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Playing: A Novel Paperback – April 11, 2008

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press, Black Cat; First Edition edition (April 11, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802170471
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802170477
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.6 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,453,738 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Abrams's debut novel is a revealing look inside the mind of a woman who enjoys being beaten, shamed and dominated by her lover. While pursuing her studies, 27-year-old anthropology graduate student Josie works as a nanny for a single mother with a special-needs son and a baby girl. While Josie may at first seem like a wholesome young woman, it isn't long before she's sneaking out in the middle of the night to rendezvous with her older Indian doctor lover, Devesh, who recognizes her sadomasochistic desires. With great excitement, she allows herself to be bound and whipped, fulfilling her desire to play. As Josie falls in love with Devesh, their bedroom escapades become increasingly brutal, and she struggles to make sense of her need for sexual violence as she explores her relationship with her mother and confronts her guilt about the death of her infant brother, who died under murky circumstances when she was a little girl. The narrative moves fast, and the stark swirl of sex, violence and near-madness will please readers with a dark bent. (Apr.)
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"Playing is a smart [and] erotic debut. Melanie Abrams's prose is as sharp as the tangled desires she portrays in this compelling exploration of the connections between sex, death, pain, and atonement." -- Mark Lindquist, author of The Kind of Methlehem

"A daring debut." -- Martha Southgate, author of The Fall of Rome and Third Girl from the Left

"A young woman, taking a job as an au pair, at the same time embarks on an affair that allows her to act out her deepest and most shaming sexual fantasies. The tension between these two poles of her life sends her spiraling into a confrontation with a painful past and with herself. Part fable, part romance, this disturbing, tender, sometimes terrifying first novel announces, emphatically, the arrival of a very gifted new writer." -- Robert Haas, author of Time and Materials

"In her arresting debut novel, Playing, Melanie Abrams is disturbingly expert at exhibiting how erotic obsession makes a courtship--between Devesh and Josie--a dangerous game indeed. This novel is a breathless read, whose rewards are both unpredictable and unforgettable. A stunning writer." -- Howard Norman, author of The Bird Artist and Devotion

"Playmates who don't play nice sometimes know the best games, and the best fun, the kind that engages body, spirit, and mind, might not leave us laughing. Melanie Abrams's fictional playground is a troubled psyche, and the game, a darkly erotic, absorbing, and profoundly serious free-fall into memory that gives full expression to a character's savaged spirit." -- Ann Cummins, author of Red Ant House and Yellowcake

Customer Reviews

I look forward to the next book from this author.
Earth Momma
I found it touching, interesting, and very well written.
The characters in this novel are painfully true to life.
K. Long

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Jennie on April 13, 2008
Format: Paperback
Melanie Abrams' courageous, fast-paced novel offers an unflinching look at a woman coming to terms with her sexual desires and personal instincts. This book's readership extends far beyond those with a "dark bent." Anyone willing to reexamine the way our family legacies shape us will walk away from this novel with an expanded perspective on the forces behind our human instincts, and the many paths we take to mend our broken selves.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Kelly (Fantasy Literature) VINE VOICE on May 30, 2008
Format: Paperback
I'll admit, it was the cover that drew me in first. So of course I had to take a closer look!

The story is about a grad student, Josie, who gets involved with an older man, Devesh, who introduces her to BDSM. Josie gets thoroughly into it, but at the same time, finds that it brings some old issues from her childhood to the surface.

Josie is also working as a nanny, and her relationships with the child and his mother are filled with tension, and that, too, ties into her childhood baggage.

See, Josie has a trauma in her past, one that she's made herself not think about for years but that starts to rise to the surface when she has a child to care for, and when she begins to play with "punishment." I won't spoil what the trauma is, but I will say that it's haunting and that it's not what you might expect.

Josie is a complicated character and I didn't always like her, but I always did want to see what would come next. Devesh is wicked hot, and I love the fact that the author has two different perspectives on kink represented in the book--Josie is using it to work through some emotional issues, and Devesh just loves it because it's fun. After reading the book, I saw an interview with the author where she mentions that she wrote Devesh that way on purpose. I think it's realistic to have both, because I know people who work through emotional issues with their play and others who play for fun's sake alone, and some people who do both depending on their mood at the time.

The "play" scenes in the book are well-written and hot, if you like that sort of thing, but there's a whole lot of other stuff going on too. It's nice to see a story where people have naughty sex lives but also all sorts of real-world problems and full lives. I recommend it, with the caveat that it goes into some pretty upsetting emotional territory, especially where issues of childhood and violence are concerned.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Amy on April 14, 2008
Format: Paperback
This book is a fascinating look into the dark, sensual, brutal world of S & M. It truly is a physiological exploration of what drives a person to desire to be beaten. I found it touching, interesting, and very well written. I couldn't put the book down. Melanie Abrams is sure to make a splash and I highly recommend the book.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Juushika on May 27, 2008
Format: Paperback
Josie works happily as a nanny--not because she needs the money, but because her employer, who reminds her of her mother, has adopted her as part of the family--until she meets a seductive, dominant man named Devesh. Josie has always had fantasies about submission, and is swiftly pulled away from her adopted family and into a BDSM relationship with Devesh. But Josie's desire for punishment runs deep, and she begins to suspect that it may be unhealthy--and may stem from events in her past. Abrams attempts to write a novel about the psychology behind one woman's would-be-exaggerated masochist tendencies--but Josie's desires are not particularly extreme, and the psychological aspects are underdeveloped and brought to an unnaturally abrupt end. The book has a beautiful cover--and more importantly a promising concept that gives rise to some to a handful of interesting and erotic scenes. But on the whole, Playing is a failed attempt which lacks true conflict or psychological analysis. Not recommended.

Playing is intended to be a novel in the line of the Marquise de Sade or The Story of O: a novel of sex and psychology which exaggerates the sexual desires of submission and dominances, sadism and masochism, in order to explore what they reveal about human psychology. As such, Abrams begins with a protagonist who has, for as long as she can remember, desired to be punished, bound, and abused, fantasizing about it during "normal" sex acts but also on her own, both aroused and comforted by the thought. When she begins a relationship with Devesh, an eager dominant, Josie is for the first time able to put her fantasies into practice--which raises questions of why she has such desires and how far they extend.
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