s you, you will likely find it hard to relate to a woman who has power in her life, but who willingly–nay, eagerly– relinquishes it. Moreover, O seems to thrive on being dominated. That is, she falls hardest for the man who will most forcefully enslave her.

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1 thought on “BOOK REVIEW: Story of O by Pauline Réage

  1. Pingback: BOOK REVIEW: Submission by Marthe Blau « Stories & Movement

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