The Dangerous Bride: A Memoir of Love, Gods and Geography

Lee Kofman

The Dangerous Bride: A Memoir of Love, Gods and Geography
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The Dangerous Bride: A Memoir of Love, Gods and Geography

Lee Kofman

What do you do when your husband claims to be madly in love with you, but doesn’t desire you sexually? When your therapist is more interested in opening an online sex-toy shop with your husband than in saving your marriage? Do you try yet another counsellor, get divorced or settle for a sexless marriage? Lee Kofman, rebellious daughter of ultra-orthodox Jews, has always sought her own way. True to her Bohemian dream where love can coexist with sexual freedom, she decided to experiment with an open marriage, despite the fact that her previous nonmonogamous relationship ended in disaster.

Our cultural mores suggest that love without monogamy is impossible, but Lee hoped she could do better the second time round and embarked on a personal exploration to find out whether she could save her marriage while being nonmonogamous in an ethical way. For several months she talked to swingers, polyamorists, cross-dressers, suburban families, artists and migrants-in short, to anyone who has ever been involved in an unconventional relationship.

Set during Lee’s first years in Australia, it is also the story of migration, and an exploration of the eternal conflict between our desire for security, but also for foreign places - in love and elsewhere. The Dangerous Bride tells the story of her quest.

Review

Lee Kofman loves her husband deeply, and he loves her. But in a marriage full of romance but increasingly devoid of sexual passion, the Russian-born Israeli writer – addicted to freedom and pleasure and strangeness – begins to feel this isn’t enough. Inspired by figures such as Anaïs Nin and Iris Murdoch, and seeking to learn from a past open relationship turned toxic, she embarks on a personal exploration of the world of ethical non-monogamy. Meeting with suburban swingers, cross-dressers and polyamorists, artists and migrants, she asks how the introduction of another changes the dynamic of a relationship – for better or worse.

Weaving the narratives of famous figures and interview subjects through Kofman’s own experience – from her arrival as a migrant in Melbourne to a tryst at a Perth writers’ retreat – The Dangerous Bride is neither a how-to guide, nor a cautionary tale. Rather, the story is one of exploration, and Kofman’s changing understanding of love, sexuality, culture and her own desires. Kofman unashamedly uses her research as a way of navigating the issues within her marriage – indeed, the book is, as much as anything, the story of its own creation.

Kofman’s writing is infused with breathtaking, visceral descriptions of love and pain and longing. Each lover, partner and interviewee is painted with a humanity and warmth that brings out the multitudes within them. Kofman, too, is wistful and introspective, but brutally honest in her analysis of herself – it’s impossible not to identify with her as she wrestles with both the desire to be loved and the desire to be free. Tender and challenging, The Dangerous Bride strikes an exquisite balance between the investigative and the deeply personal that typifies the very best memoir writing.


Alan Vaarwerk is the editorial assistant for Readings Monthly.

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