Just when you thought you were proof against sex scandals, the young Ms. P., reportedly 16 at the time of writing, obliges with a remarkable two-year sexual odyssey.
The narrator is a schoolgirl whose first sexual experiences involve looking at herself in the mirror with love and admiration. Melissa has friends who touch themselves and dream of giving themselves to boys, but she’s in no hurry for a relationship—she wants to be “lovely, brilliant, poetic.” For better or worse, the acquaintances who soon take her through the gate of the secret garden supply quite a different range of encounters. Daniele is a callow student indifferent to her needs and wishes. Roberto, the law student, is more articulate, but his gentleness turns to brutality behind closed doors. Fabrizio, the 35-year-old married man she meets in a “Perverse Sex” chat room (many of Melissa’s adventures depend on cutting-edge technology), thinks he’s given her everything just because he’s offered to set her up in an apartment. Melissa finds tenderness only with her transvestite friend Ernesto, her lesbian friend Letizia, and Valerio, the math professor who insists on calling her Lolita and himself Humbert. What’s most remarkable about this staggeringly assured debut, however, is not the sexual smorgasbord—voyeurism, sadomasochism, group sex, etc., etc.—but the utter lack of any distractions from sex (family, school, friendships) recorded in Melissa’s diary; the prose chaste as the 100 strokes of the hairbrush that mark Melissa’s return from each adventure; and her wide-eyed acceptance that she feeds on the sexual violence she so abhors.
A junior-league Catherine M. bound to raise just as many eyebrows on this side of the Atlantic. One can only imagine where the author’s literary career will take her next.