A Bouquet of Barbed Wire

19476996Emotionally spoilt, self-indulgent Prue, falls pregnant at the age of 19 to the dark and dashing Gavin. Her father, respectable Peter Manson, cannot abide the idea of them being close; it’s as if another man has taken his rightful place. As he faces his own mid-life crisis, Peter tries to come to terms with the loss of possession over his daughter by beginning an affair with his young secretary. Gavin and Prue attempt to work through their own marriage anomalies as Prue perfects her role as the introspective, attention-seeking victim; eventually goading Gavin into punishing her. When she spills the beans about her father’s affair to her gentile, subservient mother, Cassie, Gavin sees red. But his out of control heavy-handedness with Prue has an unexpected effect on Cassie, and her own emotional skeleton falls from the closet with the slightest push, sending the sexual dynamic between them all spinning on its axis yet again.
Dark, raw, honest, and still maintaining a scandalous edge, especially when one considers this was written in 1969 and aired on TV in the seventies. I remember watching the series with my mother and we were both transfixed by this melting-pot of emotions played out by the middle-class Manson family. It’s not necessary to like any of these characters or to condone how they live, but rather to view it as an indulgent, hugely entertaining insight into their messy sex lives. But then, it’s so much more than that. How complex we humans are, how fragile our feelings and failures. What to show, what to keep buried. The complexities of ageing, domestic violence, incestuous thoughts, adultery, and sadism and masochism are all touched upon, but what makes this book so good is that none of this is described in any great detail or used gratuitously – it’s much more subtle. And all the more powerful, and recognisable for that.

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