Book Review: The Tryst by Monique Roffey

Reviewed by Aija Oksman

Roffey’s style, abrasive and brass as it might be to some, reminds me of Jean Rhys—if she was writing in the twenty-first century. The ancestral, the first of them all, and almost animalistic female empowerment intermingled with the profound somehow aggressive and oppressive mentality is a wild read. An open look on female sexuality, verging on porn for women by a woman obviously comfortable with the subject, in all its glory and stickiness, especially women’s desires that are beyond expectation is an intriguing narrative that keeps reader in its hold—and had an older gentleman reading over my shoulder in the bus coughing and blushing and unable to avert his eyes once I caught him reading!

It is the complicated package of Lilah’s ancestral (the myth of Lilith is palpable throughout) animalistic sexuality contrasted with Jane’s repressed sexuality that tear into Bill’s life, where Bill also comes to terms with his own desires and abilities. Lilah’s predatory attitude is questioned when she develops actual feelings for Bill, beyond lust, and we see beyond her ancient sprite entity and how she becomes more human as she is satiated for the first time in full. It is impossible to know whether Lilah truly is something ancient, something from the very core of femininity or if she is a woman truly connected with her own desires, sexual proves, her femininity and what it can do for her and others.

There is something in Roffey’s style of writing that makes you a little uncomfortable—it is not just the very detailed account on Bill’s and Lilah’s tryst, but rather there is something deliberately awkward in Roffey’s phrasing and forms of expression, which are unexpected. The overall writing style adds to the sensations of the narrative as we weave through the night from the eyes of each of the characters. Twenty-first century female erotica, especially so detailed in the various stages of stimulation, exploration, climax and bodily function that create the myriad of pleasure for each on their own, is not a topic easy to address and I believe Roffey’s done a brilliantly open narrative in all its unashamed and unabashed frankness and even in its vileness that is just a cherry on top.

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