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100 Strokes of the Brush Before Bed Paperback – September 22, 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
A scandalous bestseller in her native Italy, Melissa P.'s avowedly autobiographical novel recounts a Sicilian schoolgirl's erotic adventures. "I want love, Diary," she writes just before her 15th birthday. "I want to feel my heart melt, want to see my icy stalactites shatter and plunge into a river of passion and beauty." Love may be hard to find, but sex waits at every turn, and Melissa seldom says no. In calmly vivid prose, she describes the varieties of experience, beginning with her introduction to oral sex: "I now had it before my eyes, it smelled male, and every vein that crossed it expressed such power that I felt duty-bound to reckon with it." This same sense of duty mandates sex with a woman, sex with an older man, sadomasochistic sex, group sex. Although her mother tells an ill Melissa a fable about a princess, Melissa tells herself no fairy tales—and therein lies the odd, potent purity of these pages.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
"A wisp of a book that has had a wallop of an impact . . . readers have simply devoured it." -The New York Times "The narrator brings an emotional authority to her work. . . . 100 Strokes is by turns romantic, erotic, sensationalistic, and disturbing." -Rachel Kramer Bussel, Bust "Rendered with language much more elegant and precise than one would ever expect from a mere teenager." -Corriere della Sera (Italy) "Scandalous, word perfect. . . . A story that cannot be put down told by an imperious personality whose passion overwhelms the reader." -Gazzeta del Sud (Italy)
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100 Strokes of the Brush Before Bed - as the hype conveyed - would be nothing without the string of sexual encounters, all graphically relived, through the pages of "Melissa P."s diary. The blase nature of the parents, who take little to no interest in their daughter's life, are almost certainly the catalyst for "Melissa P"'s sexploits and flowery (yet often captivating) writing style. While it's truly a coming of age novel, the character's development is on warp-speed as she's left to her own devices to experiment, often in dangerous situations, with her sexuality. Throughout, the character never breaks form, and the reader begins to anticipate her path; fear for her and maybe even envy her exploits - even if just a little. Maybe it's because this girl is 15 and her descriptions are so vivid... or maybe it's because she's had more sex than most 30 year-olds I know - not sure. But, this was one of the more provocative books I've read in awhile.
I would have preferred this was fiction as the events described in 100 Strokes of the Brush, although shocking, was not enjoyable reading in any way. I felt very sad for the character of Melissa P. - who goes from one empty and meaningless sexual situation to another - but doesn't seem to have that much fun doing so. I wanted to stop reading after the first 40 pages but since it was so short (167 pages), I decided to finish it to see if it got better. It didn't.
Melissa's sexual explorations (and boy did she experiment: group sex, same sex, voyeurism, married men) were not titillating but extremely depressing, as she basically demeaned herself with every encounter. Once I learned that they were all real, I felt even worse for her.
"When I'm at home, I log onto the Internet. I search, explore. I search for everything that simultaneously excites and sickens me. I search for excitement born from humiliation. I search for annihilation. I search for the most bizarre individuals, people who send me sadomasochistic photos, who treat me like a real whore. People who want to unload: rage, sperm, anguish, fear. I'm no different from them. My eyes take on a sickly light, my heart beats madly. I believe (or perhaps I delude myself?) that in the labyrinthine web I will find someone who is willing to love me. Whoever this might be: man, woman, old, young, married, single, gay, transsexual. Anybody."
That said, this is not a romance novel with ridiculous sex scenes, nor do I think it should be classified as "Erotica". Yes, sex is a HUGE part of this book, but it is real-life sex, the kind that can build you up or break you down--and in this case, it's the kind that can break you down. It is difficult to understand how 100 Strokes... can be a fictionalized memoir written by a 17-year-old girl. I get the feeling that Melissa P. did actually experience much of what she wrote about, or else she wouldn't have been able to describe feelings--both physical and mental--in such vivid detail. Of course, Melissa P. is Italian and this book was originally published in Italy, so maybe teenagers over there are really that much more sexually active/knowledgeable than teenagers over here.
If you can stomach reading about sex--and a lot of it--I definitely say give this book a try. I'm rating it 4 out of 5 stars but I feel the need to repeat that there are a lot of sex scenes in this book, many of which were difficult for even me to get through. However, the author's insight and writing style are exceptional and I do feel that any open-minded young woman can learn a lot from this short yet poignant novel.