Monday 13 April 2015

Review: Tampa by Alissa Nutting

Tampa is not for the faint-hearted as I found out when I started reading it last week. It's clear to see why it was coined as the "most controversial book of the summer" in 2013. In Alissa Nutting's debut novel, she tackles the taboo topic of pedophilia from the perspective of beautiful teacher, Celeste Price.

While Tampa was predicted to be the must-have beach book when it was first published, the subject matter unapologetically makes the reader uncomfortable (really uncomfortable!) Graphic sex scenes between a 26 year old woman and a prepubescent schoolboy isn't the easiest of topics to read about, particularly not on your morning commute!

It is clear that Alissa was influenced by Lolita and American Psycho, Celeste is a sociopath with intense desires and opinions. However, we see the world through her eyes, an uncomfortable place for the reader and it forces you to tackle the social statement Alissa Nutting intended head on.

Tampa is based on a the real-life case of Debra Lafave, who Alissa went to school with. Despite her inappropriate relationship with an underage student, Debra was deemed "too pretty" to go to prison, and although was put on three years house arrest, she served no jail time.

The story makes an example of how much physically attractiveness can benefit you, despite your crimes. Celeste uses her beauty to manipulate those around her to get what she wants, and what she wants most of all is the touch of young boys. I dare say that there would have been very different consequences if the genders were reversed and the beauty taken away.

Tampa is beautifully written, and although a disturbing read, the message behind it is demonstrated perfectly. I'll be very sad to take this book back to the library.

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  1. I've wanted to read this for years now, but I've always been bit reluctant to. I do struggle with uncomfortable reads - I wasn't a fan of Lolita AT ALL - but Tampa sounds really interesting. Having said that, I work in a nursery and trained as a teacher, so reading about paedophillic affairs REALLY isn't appropriate, especially as I get almost all my reading done at work!
    Beth x

  2. This is really interesting - I wasn't aware of the Debra Lafave case (or the book's relation to it) when I read it. I think that might have changed my mind about the book, which, while I found interesting and shocking at first, I got a little bored with towards the end - I couldn't stand any of the characters (not even any of the boys or their families) and it really grated that no one seemed to suspect Celeste, no matter how blatant her behaviour. I'm possibly just naive but I like to think that people wouldn't be quite so forgiving on a paedophile just because they're pretty! You're right though - it would be a completely different story if the older person had been a man.



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