Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Thin Wall

The Thin Wall
by Cheryl Anne Gardner

(Twisted Knickers Publications / 0-982-21451-0 / 978-0-982-21451-0 / Second Edition March 2009 / 124 pages / $7.99 / Kindle $2.39)

I think Cheryl Anne Gardner would describe her short novel as an erotic literary novella, and that description is certainly applicable. Ms. Gardner likes to walk on the wild side into brief excursions deep into the psychodrama of relationships, and her fourth book is no exception. Let’s cut to the chase right now and say that I cannot help but refer to Story of O, an earlier work that became quite famous for its descriptions of sadomasochistic relationships. There are two significant differences between the subject matter of the two works, and I feel compelled to let the readers know this in advance. First of all, Story of O is far more a tale of sexual arousal in the classically prurient manner, and secondly, the S/M in that book and movie is far closer to the commonly practiced rituals.

No, I have not read Story of O (at least that I can remember), but I did go to see the movie version with an S/M couple. I am not into that stuff, however you look at it, but only a nut would call me a prude. (Have you read my third book, The Last Horizon?) One of the key issues I remember from the movie is that small whips were often employed and great care was taken to never leave marks or do any significant damage. In contrast to this, although the scenes are very briefly described, the leading lady of The Thin Wall likes to cut herself and bleed profusely. She also likes to be threatened, cut, and abused physically in a manner that would be disapproved by the characters in Story of O. The lady has multiple scars and she is proud of them. I would think that in this time of AIDS and MRSA infections, this practice would be considered incredibly stupid, and I assume that many readers will feel the same concerns. That said, The Thin Wall is not at all repulsive or disgusting in ways that you might imagine, mostly due to the author’s brevity of the descriptions of the sexual encounters.

The Thin Wall is a short story about five old college friends, two women and three men, who are still socializing together at the ripe ages of their late thirties. None of the five are gay, but they are certainly independent singles who have little interest in marriage or children. They meet in the local pub on weekends and visit each other’s apartments and other locations for long-term, yet fleeting, sexual relationships. The plot is set in London and the author is quite obsessed with all things English, including odd spellings and phrases here and there that might easily distract the average American reader. No more plotline or character development will be revealed in this review, but the storyline is as much like The Big Chill or an episode of Friends or Seinfeld as it is Story of O. The five characters interact with each other in personal, revealing ways in a show-don’t-tell, pleasing manner, and there are enough surprises to keep the reader interested until the end.

The biggest complaint I have about The Thin Wall is undoubtedly its brevity. The storyline screams for more detail and the painting of more depth into the characters. Maybe I’m just too old to get it, but I do not understand why anyone wants to write or read such a short book. To me it’s a long short story. Is the book literary and erotic without being tacky or indulgent, just as the author intended? Absolutely. Is it composed, edited, and proofread at least reasonably well? Yes, as long as you include the caveat concerning the British language style, there are few obvious errors. I have to mention one of my favorite books, Anne Rice’s The Witching Hour. At more than a thousand pages, it is the opposite of The Thin Wall in an obvious manner. The Witching Hour contains many chilling actions and events in the storyline, and the slowly creeping, in-depth descriptions of the many settings, characters and background stories effectively propel these shocks into the reader’s imagination. Although I recommend Cheryl Anne Gardner’s The Thin Wall to anyone who wants to enjoy a quick psychodrama, the same story fleshed out to four times its length with more varied settings, additional characters, and more extensive, carefully crafted descriptions would pack a much larger wallop.

See Also: The Kissing Room
The Splendor of Antiquity
Cheryl Anne Gardner's Website
Cheryl's Articles & Reviews at POD People


Cheryl Anne Gardner said...

Thank you very much Floyd for the well-rounded review. I can't apologise for the brevity though, as I am a tried and true novella lover: same as many of my mentors. I think the day I consider writing a novel will be the day I decide to stop writing. :)

Floyd M. Orr said...

I did enjoy the book, Cheryl Anne. A review is always just one person's opinion. I like to choose my reading material by the pound and you don't. It would be a boring world if we were all just alike.

Cheryl Anne Gardner said...

I know. I could tell that you liked it by your review, and reviews such as this give me the strength to carry on.

I guess I choose by the pint of blood versus the pound of flesh, though all are equally good. You should see some of the doorstops I have scattered about. But I have studied everything, so I read everything from Proust's In Search of Lost Time to Camus' The Stranger, which clocks in at a mere 123 pages. Both very different and both beyond brilliant. I hope someday to be even half as good. :)