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Promiscuous Unbound

by Bex Brian

For a novel that seems to promise sensual candour if not outright licentiousness, the only truly shocking thing about Promiscuous Unbound, Bex Brian’s debut novel, is just how modest it turns out to be. Although suffused with the subject of sex, Promiscuous Unbound turns out to be a sharply observed novel of family and relationships.

Most of the action of the novel takes place in a hospital bed. Vivienne Yellow is in traction in a Paris hospital after being hit by a truck, her leg crushed. She shares a room with Sonia, a 17-year-old French student with a heart condition intent on living as much as possible before her inevitable early death. Across the hall is a young Kosovo refugee, insane and suicidal, fleeing a marriage to a French soldier that had once seemed a safe haven.

Brian, who divides her time between Quebec and New York, examines sex as both a symptom and a disease in its own right, exploring its power to isolate people rather than bring them together. Vivienne seems, on the surface, a sexual free spirit indulging herself fully and consciously with a variety of partners. Over the course of the novel, however, as she explores her memories, particularly those of her life with her father, a famed naturalist filmmaker and libertine in his own right, it becomes clear that Vivienne uses sex to fortify herself against the world.

Brian’s style is never heavy-handed, yet every scene resonates with importance. The relationship between Vivienne and Sonia is deep and well developed, providing a caustic counterpoint to the occasionally self-satisfying deceptions of Vivienne’s memories. While the novel’s conclusion is a shade trite and Vivienne’s growing self-awareness and acceptance too easily won, Promiscuous Unbound is nonetheless an interesting debut.


Reviewer: Robert Wiersema

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press/PGC


Price: $37.95

Page Count: 190 pp

Format: Cloth

ISBN: 0-87113-873-5

Issue Date: 2003-4

Categories: Fiction: Novels