The 100 Lovers are various times and lovers when the main character, Deb, is happy. Her ‘lovers’ also include sunshine, cheese, going to the hairdresser, new pencils and Paris. “I remember a peach I once ate in a garden in France, sitting next to my new husband. The sweetness of the peach seemed to match the sweetness at the heart of the world. At that moment I believed I would never again feel contingent, or estranged from sweetness.” Johnson is a wonderful writer; Lovers is almost a poem. “She was a daydream, a breath, nothing other than what the body wanted.” As Deb turns 50 she looks back on her life with wonder, love and a sense of adventure. “In the months leading up to my fiftieth birthday I observed the first tentative signs of life’s waning … the face I had worn all my adult life began to change into the face of someone else … My body was in the thrilling first flush of its death throes.” She starts with her conception, though the novel is not completely in chronological order. Her parents were completely self-absorbed, Dad a philanderer, Mom had been famous for her beauty – ‘you’re nothing out of the box,’ she tells her daughter, ‘I was exquisite when I was your age’. One night, her mother: ‘ran upstairs and dragged me from my dreaming bed to the top of the stairs so that when my father opened the front door he was confronted by the sight of my mother holding the tip of the knife against my throat. ‘If you take another step I’ll slit her throat.’ ” Despite her childhood she comes away loving life and who she is both at 16 and at 50.
My Hundred Lovers is a hymn celebrating life.