3 Aug 2012

Fear of Flying, Fondness of F......

Did my headline seem like a bit much? If so, I'm sorry. Well, not really. If I'm being totally honest, it sums up "Fear of Flying" by Erica Jong rather nicely, I think.

This is not the kind of sex that you find in "50 Shades of Whatever" and its counter-parts. It's dirty, yes, but mostly because the people taking part in the sexual acts haven't had a shower in days... The sex in "Fear of Flying" is more real, not stylized in any way and way cooler than a lot of the drivel in the market at the moment. 

Isadora Wing is a 29-year old divorced and remarried author. Having married and divorced her clinically insane college boyfriend, she is now married to psychoanalyst Bennett and together they are attending a psychoanalysts' conference in Vienna. What better setting for a comedic drama than a room full of psychoanalysts all peddling their individual interpretation of Freud and Jung? While in Vienna, Isadora falls in lust with the psychoanalyst (yes there are a lot of them in this book, somewhere close to 120) Adrian Goodlove who appears to Isadora to be able to supply her with something that she has always wanted: the zipless fuck. As in an anonymous, non-commital, passionate roll in the hay. 
This is a love triangle unlike any I've come across in a novel before, especially as it is terribly short on love, and it causes Isadora to think back and consider her history with men in particular and with her own sense of self in general. 

As a main character, Isadora is interesting because she's bloody annoying. She is indecisive and does not know her own mind. She's frustrated with her sisters for looking down on her for not having children, yet condescends their life decisions. She is passive when she should be proactive, then stumbles mindlessly into trouble when she should be considering the best line of action. Yet somehow, she is also likeable, probably because she puts herself through an awful lot in the hope that things will end up right. Some will be appalled by what has been deemed her promiscuity but sex for Isadora is about more than the physical act, for her it seems to be a tool used to explore her own identify. She is on a journey of self-discovery and her fear of flying is not only literal but also a symbol of her fear of searching for herself and for her own identity instead of searching for a man whose identity she can mould herself on.   

It could all get a bit stuffy (especially as so many psychoanalysts are involved) but actually it is a really funny book, particularly the parts involved Isadora's sisters who really are quite a bunch. When it comes to dumb remarks and stupid decisions, they are up there with the Bennett sisters from "Pride and Prejudice". 

This is the thinking young woman's book. If you are a 18 to 20-year-old considering whether to spend your money on 50 Shades, please pick up "Fear of Flying" instead. It'll give you much more to think about and to consider, about yourself and your generation, about your mother's generation, about men and about sex.

Read it if: You're a woman between the ages of 18 and 60 with a sense of humour and an appetite for passion. 


  1. You make this sound very good. Every time I say that 50 Shades of Grey sounds awful, people like I'm opposed to sex in books, but I'm not, I'm just opposed to bad writing! The only thing that puts me off this one is that I did a psychology degree and so I'm a bit sick of psychoanalysis.

  2. Haha me too on all accounts :-) Agree with you, people seem to think that not liking 50 Shades means that you're a prude but it is just so awfully written. All that stuff about the inner goddess made me cringe. I'm also with you on the psychoanalysis bit, I did a psych degree too and from that perspective, it was actually really interesting to see how the psychoanalysts were represented in 1970s fiction. They come across like little masters of the universe which is not at all the impression I have of them and their area of expertise today.

  3. I won't be reading this book, but I did enjoy your review. It's nice to know something about this one other than its title. As soon as people started talking about how revolutionary 50 Shades was, I thought of Fear of Flying and haven't we all been through this stuff before.