This book has an autobiographical flavor, whether or not all the sex in it really happened. The first two chapters daringly describe teenage sex in a way which looks honest and faithful to the times and places of the author’s youth: a summer in the 1960s in the lush farmland of Ontario, and springtime in Ottawa, within sight of the Parliament Buildings of Canada.
The author describes A Country Girl as a sequel to an earlier book by/about the same narrator, Angela, published in 1975. The first few chapters of A Country Girl also seem to come from a time before the Feminist Sex Wars of the 1980s, when two government studies of pornography (one in Canada, one in the U.S.) and a flurry of court battles in both countries increased the anxiety of writers and readers about sex on the page, especially when it involves characters under the age of majority.
The sexual awakening of the young narrator in A Country Girl seems rare enough in currently-published erotica to be worth the price of the book. Here Angela “makes out” with William, the shy, hunky boy she meets during a summer in the country:
“We sat together hugging and kissing against the window on my side of the car under the shade of the cedar trees for three hours. How we could kiss for so long I'll never know, and I in my innocence not knowing much of anything kept on with the kissing never knowing we could do more but kissing and kissing until I was so hot and excited and love-filled that I could barely leave him.”
The next time Angela is alone with William, she finds out what happens when she persistently touches his large, hard and fascinating “thing:”
“Suddenly he groaned and kissed me. A white fluid came out all over my hand.
That's what happens when you do that to me.
Oh William. I didn't know. My hand was wet and slimy as I held him in my hands.
You're sweet. Now you know.
Yes, now I know.
He had his fingers on my crotch and fingered me there. I felt all tingly and excited. I was very wet.”
Eventually, Angela and William go further under the moonlight beside a sweet-smelling hay field:
“Oh Angela, he moans. Oh Angela, I love you. I am burning inside on fire the walls of my cunt tingling with hot fire. He pushes to the back and I feel a dull sweet ache.
Love me! Love me! I say.
I am completely his. I will do anything for him. I will give myself to him. My virginity, my maidenhood, my love, my flesh, my cunt.”
The exhilaration of young love is doomed, of course. William and Angela must part when Angela is due to return to her home in town, and they both realize that they are too young to marry.
In the next chapter, Angela is attending high school in town and dreaming of escape. Her life is dramatic as only a teenager's can be:
“My first poem was about death. . . my next poem was about a graveyard. I would cry over my hero's grave, and he would emerge and we would make love. The birds were singing.
Or else we'd meet after death.
That was the answer. I began a death cult. I would die at twenty-eight in a motor accident. He [James Dean] died at twenty-four. I'd never live to be thirty. Of course I'd never marry. I was romantic, beautiful and sexually unfulfilled. I'd never make it.
My hero rode a bike. I fancied myself on a bike. I took to wearing black and leather. Tight jeans and windbreakers. I cultivated smoking a cigarette cupped in my hand and held backward, the way he did it.”
Angela meets a boy with a motorbike, whom she has to meet secretly:
“My parents wouldn't let me go out with Rex. A little too rough for them, just right for me.
I dreamed of bikes. Big, gleaming bikes. The speed. Mounting the shining black saddle. Astride, the feel of the bike between my legs.”
Angela enjoys wild rides with Rex, but as high school graduation approaches, it becomes painfully clear to her that she and he are headed for different futures.
In the next chapter, the shapely, green-eyed and curly-haired Angela is in university and has acquired a husband, Tony. She describes herself loving the earthiness of sex in the outdoors and the freedom of going braless. The suggestive sketches (charcoal drawings?) between chapters add a lot to Angela's story, and serve to introduce each new phase of her life.
Angela is sexually adventurous, yet she seems apolitical and unaware of the various strands of leftist ideology (the liberation movements for women, “gays,” youth and the racially-oppressed) which were fomenting on college campuses in that era.
For years, Angela wonders about the sexual tastes of her big-breasted classmate, Elizabeth. She is rumored to be interested in women, but is not associated with lesbians in general. Angela tells us: “Elizabeth was intelligent, ambitious, social, and yet inclined to be alone around campus.”
One evening when Angela is alone, Elizabeth invites her over for a drink, and presses against her. Angela responds:
“I betray myself. In my eyes. I can't help it. I desire her. It's going through me like a knife. I don't know what I am doing, I am swimming with desire.”
Angela has her first sexual experience with a woman. Elizabeth is worried about whether Angela will tell Tony, and how he will react. She does, he is delighted, and for the next session, all three pile onto Elizabeth's bed together.
In due course, Angela and Tony join up with other male/female couples for swinging scenes which include woman/woman action. There is an amazing lack of jealousy in these arrangements, and Angela's sexual interest in other women never causes her or anyone she knows to question her heterosexual identity.
In one poignant chapter, Angela struggles with a crush on a colleague, Eugene, who seems to have “something in his blood, mystic, barbaric, mysterious that I understand. For I have that in me too.” Angela explains that “Tony was trying to push me into a relationship with a couple that I didn't want.” She wants to choose her own object of desire.
Eugene is married and has a child. He is not a swinger. For an agonizingly long time, Angela wonders if she could ignite a spark in him. She does, but their mutual passion further complicates their lives. The sex between them is bittersweet.
A chapter on swinging with an American couple in Florida is detailed and convincing. This time, Angela's desire for the other husband threatens to upset the general merriment and good will. So far, the book is like an episodic and disproportionately sexual novel about a woman's life-journey. Angela learns that sex outside the box of conventional commitments carries an emotional price, but it is too thrilling for her to give up.
Angela continues to be fearlessly experimental in her way, but the interested reader looks for epiphanies and psychological development in vain. Angela and Tony get divorced and she goes on to meet new men, but she shows no signs of change. There are brief references to her post-university scientific career, but the non-sexual aspects of Angela's life have no effect on the repetitive sex scenes: one blow job and fuck after another.
The last chapter, “Call Me,” looks immensely padded to achieve a certain word-count. It is about Angela's telephone-fantasy relationship with a man who calls her from time to time to exchange sex fantasies and occasionally to meet her in person, although they start out with an agreement that actual sex is taboo. They share a variety of imaginary and real-life activities: oral, anal, bondage, even golden showers.
These scenes are clearly aimed at readers who would otherwise be reading porn magazines, yet it seems unlikely that those readers would have followed Angela's life-story this far. Her relationship with her gentleman caller, like her relationship with the reader, simply goes on and on without reaching any resolution.
Some of Angela's fantasies show a world-view which looks embarrassingly naïve, not to say appallingly racist:
“What about you getting a black boyfriend? He asks.
And we'd have a threesome with a big black cock.
References to current events such as Hurricane Hugo (in summer 1989) make it clear that this chapter was written and takes place long after the era when White Anglo-Saxon Protestant perceptions of everyone else as alien life-forms accompanied widespread racial segregation.Angela's story seems to be best in its beginning, when the reader's hopes are raised and anything seems possible. This book turns out to be a discomforting mixture of ambience and emotional realism with pornographic cliches. Sex scenes can certainly be combined with literary elements such as plot, characterization and a distinct voice, all of which are present here to some extent. In this case, though, the sex just isn't integrated well enough with the life.