From the BLURB:
Emily Vargas has been taken captive. As part of his conditioning methods, her captor refuses to speak to her, knowing how much she craves human contact. He's far too beautiful to be a monster. Combined with his lack of violence toward her, this has her walking a fine line at the edge of sanity. Told in the first person from Emily's perspective, Comfort Food explores what happens when all expectations of pleasure and pain are turned upside down, as whips become comfort and chicken soup becomes punishment.
I’d been hearing a lot of hype about this book ‘Comfort Food’ by Kitty Thomas. A lot of bloggers were writing some very bizarre reviews and recommending it to me. I did get the feeling that people’s encouragement was being given with knowing smirks and wink-winks. I really wanted in on the joke, so I gave the book a go...
Emily Vargas has been captured. She is thrown in a cell and blindfolded. Her captor does not speak. He does not beat her, he does not threaten her. He is mute. He is silent. And that makes him all the more terrifying...
‘Comfort Food’ is dark erotica. Kitty Thomas is writing extreme BDSM erotic fiction – master/slave masochism without the simulated ‘tie me up, tie me down’ sex games. This is a story about a captured woman who is raped, and subjected to psychological torture. Her ordeal is made all the worse for the fact that she likes it. She comes to crave the pain and silence of her captor; she even ends up calling him ‘Master’.
‘Comfort Food’ is dark erotica, but it has quite a literary bent. The same way ‘Master’ plays with Emily’s emotions and warps her feelings, Kitty Thomas provokes similar reactions in her readers in a strange case of art imitating life.
In the beginning of the novel I was frightened for Emily. We meet her on the first day of her captivity, and read the confused jumble of her thoughts as she tries to retrace the steps that led to her capture. We read Emily through every momentous experience of her captivity – the day she exchanges sexual favours for food. The day her captor swaps her barren cell for a plush suite. The day she reads the rule-book and learns the reward/punishment scheme. We are right there with her... even when the bullwhips and chains start to feel more pleasurable than painful. And when she comfortably slips into the habit of referring to, and thinking of him as her ‘Master’, when she starts to crave his touch... As a reader we go with Emily into this downward spiral of complacency and acceptance. To the point where the sex scenes are delicious and evocative and you hardly even notice that it’s still sex under duress...
I didn’t move toward the door. I held his gaze and said, “I’ll do whatever you want.”The same way Emily surrenders to Stockholm syndrome, readers are likewise thrown into this odd conundrum of finding the story almost romantic, and not being as disturbed by the content as our conscience tells us we should be... I was really quite taken aback when I realized, halfway through the novel, that I was finding the sex scenes ‘sexy’. They are still a form of rape. Emily is still a prisoner. But Kitty Thomas has written such a masterful mind-fuck that I didn’t consciously notice my perverse reactions to the story until I finished it and was able to reflect.
I could see evidence of his arousal outlined through the pants he’d put back on. He was wearing only jeans, the muscles of his chest so beautiful I could hardly stand to look at him.
Still, he didn’t move. I walked to the door and shut it, and then panicked because I’d just locked myself into a sadistic torture chamber with my captor. My captor who I trusted not to hurt me because he never had before, not physically anyway.
It's especially weird that I (and many others) liked the book when, in recent years, monsters like Josef Fritzl have dominated news headlines. I must admit, Kitty Thomas does take a somewhat easy 'out' by making the Master a very handsome and rich man. Emily likens him to being the Patrick Bateman of psychos.
Oddly enough my one complaint about the novel was Kitty Thomas revealing the Master’s psyche. I thought the novel would have been all the more disturbing without a glimpse into this man’s thinking and motivation, and I’m not sure anything was gained by including his perspective that I hadn’t already assumed from his silence...? How strange that my only niggling complaint was to do with Kitty Thomas offering the ‘villain’s’ point of view, because I wanted the book to be even *darker*. How’s that for twisted?!
For me, reading ‘Comfort Food’ upon recommendation of fellow bloggers was somewhat similar to your friends suggesting you put a dollop of wasabi on your sushi if you’re never tried it before. You may very well say “but it’s green and it smells weird - are you sure I’ll like it?” and your friends all nod and say “yeah, it’s great! It’s like mustard. It’s Japanese mustard. It’s great.”
Well that was kind of my reaction to ‘Comfort Food’. The novel was like wasabi, a literary shock to my senses... but not awful, and surprisingly sinus-clearing.
To be honest, this book is a bit of a head-trip. It’s an uncomfortably sexy read and upon finishing the novel you will question your own personality and head-space. But darn, this is a fine piece of storytelling – equal parts intricate and invasive, evocative and eerie.
‘Comfort Food’ is a deliciously dark and disturbing piece of erotica. It is the dark-chocolate of erotica... definitely not for beginners and possibly not for the faint of heart either.