‘Transgressive’ is a tricky word to define in terms of fiction. But however you do it, the word conjures up ideas of pushing boundaries, breaking certain societal and perhaps moral expectations, taking things that little bit further. A Certain Hunger by Chelsea G Summers certainly dabbles in this area, and is a superbly refreshing read as a result.
This is the American author’s debut novel, but Summers is an experienced journalist and non-fiction writer, and her delightful turns of phrase in this novel are obvious evidence of that fact.
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The antiheroine of Summers’ story is Dorothy Daniels – a middle-aged food critic based in New York who has always had a voracious appetite for everything in life.
The book opens with her picking up a young man for sex in a hotel bar. Her delight in her own sensual pleasure and her taste for ultimately selfish adventure are hints towards Dorothy’s secret.
As the book progresses, we realise that the story is being narrated by Dorothy from prison, looking back on her unique life. It transpires that Dorothy wasn’t just picking up random men for sex – she was killing them, and then consuming some of their remains.
The details of this stuff are not shirked at all, so the book might not be for some of a more delicate constitution, but it is to Summers’ credit that she manages to keep the reader on board with her monstrous creation.