The famously sexually open memoirist grapples with jealousy.
In her bestselling memoir (The Sexual Life of Catherine M, 2002), Paris art critic Millet shocked the world with her unapologetically candid descriptions of an extravagant sex life with no boundaries and, seemingly, no consequences. After losing her virginity at 18, she immediately engaged in a weeklong bacchanalia of group sex. As an adult, she moved between long-term partners, but was consistently involved in sexual relationships with other people. She eventually ended up in a committed but open marriage to a fellow critic named Jacques. Soon after, however, Millet found in Jacques’ study a series of letters and photographs indicating that he was having an emotional, as well as physical, affair with another woman. Just as with her sexual life, Millet discusses her jealousy of this woman in a detached, intellectual tone, laying it out nakedly with no sense of embarrassment—though with some personal shock at the circumstances, as if her openness toward sexual pleasure ought to have left her immune to jealousy. To cope, the author traveled through Europe, obsessing about the details of the affair, calling Jacques in various states of emotional distress and at times retreating totally within herself. There are particular moments of poignant pain—when she became physically sick, for example, and had no recollection of it until Jacques pointed it out—but for most of the book her grief is stunningly relatable, even ordinary. In the end, she clawed her way back to trusting Jacques, though the experience left a distinct mark on her spirit.
Remarkably honest. There is something both sad and deeply satisfying about watching this legendary mistress of emotional bravado crumble.