You may know of Susan Johnson for her brave memoir of motherhood, A Better Woman, or her novel about writer Charmian Clift, The Broken Book, among other titles. Her seventh novel, My Hundred Lovers, opens with a woman in middle age who is feeling overpowered by memories. Passages about her relationships and human connections are interspersed with vignettes recalling the joy of different sensory experiences. Amid passion, despair and humour, the fallible-yet-likeable Deborah provokes sympathy as she realises the untruth of romantic love. Johnson reminds us of the inherent sensuality of all kinds of experiences, from patting a dog to wearing a dress, taking a bath and eating gelati. Deborah’s erotic encounters do not dominate the plot, demonstrating there is much more to a sensual existence than sex, and much romance to be found in life. Expected to attract a mostly female audience, this rich and meaningful novel deserves a broad readership. It is easily readable and poetic; Johnson’s gift for language delights and some of her descriptions are to be savoured. With much of the novel set in France, it may also appeal to those with a penchant for the Gallic. I found My Hundred Lovers uplifting, due to its sumptuous language, and the mirror it shines on the beauty and intrinsic preciousness of life.
Joanne Shiells is a former retail book buyer and editor of Bookseller+Publisher. Read the interview with Susan Johnson here. This review first appeared in the April/May issue of Bookseller+Publisher Magazine.