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The Art of Sleeping Alone: Why One French Woman Suddenly Gave Up Sex Paperback – August 5, 2014

2.8 out of 5 stars 31 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

At 27, popular French writer and editor Fontanel lost her taste for sex. With her desire for physical intimacy with another person gone completely, she broke up with her lover and decided to go it alone. She’s surprised and put off by the reactions she gets. Friends try to set her up, assuming she just hasn’t met the right man; men think they can break through her indifference and try to seduce her; and one woman surmises that Fontanel’s rejection of men means that she must be interested in women now. Fontanel holds her ground and finds physical pleasures outside of sex, indulging in lavender milk baths and embracing her pillow. She finds joy in being a party of one and takes note of how uncomfortable this makes her friends, most of whom are coupled—some happily, others less so. In gracefully woven vignettes, Fontanel observes how society disapproves of people who refuse to pair off even as she is steadfast in underscoring the benefits she enjoys from unapologetically listening to her body’s needs and taking time for herself. --Kristine Huntley --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"A searching investigation into the power of no... a sophisticated bagatelle of a volume, filled with detours to exotic locales." (Dwight Garner The New York Times)

"Fontanel knows a thing or two about seduction.” (The Wall Street Journal)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; Tra edition (August 5, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1451696280
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451696288
  • Product Dimensions: 4.9 x 0.4 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #895,644 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I came across the book this morning when the Atlantic published an excerpt on its website. I was immediately drawn to the premise: a sensible, attractive woman who deliberately decided to take a break from sexuality and cast a dispassionate look at a society that seems to put sex on a pedestal. Plus the prose was beautiful and well-translated, so I immediately went on Amazon to see if I could download it onto my Kindle.

It is a quick read that one can finish it leisurely in a few hours. And after I've done that, this is what I think:

I still believe that the author laid down a question that is worth pondering. Too often our societal ideals about romance and sexuality is dominated about the idea that a healthy, happy woman should be out and about, engaging in action. The more the merrier. However, this kind of mentality assumes as if mutual carnal pleasures are the ultimate meanings. It says nothing to the loneliness and incompletion of an individual. Of getting hurt. Of vulnerability. Of asymmetry. Of love unreciprocated. Most importantly, of the independence and wholesomeness that a woman must achieve before a lasting relationship is possible at all.

For a good portion of the book this surely looks like what the author was getting at. I found especially poignant her honest exposé of her first sexual encounter at the age of 13 - the candidness with which she shared her naivete, vulnerability, and the disillusionment that she felt as a result of her precocious adventures.

However, as the book went out, it became increasingly clear that the author was much less interested in exploring this questions than admiring her own courage and beauty.
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By MoMo on September 10, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I guess it depends on what purpose you're reading this book for. It's typically French, glossy and a bit histrionic at times. The good points are found early on in the book, as the author examines her sex life critically and goes against the grain to stop having sex (with other people, at least). This forces her to critically examine the lives of her vapid friends and how they (and the author) define "love" (hint: it's got nothing to do with giving of yourself to another person, and I don't necessarily mean sexually). It's interesting to read about their reactions to her big choice (although I found myself wondering why she told them about it; it's really none of their business). The chapters about the other pleasures she turned to in life (massages, talking to children, etc) were nice but I'm not quite sure how they're connected to not having sex. Unfortunately, the ending really disappointed me (spoilers)-- at the end of the book, she spontaneously ends her 12-year celibacy by picking up a (married) acquaintance and taking him home for a rendez-vous. After all the meditating she did on the subject, in the end there was no revelation or self-discovery, or at the very least, progress of character. Perhaps it's my fault for expecting more depth, but I don't know.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Disappointing. I don't think her experience is all that terribly unusual. Many people go through periods of abstention, usually not as long, and usually not self enforced.

Caution Spoiler:

Her story struck me as though she grew weary of and her body rejected being used by men who did not love her but found her a convenient lover. I believe that she was tired of being an appliance. I can understand her desire to get away from that situation, in fact I think it was noble of her to do so. If a situation is not fulfilling one's happiness then they should endeavor to change. Take a vacation from men, and leave loveless sex forever. But then it struck me that rather than trying to find a meaningful loving relationship, she just seemed to take much smug satisfaction at being the odd woman out and watching her friends scramble to fix her life, while their own were so obviously full of faults. So after quite some period of time she began to feel "insinuating vibrations" and the book ends with her starting an affair with a married man. Perhaps all she wants from life are on and off periods of loveless sex. It struck me that she wasted her sexual prime trying to prove some point to herself and her friends, but in the end what ever that point was, she didn't seem to learn it very well.

End of Spoiler

This book was very short, possibly thankfully so. It is divided up into short vignettes that I invariably found were just starting to get interesting and I would flip the page to find that it ended two or three sentences later. It seemed to be written with some artsy Victorian modesty that implied much but told very little. I found the prose too flowery and vague.
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Translators have a very difficult job. Oftentimes the true intent of a story is lost when translating it from one language to another. I'm afraid that may be what happened in this book, starting with the title. I never got the sense of why the author, a French woman, "suddenly" gave up sex. Her younger years were "frisky", starting with a seduction when she was in her early teens and she didn't know how to say no. And it didn't seem to be a matter of waking up one morning in her 30s and deciding she didn't want intimacy with anyone except on a platonic level; it was a gradual realization. I was attracted to this topic because I have lost interest in sexual intimacy and I wanted to learn how others dealt with this issue. I am in my 60s, so you might say that I, like many older women, lose interest. True, but I also have had surgery which might have affected my libido. But in this age of limitless communication, I have come across people of all ages who don't have an interest in sexual matters. Many call themselves "asexuals" and want to be included in the LGBT club. Point is, we're not stuck for all time in any particular group. We are all in a state of flux, transformation, mutation, morphing, shape shifting, whatever. The author has discovered this by the end of her story. It's certainly a topic that can generate more discussion. Not having an interest in sexual matters is not unnatural, it is one of the paths some follow.
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