S02E02 – It’s Been a Pleasure, Noni Blake

What would life look like if you only focused the things that bring you pleasure? Noni Blake is about to find out. This episode, we are joined by Shelby from the Chub Rub Book Club podcast to discuss body image, anxiety, and the joys of prioritising yourself. We love the sex positivity and portrayal of self-care in this book, but acknowledge the privilege required to uproot your life to focus on your own wellbeing.

Mental health issues covered: anxiety, panic attacks, self-esteem and body image challenges, self-care

Additional trigger warnings: relationship breakdowns, fatphobia, miscarriage, sexual content, grief.

Listen to the podcast to hear our thoughts!

About the Book

Noni Blake knows she wants more: more adventures, more joy, more romance, more orgasms, more pleasure…more everything. Now she just has to figure out how to get it.

Noni didn’t expect to be starting over at the age of thirty-six. But eighteen months after the end of her long-term relationship, she decides it’s time to start living her life again. While an encounter with a sexy firefighter is a welcome entry back into the dating world, Noni soon realises she’s looking for more than just a series of brief, pleasurable encounters. She’s looking for more pleasure in, well, everything.

That’s how she finds herself travelling to Europe to track down the one that got away: the alluring, elusive Molly. But Europe may have other surprises in store…

About the Author

Claire Christian is a storyteller: a writer, theatre-maker and facilitator. She has had four plays published by Playlab, including Lysa and the Freeborn Dames, which debuted at La Boite in 2018. She has also had the great joy of directing Michelle Law’s smash-hit comedy Single Asian Female. Claire’s debut novel, Beautiful Mess, won the Text Prize in 2016. It’s Been a Pleasure, Noni Blake is her first novel for adults.

About Our Guest

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Shelby joins us from Chub Rub Book Club, a podcast and online community for readers of YA sci-fi/fantasy fic to connect and explore the relationship between literature and embodiment. Join Jenny & Shelby for a deep dive into a new book every episode!

You can find Chub Rub Book Club wherever you get your podcasts. Check out their website and follow them on social media @chubrubbookclub.

Our Thoughts

We loved the vulnerability with which It’s Been a Pleasure, Noni Blake talks about self-esteem and body image. Noni’s feelings about her body struck a chord with us. This book is also honest about sex: there are plenty of sex scenes that would make you cringe and/or laugh. The characters and the relationships were well developed, and we loved Noni’s main love interest.

As much as we adore the book, it isn’t perfect. Elise and Shelby wondered about the amount of drinking Noni was doing throughout the book (it was a lot), and that the impact of being drunk while having sex was never really reflected on. The book also didn’t touch on how the pursuit of pleasure can be empty sometimes; you likely need things that give you a sense of mastery and pleasure to feel a sense of fulfilment. Also, Noni has privileges that allows her to go on this pleasure quest; in real life, finding your joy may look very different, and a bit more subtle.

Overall, this is a funny, lovely book about how rewarding it can be to learn to love and respect yourself and needs.

Recommended Readings

Relevant mental health resources:

  • BeyondBlue has some information here about anxiety and panic attacks. They also have a list of strategies that can help manage anxiety.
  • For resources on body image, check out The Butterfly Foundation. Also, check out this article on body neutrality from The Guardian.
  • The Centre Of Perinatal Excellence provides some information about coping after miscarriage. If you’re in Australia, their website also has a directory of services that can provide support after a miscarriage.

More stories like It’s Been a Pleasure, Noni Blake:

  • For romance/romantic comedy books featuring fat protagonists, Priscilla recommends One to Watch by Kate Stayman-London (trigger warning for on-page fat-shaming and sexism) and Teach Me by Olivia Dade.
  • If you’d like a non-fiction about the politics of joy and pleasure, Shelby recommends Pleasure Activism by Adrienne Maree Brown.
  • For more books with bisexual characters, check out this post by bookstagramrepresent and this post by CW at The Quiet Pond.
  • Want more quality romantic comedies in general? Check out Beth O’Leary’s The Flatshare and Alisha Rai’s Girl Gone Viral (or even her whole Modern Love series!).

Voices from Lived Experience

Here are some of the views we found from people who talk about body image and body acceptance. There are no particular book reviews that we’d like to highlight, but here are some great commentators:

  • Megan Jayne Crabbe – aka bodyposipanda. Take a look at this interview for more of her thoughts on body image.
  • Lucy Mountain is a fitness blogger who talks a lot about diet culture, after being wrapped up in it for many years, and encouraging fitness and exercise without a weight loss/’before and after’ focus.
  • Sonya Renee Taylor’s The Body Is Not An Apology is all about radical self-love.

On the TBR Pile

  • Elise is keen to read Body Positive Power by Megan Jayne Crabbe, who we mentioned above.
  • If you have any recommendations of books that explore similar themes to It’s Been a Pleasure, Noni Blake, let us know!

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