Novel: Taming The Beast
Author: Emily Maguire
Publisher: Serpent’s Tail (UK)
Brandl & Schlesinger (Australia)
Publication Year: 2005
“[S]ections of the book pulse with sexual energy…Maguire keeps the prose crackling and the dialogue lively from the first page to the last.” Publishers Weekly
“A thought-provoking and searing first novel.” The Age
I was too hesitant to borrow this novel, Emily Maguire’s Taming the Beast though tempted many times to do so yet couldn’t come up with guts enough to pick the novel. It was because of its cover page that has a woman in nude with forbidden fruit in her hand. Though, it’s not a big deal yet my conscience stung me, I’ll get one another comment from Pinku (brother) if he happens to see this novel with such an image on the cover page in my hand.
This time, I just couldn’t desist myself further. Cover page image attracted my attention so intensely- a female body with no upper portion and slightly shown breasts, her hands placed forward with an apple in between them and a scorpion on her hands. Why her face is not shown? Why she holds apple right in front of her? What she is hiding-her shame or following male dictum? Or is it that she is presenting her new aspirations flamboyant with knowledge of forbidden; daring to be what she wants to be and striding forward to attain what she wants to. caring less for social inhibitions and taboos?
Taming The Beast is not a usual love story; influenced by Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights and Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre it takes love beyond edge. The story blurs the dividing line in between passion and madness.
This novel must not be led into a cursory comment instead should be reviewed in detail. I liked it, though it was hard for me to digest the way sexual violence is being portrayed throughout.
This is a novel that grips your attention right from the start and wades you through tortuous journey of love, passion, and violence entwined and leaves you with a wreathing pain in your heart. The entire length of 320 pages is simply filled with emotional disturbances and sexual frustrations that have capacity to make or break you in the most ultimate fashion. After reading it you feel like crying your heart out. You despise the love portrayed in the novel yet in hearts of hearts you long for such maddening passion to fuel your personal relationship.
I bet you will feel like flinging the book out of your window and never to hold it in your hands but you just can’t do so, so addicted you will be to it. You just cannot chuck the book out of your reach until you get to the end and scrape each and every line printed in the volume.
You will find Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Emily Bronte, and Charlotte Bronte. Maguire gives you all the new perspective of Othello’s “the beast with two backs.” Sarah Clark, the female protagonist of Taming The Beast receives leather-bound volume of Shakespeare’s Othello on her twelfth Birthday. This gift remains the most unforgettable one in the entire space of her life recalling the image of “the beast with two backs.” Her Teacher Daniel Carr tells her the significance and how it is formed which swirls her whole being and overturns her altogether.
What apparently seems as a sexual abuse in fact is a submission to one’s desire of fathoming the depths of human nature in its wild form. What lies underneath the superficial garb of civility is the real you, your animalistic desires that the burden of civilization has hitherto suppressed to an extent that when unleashed fail to recognize its boundaries. It surmounts all the inhibitions, breaks all the barriers, and no more shame remains alive. Human shame has its death there and then when the realization of your inner desires dawns upon your mind.
Sarah Clark, a young bookish 14-year old girl, whose world is restricted to books and her only friend Jamie. To her, seduces her school teacher, Daniel Carr. The story doesn’t end up to the seduction, things get complicated, Carr has sex with her wherever he can pounce upon her and time. Be it a canteen or the car seat; be it sitting or standing every place and every position. She drives him mad, makes him lose control over his senses. Such perversion is intolerable and thus comes a day when Carr’s wife finds out his illicit love and he is forced to leave the town. His leaving cannot be left to normal, he picks her up for the final rendezvous, takes her to a hotel strips her naked and beats the hell out of her-biting, scratching hurting her body and mind, rips her soul out of her body and yet she feels delighted in the fact that it’s him. She loved him. He was the first person who evoked the sense of sexual pleasure in her. He made her realize her sexual instincts. She loved him. Did she really? He introduced her to the beast with two backs- when a male and a female body merged into each other, the image thus formed is of the beast with two backs. (This made me recall a story ‘Lihaf’ by Ismat Chugtai (where a little girl happens to see a shadow of elephant formed by two women in sexual act inside a quilt.)
One may call Taming The Beast a story of sexual abuse which would definitely be a misleading point. Because, Sarah had her consent in every act! She willingly surrenders to her seduction by Daniel Carr. She knowingly treads onto the forbidden grounds which is not at all acceptable in the society.
Daniel Carr leaves her broken, wounded, dumbfounded with scars of his sexual act on her. She goes home all blue black. After he has gone she willingly indulges herself into the world of sex and passion. She throws herself at anyone and everyone. At the heart of her personality lies the motive of self-destruction. Her series of sexual relationships which may last a month long or week or may be just a fortnight shows her blind and insane search of that particular feeling which Carr gave her.
She had no sense of with whom she is going to bed; it’s just that if she has decided she has to, she just cannot resist the urge. Forsaken by her family, raped at friends place, taken by a ridiculous man in the bar, she still manages to handle her and gratify her sex hunger. She manipulates her periods dates so as to ward of the depravity of sex during an entire week.
