I remember her well – but not her name. And, like Sylvie, she may have been French – or of French extraction. As with Sylvie, she too was not beautiful in the classical sense – she also had the prominent nose of the novel’s protagonist. She differed in that her complexion was olive rather than pale. But like Joanna Briscoe’s calculating vixen, she caught one’s attention – perhaps for her imperfections as much as anything. Not all men are drawn to perfection in their fantasies.
The young woman I am writing of did captivate. It wasn’t only me – she drew men in. Some of my male colleagues were on the way to being bewitched too. She liked their attention, seemingly craved it. Unlike Sylvie, she didn’t seek to completely control their lives – just be involved with them in the workplace – and out. According to one female friend, who was not impressed with the way she distracted the males she worked with, this exotic addition to staff preferred to save her flirtations for the married fellow. My friend claimed the object of her scorn felt safer as, for them, the line – and it was definitely drawn – would be harder to cross. To use more basic parlance, it was less likely they would place the hard word on her. I had no intention of crossing any line but, for a while, I craved attention from her, some sort of intimacy – and she gave it, in small tantalising doses. I was, I hope, no self-centred plonker like Briscoe’s Richard. It was a serious case with him. But, I guess, for a while I was mildly obsessed. I remembered one guy, who was similarly smitten with her, started boasting to me he had only to click his fingers and she would be his for the taking – that he could bed her in a flash. I was terribly offended by that, for, in my view, simply saying those words made him unworthy of her. I resolved to do all I could to prevent that from happening – although how I had no idea. In the end she ditched any connection with the both of us and turned her attention to another bloke and that was that. I have no idea what became of her and it all happened so many decades ago. Whether she posed the question ‘Sleep With Me’, the book’s title, to any of the other male members at the work place I have no idea, but I doubt it. Sylvie was not so reluctant in that department. Reading the tome drew my thoughts back to my own not so forward enchantress.
But it wasn’t only with Richard Sylvie played mind games, but he became so over-wrought with lust for her that, in the end, he found he had little resolve about staying true to the woman carrying his baby. He was head over heels with the desire to ravish her for all he was worth. His partner became a focus of this temptress’ attentions as well, as happened with other aspects of Richard’s wider world. If one, on reading the publication, feels that there is much more than meets the eye here, then that person would be correct – but I’m not giving that away. Richard, Leila and Sylvie form a triangle of hedonistic connivance that can only lead to the ruination of one or more of the participants.
‘Sleep With Me’ is much deeper than the page turning light and fluffy summer read alluded to on the front cover of my edition. It certainly doesn’t get right under my skin as another of its praise-singers writes (Maureen Freely of England’s The Guardian); it being set in the UK. It was not up to the standard of ‘You’, the only other of the author’s oeuvre I’ve read. With ‘You’, it is obvious that Briscoe, partner of another very fine author in Charlotte Mendelson, does indeed have the ability to get under the skin – just not with this one.
Author’s website = http://www.joannabriscoe.com/