Learner, Tobsha. Yearn: Tales of lust and longing

Harper Collins, $32.99

Right, let’s get the sex out of the way first; then we can all feel a bit more comfortable. The sex. It’s frequent. It’s descriptive. It’s choreographed.

Remarkable erotica, it leaves nothing to the imagination.

However, it’s a lazy, or perhaps single-minded, reader who calls this mere erotica. Sure, these girls do know how to have fun. Within the collection of nine tales, there’s mile-high smut, eighteenth century mystic orgies, a tear-jerker tale of romantic passion, a weatherman’s stalker, S&M in the online community Second Life, and the rediscovery of teenage love. Random visits from such characters as the hedonist’s hedonist, Joseph Banks, various artists, a retiring economics student-turned-warlock, and a black cat that morphs into a muscular love-god showcase our author’s imagination, both sexually and not.

Learner dares you to categorise her. She does not just write raunch. Yearn’s strongest story is its least erotic. ‘Pussy and mouse’, a tale of an overweight social recluse who spends every spare minute – six hours a day, meals in front of the screen – as a famous online dominatrix, is beautiful, sad, and downright poignant. Its weakest story involves a liaison between a wealthy recent divorcee and her (mostly) gay companion. In between is a clever, prettily written and yes, titillating, collection of tales that would hold their own even if they weren’t graphically accessorised with lust and longing.


Reviewed February 2011