The cover of Amorous Woman, by Donna George Storey, suggests that it is aimed squarely at the undemanding end of the male market, but nothing could be further from the truth. If you’re feeling horny and impatient this is not the right book to pick up. Give it time and attention because it deserves it.
Amorous Woman is written as the (fictional) autobiography of an American woman – Lydia – who travels to Japan to become a foreign language teacher and tries desperately to immerse herself in and connect with Japanese society. She marries a local man and when the marriage fails she has a string of erotic adventures while she tries to work out just what the hell it is she does want. Enchanted by the attractive aspects of Japanese culture (the aesthetic, the fetishtic eye for detail), she just can’t cope with the bad bits (the self-denial, the squashing of individualism) and eventually returns to the US where she relates her story to two men, as the framing device of the book.
This is a clever, well-written, lyrical erotic novel about the exploration of a foreign culture. DGS does an amazingly good job of writing it as if it were one of those "true life" erotic memoirs. For example there are relatively few "set-piece" erotic scenes with a beginning, build-up and climax that you are meant to strum along to. There is a lot of sex, but it is diffuse as well as pervasive. Not all encounters end as you’d expect, and there are frustrations and disappointments and heartbreak as in real life. How many erotic novels do you know where, having got it on with the man she’s been lusting after for years, the protag says "Sorry, it’s my period," and they therefore DON’T have sex after all? The characters act like real people rather than erotic puppets, which is good or bad depending on the mood you’re in.
My tolerance for contemporary erotic memoirs is normally pretty low but this author managed to keep my interest to the end, with her skilful interweaving of modern Japan, with all its contradictions, with the personal journey of a restless soul. A really fascinating read.