Friday, 11 November 2011

Book Club: Frank & I

I like the idea of being a member of a book club, but from what I've seen in practice they look a little dull. Reading Booker prize shortlist novels is dreary enough without having to then dissect them with a collection of worthy lit chicks.
How much better to a member of a book club that discusses the sort of books you like to read? So I've decided to launch my own club here. Yes, there is a drawback - it's only got one member, me. But the upside of that there's little chance of a serious fall-out at meetings.
To kick things off I've chosen the 19th Century classic Frank & I. Spolier alert here - it's the story of a runaway who is taken in by a charitable English gent. At first he thinks he's a boy, but he's actually a girl.
There's a lot of corporal punishment of the MM-but-actually-MF variety. Then there's plenty more MF with a little FF thrown in for good measure. Lots of spankings, canings, birching etc, but for me it quickly gets a bit repetitive.
What I find fascinating about Frank & I is the insight it gives into the life of the wealthy Victorian landowner, or at least the author's take on that life. Charles Beaumont doesn't really have anything to do but enjoy himself and as a rich man the women around him are expected to serve up what Charley fancies whenever and wherever he fancies it.
For example, he keeps a young women called Maud in a house in London for when he's in town. Maud is less than enthusiastic about Charley's new-found interest in "the rod", but puts up with it. Charely says "I slept with her every night and in the mornings always renewed my vigour by birching her big, white bottom till it turned red as a rose, smarting pain making tears come into her eyes". Not much sense of a 50:50 relationship going on.
Mind you, by the end of things the girls do seem to have things sorted out to their own liking. Frances ('Frank') is the beautiful, accomplished mistress of her own destiny while cheerful Charley has become a bit of a sad, old loser. Serves him right, I'd say. 

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