My Renaissance by Julia Chambers is an eloquent tale depicting a woman’s inquisitive exploration of the world and herself. This woman, Julia, moves to Milan to teach English. What she doesn’t expect is to learn and grow for herself; her sexuality blossoms as she discovers her body and the pleasure it is capable of both giving and receiving. Indeed her philosophies and perspectives on life have changed. As readers we share with Julia her experiences; we are right there, voyeuristically reading about the sex she has and the relationships she develops.
I found myself being captivated by the artistically sensual writing found in this book. Chambers writes so fittingly for Milan; the fine descriptions paid homage to the city’s timeless beauty. While this tale focused on Julia’s explorations, this resulted in a wide expanse of sexual detail because the character herself was a curious one. I appreciated the insight into the dark, seductive alleys as well as the sunny, romantic afternoons that Julia shared with the readers. She found pleasure in a wide range of scenarios, with people ranging in age, size, and gender.
Some themes that resonated with me is that life is what you make it and that nothing lasts forever. Even in the most casual of trysts the folks involved could still enjoy it for what it was. If the opportunity is a thoughtful one, it can be valuable to explore pleasure with someone(s). Indeed Julia remained a “free agent” throughout the decades named in this book, but she had happiness and pleasure that came in heaps and bounds. I really appreciated that this book gave a positive light onto a young and aged woman who remained single.
This coming-of-age (via sexual maturation) story is a thoughtful one. Because I read this book at a leisurely pace relishing in the artful world it depicted, at times I wondered where the plot was leading. I wanted to have some more direction as to the climaxes and resolutions Julia faced throughout her travels, other than simply the inevitable fact that she had to move away in the end. Otherwise, I grew to love the writing style and I simply adored the sex scenes. I wish I knew more Italian too.
Check out my interview with the author, Julia Chambers, below. A big thank you to Panpathic Communications for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for my review of it. xoxo
About the Author
Julia Chambers lives and works in London, a city she loves with a passion undiluted by the years and the transport system. Her stories have been published in several literary journals. My Renaissance is her first collection of elegant erotica stories, with One Day soon to follow.
In the sharp bright Spring of 1981 a young girl with flaxen hair and an open heart arrives at Malpensa, a shabby airport on the industrial outskirts of Milan. Brimful of excitement and trepidation and wholly unprepared, she has come to teach English to the sophisticates of this Northern Italian city and, of course receives a sexual and sentimental education of her own…
What inspired you to write My Renaissance?
In the early 1980s, as a feminist who was very impressed with the writing of many brilliant feminist academics, I felt greatly compromised in my sexual politics by my love of sex and of men. It was the heyday of the anti-pornography movement and although so much of what was, and still is, sold as sex is indeed misogynistic and degrading to both sexes, I felt that there must be another way of depicting sex that was more suited to my purpose – to turn me on without turning off my principles. Women were indeed writing sex – in the early ’80s there was an explosion of woman-generated ‘erotica’ – but they were still peddling all those old nasty, and oh–so–tired fantasies of domination and submission. So what if the dominant was the woman? It was still power play, and I wanted parity of desire and of fulfilment. So – I started writing my own. Distressed in the 2010s by what is still being written by women for women, I decided to compile my stories and put them out there myself.
Why is this a love letter to Italy in particular?
I worked as an English teacher in Milan in the 1980s in my early 20s, a time of experimentation for me in every field of life: emotional, sexual, professional. I was looking for role models and found many in one of the most theatrical cities in Europe, everyone was playing a role and dressing for the part. I was already an artist of sorts and already in love with the Renaissance, so it was like meeting a fantasy, and unlike most fantasies, it didn’t disappoint, then or now.
Is this your first romance/erotica book? Do you hope to write more?
It is my first novel but I have already written several stories for my next. They are erotic but also, I hope, rather funny.
Erotica falls into many categories – how would you describe yours?
I want my stories to be erotic in the original sense – derived from Eros, love. I write about love not the self-loathing that impels many of the protagonists in contemporary literary sexual relationships. I write about sensuality and the pleasure, not the pain, of contact, of skin on skin. I respect sex, consider human sexual relations some of the most complicated, enriching and damaging any of us will ever have; the subject matter itself deserves some consideration as more than masturbatory material for a quick come. A lot of sex writing also restricts itself to the sex act, I want to remind the reader that there are so many ways to excite desire and fulfil it and I want none of those ways in my writing to demean the reader or me in pursuit of that fulfilment.
What literary genre do you enjoy reading the most?
As a teacher of literature I have to read very widely, the classics and contemporary – most of my reading is pretty mainstream but I do love the Gothic and ghost stories!
Do you have any advice to aspiring authors out there?
Read. Read. Read. The greats are so for a good reason, they are masters and mistresses of their art and you can have no better teacher than the very best! Perhaps start with a short story – read anything by William Trevor and Alice Munro.
Where might I direct fans to you/r work online?
Where to buy: