Bookworm's Reviews > Fanny Hill, or Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure

Fanny Hill, or Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure by John Cleland
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Apr 26, 2011

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Read in April, 2011

Memoirs Of Fanny Hill has been called the first pornographic book and it is one of the most banned books ever.
I stumbled upon Memoirs Of Fanny Hill on my iTouch Classic Books app. Would I consider it a classic? I'd consider it classic porn, which is a genre I've never read.

The story is written in two parts. In the first part of the story we get to know Frances Hill and how she became a prostitute at a young age. She was born to a poor family in Liverpool. At age fifteen, both her parents died of smallpox. She was brought to London by a family friend and is abandoned there. Fanny is looking to work as a housemaid and stumbles unknowingly upon a whorehouse run by a Mrs. Brown who takes Fanny in and tells her her 'maidenhead' will fetch a good price.

Fanny continues to live the life of a prostitute, but as time passes, she becomes smarter. In the second half of the story we see a more experienced Fanny. By the end of the story, she is nineteen years old.

Throughout the book she recollects her many lovers and sexual encounters. There is plenty of sex in the plot. Same sex partners, light bondage and lashings, to a full-on orgy are all in the storyline. Voyeurism was a sort of past-time for a few of the characters in this story, they always seemed to find a peep-hole available. It's all very scandalous and shocking, especially considering this book was written in 1749. (way before my beloved Pride & Prejudice)

This was a spicy read, even by today's standards. I'm surprised that he wrote the story without any outright vile language.
I found the writing to be well done. John Cleland would definitely give some erotic fiction writers a run for their money. However, I did laugh at some of the word use. The author uses the funniest names while referring to the male form. The engine of love assaults, enormous machine, IT, staff of love and object of terror and delight, just to name a few.
He describes female pubic hair as the richest sable fur in the universe. I'm sorry, but I laughed out loud while reading that!

All in all, this was an unexpected read for me and I enjoyed it enough to keep reading. I finished it in two sittings. It was bawdy and scandalous and I did wonder what would become of Fanny.

I read that author John Cleland and the publishers and printer of Fanny Hill were arrested shortly after publication. The novel of course, continued to sell in pirated forms. Sex does sell, no matter what century we're in.

read my full review here

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