The original Fifty Shades of Grey, Edith Templeton’s novel Gordon has been banned, pirated and published under various names for almost fifty years
Post-war London. Louisa, a smartly dressed young woman in the midst of a divorce, meets a charismatic man in a pub, and within an hour has been sexually conquered by him on a garden bench. Thus begins her baffling but magnetic love affair with Richard Gordon. Gordon, a psychiatrist, keeps Louisa in his thrall with his almost omniscient ability to see through her, and she is equally gripped by the unexpected pleasure of complete submission. Subjecting herself to repeated humiliations at his hands, but quite unable and unwilling to free herself from his control, Louisa and Gordon sink further and further into the depths – both psychologically and sexually.
An extraordinary novel of psycho-sexual entanglement that was banned for indecency in England in 1966, in Gordon, Edith Templeton captures one of the most unusual and disturbing love stories ever written.
‘Templeton’s characters are not passive or self-doubting. Their pleasure in sexual submission is a mark of their toughness: they can take what their men give them’ The New York Times
‘Sexual perversion, masochistic dependency, obsession and suicide’ Telegraph
‘An unsettling tale of sexual obsession’ The New Yorker
‘It is unlikely that any young woman will write a book as good, as honest, as provocative as Gordon‘ Telegraph
‘Superbly written and unsettling’ Beryl Bainbridge
Edith Templeton was born in Prague in 1916 and spent much of her childhood in a castle in the Bohemian countryside. Her short stories began to appear in The New Yorker in the 1950s and caused a major stir because of their sexual explicitness (these stories are available in one volume entitled The Darts of Cupid as a Penguin ebook). Gordon first appeared in 1966 under the pseudonym Louise Walbrook and was subsequently banned in England and Germany; it was then pirated around the world, appearing under various titles. In 2001, Edith Templeton agreed to publish the novel, with its original title, under her own name. She died in 2006.
This is an unsettling tale of sexual obsession, control and tragic love.
The limits the couple go to are beyond the norm of the era. A tale that may shock, but great reading with superb writing.
” Oh God, what have I let myself in for?, I thought as I looked into his eyes and found them decidedly unpleasant. They were deep-set, dark grey, and ringed with white, a peculiarity of the iris I had sometimes observed in very old people. But their almost sinister look derived probably from their placement. They were set at uneven levels, the left eye slightly higher than the right one. It must have been this which had given me my first impression of nastiness.
He was neither short nor tall, slender and narrow-boned, of an unimpressive physique I did not care for; and neither did I care for his face, though it held the same kind of fascination which informs the irregular and jutting outlines of a romantic ruin. The nose was high-bridged and uneven, the cheeks hollow beneath strong cheek-bones, the lips long, the chin beautifully and firmly rounded. The slightly waved jet-black hair grew low on to wide forehead, underscoring the somber pallor of the face like a cluster of dark ivy streaking down a flight of crumbling crenellations.”
“I looked at him. Then I turned my face away. Beyond my upset I was flooded by a deep happiness, similar to the one he made me feel when forcing me to surrender to his virility. No one else before him had given me this gratification, but I realised now that the longing to be violated, body and soul, must have always been inside me.”
“It was though I had been in possession of one of those small shells with Japanese flowers which are sold at street corners. When plunged into a bowl of water, the tightly sealed shell opens and the flat, dry, coiled-up, insignificant shreds of paper contained within float out and unfold their variegated and unsuspected splendour; with Gordon I had found my bowl of water.”