Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows – Balli Kaur Jaswal

Rating: 4 stars

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Balli Kaur Jaswal’s Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows follows the women of a British Sikh community in London. Nikki is a young, very westernised Punjabi Sikh girl who lives over the pub where she works. She’s faced family despair and disapproval, but she’s still in touch with her mother and her much more conservative sister. She takes a job teaching a storytelling class at a gurdwara, only to find that most of the women there – all respectable widows of the community – can’t read or write in English, and turned up thinking that that was what they were going to learn.

Of course, as the title suggests, the class quickly descends into an erotica-writing group after the widows find a Mills & Boon in Nikki’s bag while she’s out of the room – managed as the women dictate to the one who can write in English, and the stories begin to spread. This plot becomes entwined with another: that of a girl who apparently committed suicide years ago, and of the conservative ‘Brotherhood’ who like to police the way women behave.

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows is funny and uplifting, a reminder that sex isn’t just for the young, and of the power and joys of the imagination at any stage of life. It’s also deeply engaged with the social issues facing Sikh women in Britain, but this doesn’t overtake what is, fundamentally, a story of hope. Yes, there are some things that feel more like wishful thinking than optimism, but I’d cheerfully forgive that, because anything else would spoil the joy of this book.

Heartily recommend for anyone looking to enjoy some awkward penis-vegetable metaphors and a heart-warming story about a community of women coming together.

Louise CAV ReviewsReviewed by Louise

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The Gentlemen’s Club – Emmanuelle De Maupassant

gentlemen's clubSo I downloaded this erotica after seeing it listed on a BuzzFeed list of books that are sexier than Fifty Shades of Grey. Well, I can certainly 100% say that it was better than Fifty Shades of Grey.

That out of the way, was it completely my thing? Not really, to be honest. There was a little too much of a proclivity towards awkward metaphors for me (‘truncheon’, ‘jungle’), although perhaps others might like that. Me, I like my cards on the table when graphic sex scenes are the order of the day.

However, there was a lot to recommend this. It’s very atmospheric (think The Ruby in the Smoke, but instead of intrigue and murder just sex sex sex), for a start, and certainly feeds perfectly into our fetish for just the right kind of kinky Victoriana – what everyone hopes was secretly going down (as it were) while the general population were pretending to be repressed. If you want tight corsets and silken whips then you’re right on the money with this one. It’s short, sharp and packed with sexy-business, so a definite recommend.

There was also an interesting emphasis on affirmative consent. Now, this really stuck out when I read it. Perhaps it shouldn’t have done. It seemed somewhat laboured against the backdrop of “no means yes” Mills & Boon and the downright rapey sex in parts of Fifty Shades to have all of the women being asked if they wanted it, and affirming their consent. But why should it have done? And it certainly didn’t spoil the atmosphere. It really made me think about what we “read” as coercive in erotica. This was refreshingly affirmative, and what was offered up as sexy (and what was sexy) was an embracing of female desire and an affirmation of female sexual agency.

Was this a crie de coeur for feminist sexuality? I suppose so. But the point is, it was that without compromising on any of the generic must-haves of erotica. It was that without pushing that button explicitly in its writing. This stuff should be normal. It’s the other side of the coin, and it’s high time female desire had its voice.

Rating: 4 stars

Louise CAV ReviewsReviewed by Louise 

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