Sex is forbidden at the Dasgupta Institute, the Buddhist retreat where Beth Marriot has taken refuge, and that's a big advantage. Beth has been working as a server, assisting in the kitchen and helping out-discreetly, so the meditators aren't disturbed. The meditators are making big sacrifices to come here and change their lives. So the servers must observe the rules, and silence and separation of the sexes are chief among them. But Beth is fighting demons. She came here at a crossroads in her life, caught between an older lover who wouldn't choose her and a young one who wants to marry her, and she may have caused another man's death when she risked her own life swimming out to sea in a gale. A singer in a band, vital and impulsive, fleshy and sexy, she has been a rebel and a provocateur. And now, conflicted and wandering, she stumbles on a diary in the men's dorm and cannot keep away from it, or the man who wrote it. At the same time, desiring-all too hard-to achieve the inner peace that Buddhist practice promises, she yearns for the example set by the slim, silent, white-clad teacher Mi Nu, and maybe yearns for something more. Comic and poignant at the same time, swiftly paced and completely engaging, Sex Is Forbidden is an entertaining novel about two profoundly different attitudes to life, and Beth-our narrator-is a character to be savored.
by Tim Parks
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