REVIEW: Yearn: Tales of Lust and Longing By Tobsha Learner

Yearn : Tales of Lust and Longing By Tobsha Learner

 I think this book suffered a little because I judged it by its cover and it’s predecessor. It’s hard to tell from the thumbnail, but the cover picture is a gorgeous half-naked woman, covered in tattoos, seemingly flying with an umbrella like a modern-day Marry Poppins. When I saw it in one of my fave bookstores Oxford St Books in Leederville I instantly wanted it – initially because of the cover and then even more because I saw it was another collection of erotic stories by Tobsha Learner, author of The Witch of Cologne (a book that I haven’t read yet, but do own) Soul (which was a very memorable book) and two other collections of erotic stories, Quiver (which I haven’t read yet) and Tremble (which I loved). I didn’t buy it that day at Oxford St Books because I had just been to see Black Swan with my mum and brother and hadn’t a cent to my name, but I later saw it in the list of new books on my book club’s website and promptly ordered it :).

I thought, based on the kind of stories in Tremble (erotica but with a twist of fantasy, horror, or just plain strangeness) and the fanciful cover I was in for a series of odd and interesting erotic stories that would make great blog fodder, but as anyone who has been following my ramblings will see, I haven’t written a word about the stories in Yearn since I reviewed the first story Ink. I thought Ink was a very interesting story (despite being so long) but not many of the others lived up to it. All of them were well-written and interesting in their own way, but most of them were missing that added quirk that made Tremble such a memorable read. To her credit, Tobsha Learner can turn a sexy phrase wonderfully, and I like that all of her stories have real plot and don’t just read like a corny porno, but what I liked about Tremble was that each story was stranger than the next, while a lot of the ones in Yearn were sadly run of the mill. I was also disappointed that there was no story based on the tattooed Marry Poppins on the cover, as I was really looking forward to that one :(.

One thing I did find quite interesting is that all of the stories had some reference to a previous story, Ink being the main reference, so I had a bit of fun waiting for the link to pop up. These are the ones I noticed (although there may be ones I missed):

  1. The second Story, Flight Is about a famous Australia actor, Jerome Thomas, who longs for an erotic encounter with a woman who hasn’t heard of him and his string of Romantic Comedies. On the plane to London he is reading his latest script in which he would play Victorian biographer, D’Arcy Hammer, the same young biographer from Ink.
  2. In the third story, Barrow Boy, Eddy Wedgwood is a wealthy metals trader with working-class English roots that he has to keep hidden from his fiancée’s snobbish parents. At several points during the story it is mentioned that Eddy has an important meeting with a Chinese businesswoman who has just flown in, the same Chinese businesswoman who has a “mile-high club” encounter with Jerome Thomas in Flight.
  3. The fourth story Fur is one that has a couple of references. The story revolves around May, a university student whose boyfriend one day has a supposed mental breakdown, believing that he has been possessed by the spirit of a warlock and is shipped off to his mother’s leaving May with a big black cat called Shadow. May later has strange erotic dreams/experiences with a black man who she is uncertain is real or is a product of her own insanity, and who may or may not be Shadow in human form (besides Ink this was one of my favourites). Firstly May mentions the recent market crash, which occurs at the end of Barrow Boy. She also happens to be studying anthropology, and her thesis is on eighteenth-century tribes of Polynesia, which echoes back to the subject of D’Arcy Hammer’s biography in Ink, which is about the life and travels of explorer Joseph Banks, in particular his time in Polynesia. The explorer is also mentioned in one of her lectures.
  4. The fifth story, called Tigger is about Joanna Wutherer (or Tigger) a lecturer at Sydney University (and the same one who did the lecture on Joseph Banks in Fur) who meets a much younger man at an art opening. The story ends with the man, Seth, talking to May (from Fur) after Joanna’s wake and you find out the whole story has been his recount of how he met his wife.
  5. In Pussy and Mouse, the sixth story, Cassandra Whool is an overweight call-centre worker who lives out erotic power-driven fantasies online on Second Life. In Second Life Cassandra’s character, Tasinis, goes to Tahiti, a fantasy island set in the 1800’s, which is another reference to Ink.
  6. Weather, the seventh story (and another one I enjoyed) is about Phoebe Rosehurst who believes she shares a psychic connection with local weatherman Rupert Thornton after his sensual movements while predicting the weather leads to Phoebe having intense sexual fantasies and prophetic dreams. This story had another reference to Ink – one of the reports Phoebe has to look over at the insurance company she works at details damage done to the resting place of Joseph Banks.
  7. The eighth story is Flower, a story about recent divorcee, Sara La Carin, who wants to buy a collection of art and auction it off for charity. While searching at one gallery she spots Rupert Thornton (the weatherman from Weather) and her and her companion gossip about his failure to predict ‘the big storm of eighty seven’ which happens at the end of Weather.
  8. And finally, the ninth story The Alchemy of Coincidence (which is a good description of the whole book) which is about sculptor Jennifer (who created the sculpture Sara buys in Flower) and her new show which is about whether art can prompt a coincidental meeting. As a subject she chooses a man out of a french Vogue that she could never meet and crafts many copies of several of his body parts (face, ears, nipples, hands, penises, feet) to use in an installation, and starts to acquire an obsessive sexual fascination with him. Besides the character’s work being in Flower, this story has many other references to the other stories – probably the most. Sara’s husband is a film maker and one of his films launched the career of Jerome Thomas from Flight. Also while showing her work to her art dealer in a gallery, Sara looks at a piece of art inspired by the artist’s experience in Second Life, a reference to Pussy and Mouse.

So overall there was a few great stories, as well as some pretty average ones, and I did enjoy Yearn ….but just not as much as I thought I would. I also am still interested in reading all of Tobsha Learner’s work because I think she’s a very talented author.

I give Yearn : Tales of Lust and Longing by Tobsha Learner:

3 / 5 Stars 

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