4 out of 4 stars
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Note: there's a minor mention of underage incestuous rape in this book, as well as some cussing.
With a name like Lust, I almost didn't even consider reviewing this book. I'm very glad I looked at the book's description - this isn't an erotic book at all! Instead, it's a first person historical fiction account of a girl named Linda. Linda was unfortunate enough to get pregnant the first time she had sex when she was only 16. While this is seeming more and more common today, back in the late 1960s in Australia this was massively shameful. Instead of being supportive of their little girl, Linda's parents drop her off at Loxley House until she's had the child and given it up for adoption.
Loxley House is where the book takes place, starting with Linda being forcibly dumped there. The place is run by two strict nuns, but taken care of by putting the pregnant girls that stay there to work. The first order of business - Linda opening her bag to let one of the nuns go through her clothes and take any short skirts or shameful items (even her high heels), then mentioning that clothes like that are probably how she ended up in this mess - really sets the stage for the rest of her stay. The point is driven home even more when, later, she's told not to gain more than 25 throughout her pregnancy because otherwise it'll be obvious what happened when she gets home.
While being dumped out of ordinary life, imprisoned by nuns and worrying about what pain and discomfort pregnancy will bring would be enough to crush anyone, the sisterhood and friendship the girls share keeps them going. Lola Blake, the author, does a good job giving each of the girls their own personality and struggles, then blends them all together well in the house. All the girls end up dealing with their situation differently and it's interesting how even one of the nuns - Sister Catherine - becomes softer on the girls at times, understanding their pain and difficulties.
The book does a good job with its setting as well. It's really interesting to see an era my parents went through - the sexual revolution. Suddenly music, magazines and television were becoming "crude". Women were burning bras and people were "liberated". But, as the book points out, it's really only the men who reaped the benefits. The girls who became pregnant were shamed and, in these cases, essentially forced to give their kids up for adoption. The men responsible, however, either never knew about it or couldn't care less - it just wouldn't be fair to burden them with their pregnancy. Even after the pregnancy, the women were looked at as "ruined", and no one would want an easy woman no matter how in love they were when they ended up pregnant or if they were raped. These are things that, over 40 years later, are still valid today where men who hook up with girls are studs but girls who hook up with guys are looked down upon.
Overall, the book did a fantastic job of not only capturing the era and the thoughts these girls went through, it was able to explore all sorts of outcomes thanks to having so many girls at Loxley House. Really the only flaw I found with the book was that it could use some editing. There were a few situations where a word was missing, the wrong word was used or an extra word was thrown in that made a sentence take a few reads to understand. If I could, I'd give the book a 3.5, but it's more worthy of 4 out of 4 stars than 3. Also worthy of mentioning is that this is said to be "A Seven Sisters Novel (Volume 1)". If this wasn't mentioned, I never would've even considered this as part of a series because it absolutely stands alone. I'm really intrigued to see what's explored next!
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