Author: Lola Smirnova
Genre: Fiction, dark, drama.
Originally published in: 2014
A dramatic, dark story about sex work in Europe, Twisted had all the potential to be one of those depressing books that show some of the ugliest aspects of life, following truly disturbing events. Yet, it fails in this mission. Unlike other similar novels inspired by true events that can make your whole day miserable, Lola Smirnova’s Twisted is written with an effortless sense of humour, making the whole reading process an easy ride.
The story is centred on three young Ukrainian sisters – Natalia, Lena and Julia. Each of them completely different from the other two, what they all have in common is lack of opportunities within post-Soviet Ukraine. Dreaming of a better life and a job that can bring them quick money, the sisters set off to Western Europe, where they join the growing sex industry of Luxembourg.
The narrator here is the youngest sister – Julia – and she tells the whole story of how they decided to join the sex trade and what that life brought to them, from her perspective. Needless to say, Julia is not the most reliable of narrators, as she is just a naïve, teenage girl, quick to jump to conclusions. Her likeability is also questionable. I have to say I found it really hard to like her since most of her decisions were rather poor and her character pretty tough to connect with. Some might put this down to her young age, but this is certainly not an excuse of the way she treats other people, even her sisters. Anyway, I am not someone who needs to like the protagonist in order to enjoy the book, so this did not bother me at all.
Now, for the sex work and all the details. Twisted is very (very!) graphic – so, be warned! Smirnova definitely does not shy away from sharing with the reader sexually explicit images, and some of those images are going to be hard to wipe out, believe me! The way she describes the many sex scenes is very natural, making the scenes so alive that you can easily see them in front of you, even if you have never been in a similar position yourself (pun unintended). The descriptions come to live, the characters (the many clients that the girls see) – even more so. You might even get a little scared of visiting Luxembourg in case you run into one of those shady men (but then again, don’t forget that this is a beautiful, little European country!).
However, the strongest point to this novel is its humour. As Julia takes us on this ride, she speaks of all the things that happen to her (some of them truly atrocious) with such an easy-going tone and even self-irony, that she makes you feel as if she is telling you the whole story over a cup of coffee. The humour is what makes the book believable. After all, even in the darkest of times, the human mind manages to find some light. Maybe not immediately, but in time – definitely, by the time he or she, is ready to tell their story.
Finally, Twisted is a very interesting, fast paced book. Personally, I do not think it took me more than a couple of days to finish it – the story is too gripping to be put down. I wanted to keep reading and reading, and see what is going to happen to the girls; where is this life going to take them. Thanks to the easy language and the lightness of the prose, this was an easy task. As long as you know what you are getting into, and you do not mind some quite explicit content, you are probably going to enjoy it. And better make your mind up fast for Smirnova is preparing to turn this one into the first title of a trilogy!
I was kindly sent this book by Kelsey from Book Publicity Services & all opinions are mine. For more information on Twisted go here.