Monday, January 16, 2023

Nine and a Half Weeks by Elizabeth McNeill

Nine and a Half Weeks by Elizabeth McNeill

Release Date - January 1, 1978

Publisher Website - Harper Collins

Publisher Social Media - Twitter

Pages - 144 pages

My Rating - 4.5/5

**gifted **

Here is the Goodreads synopsis

The powerfully erotic memoir that inspired the legendary film—with an afterword by the author's daughter

Nine and a Half Weeks is a true story so unusual, so passionate, and so extreme in its psychology and sexuality that it will take your breath away.

Elizabeth McNeill was an executive for a large corporation when she began an affair with a man she met in a chance encounter. Their sexual excitement depended on domination and humiliation, and as their relationship progressed they played out increasingly dangerous and elaborate variations on that pattern. By the end, Elizabeth had relinquished all control over her body—and her mind.

With a cool detachment that makes the experiences and sensations she describes all the more frightening in their intensity, Elizabeth McNeill deftly unfolds her story and invites you into the mesmerizing and shocking world of Nine and a Half Weeks—a world you won't soon forget

This review deserves (and needs) to start with a trigger warning. 9 and a Half Weeks is the story of an abusive relationship. It is physically, mentally, and sexually abusive. It is a complicated, complex relationship but an abusive nonetheless. It is told through the prism of the woman who lived it and that lends it a lens that is interesting and biased.

There is something to the matter of fact way that this story is told that lingers with me. We get the sense that Elizabeth was still grappling with the impact that this relationship had on her while writing this novel. It has both the tone of someone deep in the throws of a toxic relationship that they see as something else entirely and someone with the benefit of hindsight. It is called a 'cool detachment' in the synopsis and this feels like the perfect description for the tone of this book. 

There is a romantic thrill to the early stages and this relationship and that is sharply contrasted with the later abuse that occurs. Her lover pushes boundaries in a way she finds sexy and a little dangerous in the beginning. She, at first, likes it. It doesn't take long for those inches he takes to become miles. The abuse doesn't register as such as first because part of her likes giving up control and it creates this hazy, blurry existence for her that quickly spirals out of control. 

The most fascinating part to me was reading how this woman was eased into accepting things she would not have normally accepted. It feels like Stockholm Syndrome brought on by sex and exhilaration. It was a short relationship, lasting just a little over two months, but it is one that definitely left a lasting emotional scar on her. It is a defining experience that I cannot imagine did not permanently change her.

The breaking point, when it comes, is just as swift as the beginning. The author says that she believes she could have ended up dead and I believed that in the end. The way things were progressing could only have led down a path that was dangerous to not only Elizabeth but others. 

Those looking for the erotic read promised in the synopsis may want to look elsewhere. It gets pretty unsexy fairly quickly as it quickly escalates to abusive. The sex scenes are tinged with a sense of dread. It is not so much sexy as it is voyeuristic. The reader knows the wreckage is coming but can't look away. I have not seen the movie made from this book but I cannot imagine it remains sexy for very long either.

I think this novel showcases just how rapidly you can get caught up in something that is damaging and absuive. It adeptly highlights that anyone can find themselves in a situation like this even if they think otherwise. It definitely will be triggering for some, but I found the honesty and vulnerability that Elizabeth shared in her story to be the core of this novel. 

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