Story of O

Story of O

A Novel

Book - 1981
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Before Fifty Shades of Grey there was Story of O, the notorious novel of dark obsession that introduced the world to erotic fiction. How far will a woman go to express her love? In this exquisite and taboo novel of passion and desire, the answer emerges through a daring exploration of the deepest bonds of sensual domination. “O” is a beautiful Parisian fashion photographer, determined to understand and prove her consuming devotion to her lover, René, through complete submission to his every whim, his every desire. It is a journey of forbidden, dangerous choices that sweeps her through the secret gardens of the sexual underground. From the inner sanctum of a private club where willing women are schooled in the art of subjugation to the excruciating embraces of René’s friend Sir Stephen, O tests the outermost limits of pleasure. For as O discovers, true freedom lies in her pure and complete willingness to do anything for love.
Publisher: New York : Ballantine, 1981, c1973
Edition: 1st Ballantine Books ed
ISBN: 9780345301116
0345301110
9780345545343
Branch Call Number: FICTION REAGE
Characteristics: xxxvi, 204 p. ; 18-21 cm
Additional Contributors: Estrée, Sabine d'

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Jasna_T Jun 29, 2018

I recently read the 1954 infamous, mysterious and controversial short novel by French author Pauline Réage.
When it was published, the book caused a considerable upheaval. Nobody knew who wrote it. Nobody knew what to say and how to approach it, so they did the worst thing—they labeled it wrongly as pornography. The theme was sexual submission, a highly improper issue in the times of post-WWII propriety, and unbending moral values.
It was easy not to see the forest for the trees.
Why the pornography tag persisted for decades is beyond comprehension. Story of O was so beautifully written that this alone should’ve been enough to give it literary credibility.
It is not pornography. It's a masterpiece.
Even to say that Story of O is an erotic novel, let alone pornographic, would be wrong. Story of O is many things but foremost an allegory, a probe into the subject of human submissiveness and dominance on the absolute level, not just sexual. S/D is one of the basic human relationships, after all. Most of us are submissive to some (your boss, your military superior, your parents, partners...) and dominant over some others (the people we supervise at work, our children, our partners). Most of these S/D relationships are considered normal. They are sanctioned by law, customs, habits, regulations. They're deeply rooted in our psychology. This is the way we function—socially, emotionally, biologically.
Pauline Réage throws us a challenge by taking this natural order of things to an extreme level and presenting us with (some of) the possible consequences.
How far are we ready to go? Where is the line? Can human isolation and loneliness be so profound that some of us can’t find ourselves within us but only within another human being? Where we stop being us and become someone else? How far would the other person go to dominate us, and what kind of need does he/she have to fulfill through dominance?
What is submission then? Dominance in disguise? And vice versa.
It opens many other questions--of freedom, freedom of choice, absence of love, perception of love, alienation... name it.
Story of O had two endings, cleverly interwoven in the last paragraph/epilogue. Pauline Réage leaves it to us to chose how to conclude her story in our imagination.
But which ending did she chose? For some reason, it was important to me to know.
I didn’t get it right away. So indefinitely sad was I for days that I couldn’t see it.
Then, only days after I read Story of O, I stumbled upon small literary gem, Anne Rice’s The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty. Anne Rice, whose story is based on Story of O, understood Pauline Réage’s novel so well that she was able to give us the definitive answer to that question with her own ending. And yes, we chose the same one, Pauline Réage, Anne Rice and I. It helped my sadness to disappear, although Story of O (as well as The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty) will always make me feel uneasy. Like every great book should.
Decades after being published, Story of O continues to inspire writers, albeit with various success. The wildly popular Fifty Shades saga was also inspired by it, but it’s like a glass imitation of a genuine diamond. Or, if you like, a McDonald's Happy Meal in comparison to the finest foie gras on a toasted French baguette, to stay close to the geographical origins of the novel.

1
1aa
Sep 06, 2017

Not much of a novel: more like the last quarter of one, at best. Very little characterization, not much plot, not much meaning either. Starts off with a chapter that is all bondage and masochism, and ends, with pretty much the same thing.

p
pinus1612
May 28, 2016

I would have rather put this book in the trash instead of returning it to the library. It talks about men hurting a women and degrading her instead of loving her in the proper way. No one in their right mind would treat a woman in this way. I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone.

cinseg1 Nov 23, 2014

I found this novel disturbing and quite frankly, disgusting. "O" has no concept of her self worth or self respect. I found this narrative denigrating and dehumanizing. Not an erotic tale at all!

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1aa
Sep 06, 2017

Sexual Content: About 3/4 of the book is sex.

1
1aa
Sep 06, 2017

Violence: The sex in the book is all BDSM.

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Jasna_62 Jul 03, 2018

Jasna_62 thinks this title is suitable for 18 years and over

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