There is no simplification in her life. It just cannot be sorted out as she was the one leading herself at the verge of destruction. She trusted none, not even to herself except Jamie, her best friend who too misunderstands her when she comes for solace to him; he f—s her and hurts her body. And, she says nothing, because she cannot say no to man when they wanted it and above all when it is Jamie, she could endure any pain. When realization dawns upon Jamie, that he too like other men used her for the gratification of his sexual frustration, commits suicide.
Daniel Carr returns in her life which makes the hell break lose.
Maguire raised questions like what exactly love means. Does it hurt or heals? Is love a way to destruction? Is Sex a way of expressing one’s love? Do sex really elevate you spirit or is the means of self-destruction? And, if Love is a means of happiness then why Sarah feels utterly spent out.
Carr and Sarah indulge into various ways of sex which would not be acceptable or near to imagination of a sane mind. Despite those extremes of sexual violence, yet you want to read till the end. You do not feel indifferent; it all seems so natural to you which however is so unthinkable in real life. But, you accept the scenes of clawing, chaining, beating, cutting, biting, beating, bleeding, blue-black faces, broken nose, and chapped dry lips when you see Sarah and Daniel. This is the kind of past and nature they share with each other. The relationship of binaries- abused and abuser, owner and servant, master and slave, lovers and soul mates. There is no dividing line conspicuous anymore. They just cannot stay apart and staying together they become destructive. Whom should we consider as a predator-Carr? Was Sarah being forced?
She felt herself complete with him-merging of two souls and two bodies into one another. They made perfect beast with two backs. She delighted on seeing their reflection thus in the mirror. Taming The Beast is really a disturbing story. It kept me awake for several nights, gaping at the ceiling-can such love be possible? There is one thing I am sure of is- Love makes you bolder enough even to kill and die. It drives you mad.
The story of Taming The Beast implores the visceral chemistry of mind and soul struck with utterly wild sexual passion for each other.
Carr returns to Sarah who has had f—-d many men till date. He knew what kind of hold he has on her asks her to surrender herself completely to him. Sarah on finding this proposition too difficult as she couldn’t stop herself from getting indulged sexually takes time longer than expected to decide over the matter. Carr takes her to his apartment and the hellish acts of sex begins which are not easy to be endured by a normal human begins.
What’s the nature of love? What’s the nature of sex? What hold sex has on a human body and mind?
Sex is always titillating, passionate and transforms you into a high spirited being. It’s that basic need and requirement of human life which makes a man understand woman and vice versa in the real sense. What do you find in Emily Maguire’s Taming the Beast?
With her series of incessant sexual dailies Sarah tried to fill that empty space in her life left gaping by Daniel Carr. After umpteen pointless f—–g sessions she still failed to fill her up. She just couldn’t get what Daniel did to her. Wild yearning for Carr raged within her insides.
The novel is intrepid and interesting because it makes us doubt the traditional thinking on sex. Sarah had full realization of Daniel Carr’s illegal seduction of a 14-year old girl but the fact is that she too desired it strongly. She succumbed to the seduction willingly. His leaving her devastated her completely. Daniel raked that fire in her which could not be calmed down but by him.
Novel is not entirely based on violent sexual relationships but it also has a beautiful warm story of friendship embedded in it. But, this friendship too couldn’t get spared from the scars of Sarah’s destructive energy. Her sexual life mars her friendship with Jamie too which concludes into his committing suicide.
Ending is ambiguous, may be was the necessity of leaving a messed up story of Sarah-Carr in such a manner lest what difference this and any other stormy love story would have. Though I didn’t find ending too satisfactory yet I would recommend you to give it at least a read. It’s indeed thought provoking novel.
I believe that love transcends you. It makes you something which you could have never imagined; which can be both the extremes. It either creates you or destructs you. Sex definitely has healing prowess. It enlightens you to those mysteries of human body and its folds which one can never understand without indulging into it. Understanding human body and its working in sync with the mind is one of the biggest mystery which sex opens up for you. It makes you understand the other person involved and to yourself too.
Maguire is not expecting you to sympathize with the sexually abused girl instead she keeps you fumbling for the real; feeling for the girl in between disgust and sympathy. She has shown a heroine who exercises her independent choice for her sexual life. She had her desires and can go up to any extent to fulfill them. She needs no men’s consent for her gratification. The novel propels us to probe into the questions of sexuality of teenage girls. It makes us ponder over how teenage girls handles and experiences the first flash of sexuality at such a tender age. They are no adults and no more kids- what kind of difficulties they face in understanding their sexual needs and changes.
There is nothing to sympathize with or for because Sarah is a modern woman who if had been corrupted, devastated, abused, and used, then had share of the same acts as well. She too used men for the gratification of her sexual hunger. She knows it very well; there is no one who will have guts to refuse her. She manipulated situations; she had her own will and way with many men. It is difficult to say who the abuser is and who the abused.
Read and find out, was she capable of Taming The Beast…? Did she succeed in making the beast with two backs?