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2013 Recommended books

Tampa by Alissa Nutting

Tampa

Five words from the blurb: teacher, sex, pupils, risk, exposure

Tampa is a controversial book about a female teacher who has sex with her 14-year-old pupils. It contains graphic sex scenes and many have complained about its disturbing subject matter. It definitely pushes the boundaries, but I think this book is important. It raises many interesting questions about our attitudes to sex and reveals worrying problems with our society. It is not a specific question of positions or of knot dildos, but a serious inquiry on public perception of sex and we can help eradicate the stigma with the conversation.

The book begins with Celeste, a beautiful English teacher, starting her first teaching job:

I spent the night before my first day of teaching in an excited loop of hushed masturbation on my side of the mattress, never falling asleep. To bed I’d worn, in secret, a silk chemise and sheer panties, so that my husband, Ford, wouldn’t pillage me.

She is excited about the prospect of seducing the 14-year-old boys in her class, but is careful to select those who will not reveal their secret encounters.

The plot seemed simple and obvious at first, but as the novel neared its end I was surprised and impressed by the direction it took. I especially loved the way that the characters were all flawed individuals and they reacted realistically to events around them. The writing had that special spark that brought events to life, despite the fact it wasn’t complex in nature.

The book was graphic, bordering on pornography, throughout. But it wasn’t written to titillate the reader; it exists to shock and open eyes to the differences in our attitude towards male and female paedophiles. The fact that it is a beautiful young woman preying on young boys challenges our misconceptions about who is a danger to our children.

It isn’t for the prudish, but if you’re willing to approach it with an open mind you’ll find an engaging, disturbingly erotic, book that challenges perceptions.

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14 replies on “Tampa by Alissa Nutting”

I really wanted to like this book because I’m fascinated by the themes, especially the way female pedophiles are treated compared to males. But I found her writing excruciating and just couldn’t keep going. I’m glad you liked it though!

threegoodrats, Sorry to hear that you didn’t enjoy the writing. I admit it wasn’t of great quality, but I found the plot so engaging that I stopped noticing the problems.

Vicki, I agree about the way it made the reader feel uncomfortable. Part of me was thinking that what she did wasn’t that bad and that is worrying. It made me face my own misconceptions and I love books that have the ability to do that.

It may be important, but I’ve seen so many lives of young boys destroyed by women like this, and it makes me sick. I’m not sure I’d want to read it. We’ve got predators like this all over Florida, and I have a 14 year old boy, so I’m not totally sure I could handle it.

Sandy, It is interesting to hear that these predators are all over Florida (especially given that this is where the book is set) I’m not aware of any in the UK. We occasionally hear about male teachers in the UK press, but I can’t remember hearing about a female one. I wonder if that means they don’t exist or just that they aren’t reported/treated as seriously? Worrying.

How funny we both reviewed this book at the same time. I thought it was one of the most memorable novels I’ve read this year. It’s a disturbing read, but I really loved the “voice” of Celeste — she’s so narcissistic and twisted and selfish and judgemental and manipulative but she’s also incredibly witty, too. This is a prime example of a book succeeding without the reader needing to like or identify with the main character.

I really want to read Tampa, and I’m pushing for it to by the next book my book club reads. I don’t think any of us would be offended by it so I’m realllyyyy hoping everyone else votes for it as well. I want to read it and I want to talk about it with others :)

Kelly, I’m not sure about talking about it with others – it really depends who they are. There are a lot of graphic scenes and it could lead to some embarrassing conversations. I hope you are VERY comfortable with your book group members!

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