Joanna Bolouri - The List (5 stars)

Joanna Bolouri - The List

A fearless approach to sex and romance that's a refreshing change from the Bridget Jones archetype


Move over Bridget Jones – Phoebe Henderson is in town. This fiery 30-something singleton is recently out of a relationship and has one thing in mind: sexual liberation; or more precisely, a list. A new year's resolution she intends to keep, the list of ten sexual things she'd like to try takes her on a year of experimentation and self-discovery.

Joanna Bolouri avoids the common clichés of the romance genre, not letting Phoebe leap between duelling heartthrobs. There's no sign of a token Darcy, the attractive object of the heroine's attention who has a general distaste for her; nor is there a bad boy who leads her astray. Weddings prove no incentive to change either, with the end goal not being to snag a boyfriend. Her motivation is to explore with friends and strangers alike, without a judgemental undertone to the book.

Weight-watching isn't on the menu; there's a good attitude to body image throughout. Phoebe's dalliances even include some who tell her she's too big – instead of taking it to heart, she kicks them to the kerb and tries to remain true to herself.

Refreshingly, there's a healthy dose of realism, whether it be the odd disappointing encounter, or making her celebrity crush Vince Vaughn. A character being levied with criticism on her weight or lifestyle isn't rare, but the strength to choose self-confidence rather than change herself certainly is. It's a message that definitely needs more airtime.

In 2014, the literary arc of a woman's sole desire being to settle down and have a family is almost outdated and simplified. It is nice now and then to immerse yourself in an idealistic tale in finding Romeo, but a book that mirrors a shift in sexual culture stands to inspire both a little more confidence and experimentation, and supports a freedom for women that is ultimately normal, yet often cast in criticism – the freedom to put yourself first.

The List shows a woman coming to terms with being single, despite meddling colleagues and friends, and taking control of her life in even the most personal of aspects. It's a fearless approach to sex and romance, treading a neat line of humour that makes it accessible where others can come off needlessly bold. Risqué and funny, there's a little something different in this enjoyable tale – an honest and refreshing change from the Bridget Jones archetype.

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