Zénó Vernyik Review of The Gentlemen’s Club

The Gentlemen's Club - book cover  The Gentlemen’s Club: A Story for All WomenBy Becky Due
    Review by: Zénó Vernyik
The black front cover of this average-sized book is dominated    by a strange drawing of white, grey and red, but predominantly    the first of these colors. It features a strangely telling composition:    a woman nailed to a man, as if she were crucified. Shocking as    it may seem to some, or even sacrilegous, part of the reason    behind its powerfulness is the reference to one of the primary    myths of Christianity: the act of self-sacrifice.In this picture, it is a woman who is crucified, or rather    Woman, as such. The cross, at the same time, becomes exchanged    for Man, that is, it is no longer a symbol of the axis mundi,    the World Tree, on which she is crucified, but Man. Women are    suffering by and for men; they are crucified on, by, but also    for them.

Another crucial point can be that Man who stands in for the    crucifix is just as powerless as Woman. This is exemplified by    the fact that neither one of the two figures is veiled. Our savior,    here, is exposed and powerless, but the case of the living crucifix    is not much better. Neither one of the two figures is in the    position to cover himself/herself. The only way they could perform    that action would be made possible if, and only if, the crucifix    stopped being a crucifix, and permitted movement for her.

The bonding function of the nail also works in both ways:    Man is just as inseperably bound to Woman, as it is true the    other way around. Furthermore, the calm and peaceful facial expression    also suggests an air of comfort and happiness, something that    can be or should be achieved through the unity of man and woman    that this visual metaphor may also skillfully represent.

This complex icon that the book features tells much of what    this book sets as its goal: a thorough, painful and direct analysis    of all the possible kinds of relationships that are existing    in contemporary bourgeois society. The handling of the topic    is similar to the treatment of an ulcer by the surgeon: precise,    uncompromising and cutting right to the hidden core. And the    expertise of the venture is no less professional than the means.    This text is visibly and evidently informed both by personal    experiences and recollections, and thorough sociological research    in the subject matter.

What is this book then? A testimony, an analysis, a therapeutic    vehicle. But also, first and foremost, a story, and a very good    one at it. The storyline is captivating, the text practically    reads itself. Basically, it is impossible to put this book down.    Those who found Alexandra’s Project by Rolf de Heer    too didactic, might find this one, just as well overdidactic,    but let me make clear I am not one of those people, and I found    their position fundamentally mistaken. There are issues that    must be tackled openly, honestly and bravely, and directly. Just    that, does not make a venture didactical, or even worse, political    propaganda. Text (book) or subject (person), one cannot leave    her ideological captation behind, and should not attempt to behave    as if it were so. What makes this venture particularly honest    and successful is its acceptance of its ideological position    and its self-criticism.

Needless to say, this is definitely not a book for those who    wish to find a decorous escape from reality. There is no idealization    or compromise in its portrayal of what forms a man-woman “relationship”     can take. Be prepared: this book is about rape, both statutory    and not, it is about prostitution and about violence both in    the family and outside of it. There is suicide and murder, suffering    and torture. But for those willing to take this journey, it is    definitely worth it: it is empowering and gives a lot of hope.

I am not saying that this work is perfect and faultless. There    is no such work, of course. Mainly in the second part of the    book, it tends to overuse the rather simplistic formula of “Rebecca    asked,” “I said,” or “Julie added.”     Dialog becomes a bit mechanical and unnatural because of this.

Also, the ghost of compulsory heterosexuality seems to linger    among the lines and perhaps also a slight hint of hostility towards    others, but it seems to be a minor issue compared to the book’s    enormous achievements.

This book is a must-read for those who read and enjoyed Dawn    Lyons’ The Dry Well, as well as for anyone who is    willing to take the troubling journey into the lives of many    women who were raped, forced into prostitution or tortured in    any other way. It is also a book for those who like powerful    storytelling and vivid descriptions, and do not get scared by    some “extra message.”

A percentage of the book’s profits will be used to support    the cause of the prevention of domestic violence and sexual assaults.

7 thoughts on “Zénó Vernyik Review of The Gentlemen’s Club

  1. Wonderful review. I wondered about the cover, It’s as intriguing as the novel. Keeps you interested to the end. I want to read it again.


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