From Publishers Weekly
Was Lolita utterly cunning and "Humbert the innocent" seduced? In Australian writer Cootes provocative variation on a theme tackled many times before, the answer is a disturbing and (nearly) unequivocal yes. Cootes debut (written when she was 19) details a twisted love affair between a teenage student and teacher from the nymphets point of view. The story is written as a letter from the nameless, orphaned 16-year-old Catholic schoolgirl to her 34-year-old lover reviewing their affair and its consequences. The narrator, raised competently, albeit coldly, by her aunt and uncle, maintains a wholesome facade, behind which lies a devious imagination and utterly jaded view of human relations. With newly awakened sexual powers, she casts a spell over her defenseless unnamed teacher. I held all the aces¢youth, beauty and cuteness. The narrator becomes increasingly calculating as she tangles him in her web of sexual manipulation. I had thought there could be no pleasure more exquisite than that of seducing a shy man. But this debauching of a decent one was more compelling than anything I had ever experienced. The girls high-serious tone and overwrought language (Oh how can I begin to show you the contours of my perversion? Your exploration destroyed these lands, darling), while plausibly that of a teenager, becomes grating nonetheless, but Cootes brazen novel never falls into precocity or melodrama. The rejection of sentimentality and the carefully calibrated knowingness make this more than just another Nabokov knockoff, and mark Coote as a young writer to watch.
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