I don’t remember if I’ve mentioned it before (and I just checked – I don’t think I have), but I’m a fan of The Secret Diary of a Call Girl (dammit, now I have the opening titles song stuck in my head), starring Billie Piper (who was Rose in Doctor Who and who shares a birthday with somebody you know and love). So, after watching two and some series of that, I decided to finally give in and read the book it was based on, Belle de Jour‘s book The Intimate Adventures of a London Call Girl. Except that it’s not called that anymore, as you can see (I’m never thrilled with getting the TV/movie tie-in version of books, but for Rose, I’ll make an exception, I guess).
And I have to say I was kind of conflicted. Mostly I was disappointed to find that I just didn’t like her! I like Billie Piper’s version of her very much – which was why I decided to read the book (her character has just published the book the show is based on and she’s in the midst of writing the second one…on the show – it’s all very meta and kind of confusing to try to explain it). This may not make a lot of sense if you haven’t seen the show (or read the book), but it seems to me that the show is narrated by Hannah (the real Belle) and the book is narrated by Belle (the call girl). It helps that on the show we’re allowed to see her insecurities, her friends, her thoughts – all the things that I can identify with.
I mean, I wasn’t expecting to relate to Belle (I don’t think we could actually have less in common), but I was expecting to connect with her and I just couldn’t. Maybe it’s that I couldn’t get past the hints of pretentiousness that are in the book – the dates are given in French which really annoyed me (also, I may have been disappointed in myself that I couldn’t remember my French for the days of the week – how quickly you lose things you’re not using! [Shouldn’t it be du jour?]). You’re a London call girl, why are you speaking French?! If you were a Parisian call girl, it would make sense – being a London one just makes it an affectation (um, unless the real Belle is French, in which case…never mind [but I don’t think she is]). Or maybe it’s a barrier that comes of writing anonymously. She’s since revealed her identity, but at the time she hadn’t, so she can’t tell us too much about herself or her friends for fear of revealing enough to identify them, but it does keep a distance between her and the reader. I mean, maybe it was all one big extended metaphor for what she does, but for someone who made a living by creating the illusion of personal connections, it didn’t seem to me like she was very good at it.
But on the other hand, it’s not that I didn’t like it. I think I did. It’s the kind of book that is hard to put down and easy to just think ‘Well, one more day. Okay, one more. Okay, just this last one. Well, I may as well finish the month now.’
My rating: B- (Watch the TV show, it’s much better! Mondays at 10p.m. on Showtime…)
*Since she’s revealed her identity, she’s writing another book which will be shelved under fiction this time instead of memoir like the first two (?) volumes are. That does make me wonder about how much of it is actually true, although it’s entirely possible that her publisher is just suffering from James Frey syndrome and trying to cover their asses…just in case. I’m not sure it should make a difference, but for some reason it kind of does.