REVIEW BY SHANE HOPKINSON
The Houseparty: A Politically Correct Love Story
By Winsome Hawthorne
Write to PO Box 183, Kurrajong, NSW 2758 or <email@example.com>
A new genre of writing has emerged — the Australian feminist romantic novel. The Houseparty is a great romance novel set in Sydney.
Before you ask why the hell is it being reviewed in the pages of Green Left Weekly, I should point out this is Mills & Boon with a good dose of humour, political lampoon and erotica.
It starts with boy-meets-girl. He is a unreconstructed male academic and she is feminist moral philosopher. If the label "feminist" fills you with ambivalence, don't worry because this book's great strength is its portrayal of a feminism that is at odds with the mass media images of feminism as a puritan sect.
It moves on to girl-hates-boy. Once his proclivity for seducing his students is revealed, she dumps him soundly and the rest of the novel is spent exploring his process of winning her back. The course of "True Love" takes us on an orgy of self-discovery (and there are plenty of orgies between the book's central characters). Our innocent hero runs the gauntlet of communitarian values, feminism and eros, all the while indulging in some gorgeous sounding vegetarian gourmet dishes.
Like the 18th century pornographic novel, erotica becomes a vehicle for social comment. The pro-sex feminism at its heart bears the reader along, leaving the anti-pornography crusaders in its wake.
Lest one think that this makes it dull and heavy it's not. There are many touching moments in the book and the cabaret that the main characters organise is very funny, culminating in a choir singing "All Things Crass and Bankable". The moral corruption wrought by the John Howard's government and its fellow economic sadomasochists are wonderfully exposed.
The sexual action is explicit but never crude, nothing happens that is non-consensual, or that eroticises women's subordination. Our feminist hero is, after all, a campaigner against misogynist pornography. Here is a compulsive page-turner and a textbook of feminist theory all in one.