Synopses & Reviews
It opens innocently enough: the diary starts off with a tone of self-absorbed adolescent wistfulness. The fourteen-year-old Melissa starts taking notes about her feelings during a very hot summer. Her bedroom is plastered with Klimt posters and photos of Marlene Dietrich. She is a loner, fond of classical music. She examines her body in the mirror, pleasurably yet without desire.
Her friend Alessandra introduces her to Daniele, an eighteen-year-old who intrigues her. She is embarrassed when he asks her if she is a virgin and she says yes. He invites her to his home to go swimming, and after cornering her in a secluded room and kissing her passionately, he asks, Do you feel like doing it?” She declines coyly, but soon he is pushing her face below his waist. When she takes his penis in her mouth, he comes immediately. Is this the way its done?” she asks him. He isnt very nice to her, but the act fills her with a strange contentment.”
The diary then jumps to her fifteenth birthday, and then Danieles nineteenth. She is smitten with him, cant keep her mind on her Latin lessons, tells him she wants to make love, but he responds that she doesnt even know how to suck him off.” She depicts her parents as not very caring of her, and feels unloved. She starts masturbating habitually and finally offers herself to Daniele, who tells her that hell have sex with her only if their relationship remains purely sexual. She hopes that it will turn into love. When she arrives to have sex with him, he mistreats her; when he finally penetrates her and she claims not to feel any pain, he accuses her of lying to him about being a virgin. They begin to meet regularly to have sex on the beach, but she is unsatisfied, detached, deeply hurt by his abusive treatment. She feels guilty and sad when she confronts Daniele with his abuse of her, and he is humiliated: he bursts into tears. She stops seeing him, but the relief is mixed with the desire for self-punishment
One day at a school assembly, she flirts with one of the guest speakers, an intellectual law student named Roberto. Though he has a girlfriend, he is intrigued by Melissa, who is tiny, standing at five feet, and invites her to an abandoned country house. He is brutal, tells her he wants her to scream, showers her with obscenities, and she complies, but is finally detached from the act, distanced by his commands and his foul language. Still, she is very much in control when they meet, she strokes his macho ego and is amused by his transformation from the well-mannered guy to the passionate lover. She begins to discover things about men and the faces they put on to meet the world
On her sixteenth birthday, Roberto arranges a celebration” for her: he takes her to an abandoned house and blindfolds her, whereupon she is stripped by him and four other men who take turns caressing her. She is intermittently excited and at one point, during a pause in the action, thinks about leaving, but doesnt. She is then made to kneel down and give head to all five them, in succession, until they ejaculate. After the oral sex, they take turns mounting her. I felt invaded, dirtied,” she writes upon her return home. Then I brushed my hair a hundred times, as princesses do, my mother always says.” The next entry begins with broad irony: her mother asks, Did you have fun last night?” She suspects her daughter of smoking pot, but Melissa just feels empty.” The question of self-love is raised again, and she distinguishes between the girl who did not love herself last night and the girl who does this morning.
The next several entries switch between three different narrative threads, sexual relationships that begin on the internet. Melissa meets a lesbian called Letizia, who intrigues her. They exchange photos and talk on the phone. Im thinking (or perhaps Im deluding myself) that by surfing the net I might find someone inclined to love me.” She also finds Fabrizio, a thirty-five-old married man who repulses her--she wont kiss him--but whom she fucks. She is not doing well in school, so she finds a private tutor, a mathematics professor” in his late twenties called Valerio, who attracts her. Their relationship starts very professionally, with actual lessons, but he also arranges phone calls in which he tells her his fantasies and she masturbates. He calls her Lo” at the end of a call, an allusion that is later made explicit with a brief extract from Nabokov.
Melissa has her first encounter with Letizia, and then a sexy date with Valerio, who instructs her on what clothes to wear and takes her to a secluded spot. The encounter is outdoors at night, graphically described, beginning with their passionate kissing, continuing with them going down on one another, and then fucking in the car where ere she straddles him and reaches a shuddering orgasm. Fabrizio meanwhile has bought an apartment where he wants to rendezvous and watch porn films. But ultimately he has somethhhhhhing else in mind: they make an appointment, and she arrives first, only to find a group of boxes that each contain an assortment of sex-oriented clothing, ranging from lingerie to leather gear. She chooses the leather, and he shows up for a sadomasochistic encounter. She shows herself to be an accomplished dominatrix, sees the power to inflict pleasurable pain as self-defining, and vents her distaste for him as she whips him and fucks him with a dildo.
She realizes that of all her lovers, Valerio is the one most capable of recognizing her passion. She writes him a letter essentially explaining to him who she is, what shes looking for, asks if hes up to the task of seeing her as the passionate person she is. She doesnt hear back, and realizes that she is no more than a somewhat pedophiliac fantasy to him.
Then one night shes at a bar with her friends and someone catches her eyehe cant stop staring at her, she cant stop staring at him. They have a tentative conversation and then he shows up at her house to serenade her. She is amazed and touched and they go out on a date that lasts all night, though nothing physical happens. He alone has recognized her passionate self. But suddenly she doesnt know if she can handle true intimacy, she doesnt feel worthy. Valerio contacts her and she decides that a meeting with him will show what she really is, what she wants. When she arrives, Valerio introduces her to Flavio, and they arrange an evening at which a number of couples are invited. The idea seems to be an orgy, starring Melissa, but as soon as Valerio begins working on her, she decides to leave. On the way home in the car, she asks him about her letter. He doesnt respond till he drops her off: Addio, Lolita,” he says.
She sees Claudio again, and he admits that hes fallen in love with her. She challenges this love, asking him when he wants to make love to her, and his response is just what she has wanted for the entire book: when two people are joined together,” he responds, it is the height of spirituality.” The last few entries--they end in August 2002--show her vacillating between accepting and fearing his love. They finally spend the night together, and make love instead of simply fucking, and the diary ends on a very hopeful noteshe is loved, she has learned to love others, and more importantly herself.
This is a titillating and graphic account of one young girls extreme sexual journey, but it is also a fascinating and often sad portrait of female adolescent identity. The diary is impelled by Melissas arresting and powerful voice, transforming what could otherwise be mere pornography into a literary experience that is sweet, bold, and totally fresh.
"A scandalous bestseller in her native Italy, Melissa P.'s avowedly autobiographical novel recounts a Sicilian schoolgirl's erotic adventures. 'I want love, Diary,' she writes just before her 15th birthday. 'I want to feel my heart melt, want to see my icy stalactites shatter and plunge into a river of passion and beauty.' Love may be hard to find, but sex waits at every turn, and Melissa seldom says no. In calmly vivid prose, she describes the varieties of experience, beginning with her introduction to oral sex: 'I now had it before my eyes, it smelled male, and every vein that crossed it expressed such power that I felt duty-bound to reckon with it.' This same sense of duty mandates sex with a woman, sex with an older man, sadomasochistic sex, group sex. Although her mother tells an ill Melissa a fable about a princess, Melissa tells herself no fairy tales and therein lies the odd, potent purity of these pages. Agent, Anna Stein at Donadio & Olsen. (Oct.) Forecast: When the author turned 18, she revealed her family name of Panarello. But Melissa P. she is here (think The Sexual Life of Catherine M). Readers who recall the impact of 18-year-old Franoise Sagan's Bonjour Tristesse may prefer to shelve her with that other prodigy. " Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[A] remarkable two-year sexual odyssey....A junior-league Catherine M. bound to raise just as many eyebrows on this side of the Atlantic. One can only imagine where the author's literary career will take her next." Kirkus Reviews
"The erotic adventures of a sexually ravenous girl....A wisp of a book that has had a wallop of an impact...readers have simply devoured it." The New York Times
"The narrator brings an emotional authority to her work, letting the reader momentarily forget her age and simply relate to her often turbulent journey....100 Strokes is by turns romantic, erotic, sensationalistic, and disturbing." Rachel Kramer Bussel, Bust
"Remarkably self-assured...the shock waves of this self-revealing schoolgirl's confession...are still reverberating." The Times (London)
"[Melissa's story] is conveyed with cold, almost hypnotic sadness, rendered with language much more elegant and precise than one would ever expect from a mere teenager." Corriere della Sera (Italy)
"Catherine M. can go put her clothes back on....Melissa's diary in which this schoolgirl from Catania narrates her erotic experience is outselling Harry Potter." Les Echos (France)
The best-selling erotic novel by a Sicilian teenager about a young girl's search for love in a pornographic world "a scandal a' la Catherine M." (L'Espresso
An instant blockbuster in Italy where it has sold over 700,000 copies, and now an international literary phenomenon, 100 Strokes of the Brush Before Bed is the fictionalized memoir of Melissa P., a Sicilian teenager whose quest for love rapidly devolves into a shocking journey of sexual discovery.
Melissa begins her diary a virgin, but a stormy affair at the age of fourteen leads her to regard sex as a means of self-discovery, and for the next two years she plunges into a succession of encounters with various partners, male and female, her age and much older, some met through schoolmates, others through newspaper ads and Internet chat rooms. In graphic detail she describes her entry into a Dante-esque underworld of eroticism, where she willingly participates in group sex and sadomasochism, as well as casual pickups. Melissa's secret life is concealed from family and friends, revealed only in her diary entries.
Told with disarming candor, Melissa P.'s bittersweet tour of extreme desires is as poignant as it is titillating. 100 Hundred Strokes of the Brush Before Bed is a stunning erotic debut, a Story of O for our times.
An instant blockbuster in Italy where it has sold over 700,000 copies, and now an international literary phenomenon, "100 Strokes of the Brush Before Bed" is the fictionalized memoir of Melissa P., a Sicilian teenager whose quest for love rapidly devolves into a shocking journey of sexual discovery.