Monday, March 26, 2012

Sex Tourism

A book review by Ella Campana.

Sex Tourism is a topic which does not sit well with the average Australian. The idea of readily undertaking costly and time consuming travel for the expressed purpose of sleeping with exotic foreign prostitutes is not one which most people would like to admit they have considered, let alone done. This is in stark contrast to commentators such as Shane Brown of the website "Have Pack, Will Travel" who point toward the growing number of western "Sex Tourists" and "Sex-Pats" and their insatiable appetite for easy, cheap, no-strings-attached sex which is driving the booming sex trade in Asia and beyond.

Enter Nicholas R.W. Henning's book, "The Tourist". Upon reading the initial premise of the book I was sceptical that such a novel could hold my interest without leaving a slightly sour taste in my mouth. The idea of a man who "redeems himself" by sleeping with often unregulated, almost underage street prostitutes sounded implausible at best and at worst propaganda for illegal sex trafficking. I am happy to say my initial misgivings were completely and utterly misguided.

"The Tourist" tells the story of Alexander Nicholson, a man thrust into extreme privilege by his own mysterious adoption shortly after birth. Nicholson proves to be an antihero in the truest sense and we are privy to both his blessed early life and the often selfish choices which ultimately lead to his downfall and redemption. Henning's characterisation is masterful and the reader is left with a sense of warm fondness towards a man whose actions should make him for the most part universally despised.

Henning's real strength lies though in the way he is able to tactfully and vividly describe the reality of Sex Tourism. Not only are we brought into the rich world of each exotic location but through Nicholson we are able to gain real insight into the psych of the Sex Tourist. Nicholson's feelings towards the women he beds and what is stirred in him towards those he has left at home prove to be equally compelling and humanise what could have been a one dimensional character. In a sense sex is secondary to the bleak emotional reality of Nicholson's self-made situation.

What is perhaps most surprising about "The Tourist", however, is the way in which each strand of the narrative intertwines. We are equally invested in Nicholson as a guilt driven son, antagonistic husband, failed lawyer and careless father. It is through his world journey that we are able to unpack each failing along with Nicholson to repair each relationship towards establishing the startling truth about his biological heritage.

I strongly recommend "The Tourist" for casual readers who enjoy interesting character driven narratives but more so I recommend "The Tourist" for those readers who might be initially repulsed by the subject matter. This is not your ordinary take on sex tourism and what you lose in inhibition you may just gain in understanding. I know I did.

Please refer to these links to purchase a copy of The Tourist, cheapest seller.