The Romantic — some reviews

“A brilliant follow-up. The Romantic is just as confronting and beautiful as her first… brimming with sexual encounters and the mental games that result from physical exploration. It is also a story of loneliness and isolation, as the protagonist searches for meaning in her actions and struggles to accept her past and embrace her future.” Yen magazine

“The most affecting, troubling dynamic the novel [sic] offers is that between sex and love. There’s plenty of the former and the scenes of urgent coupling often seem like the routines of a by-the-numbers romance pulp, all breathless and slick and full of significant grabbing. It’s difficult to know if these sequences are a clever nod to the more formulaic incarnations of romance, grudging inclusions to satisfy the more prurient reader, or sincere attempts to stir some chilli into the mix. They’re probably a combination of all three. .. The Romantic‘s strength may be that it doesn’t end up as a therapy-novel-meets-backpacker-romance. Her ugly experiences don’t resolve themselves into tough life lessons worth undergoing. They’re just stuff that happened, no part of a grander meaning. Which might be the most truthful kind of autobiography after all.” John Bailey, M magazine, The Sunday Age

“Holden’s raw sequel to In My Skin is a sensual, sexy, brutally honest memoir.” Marie Claire

“Make no mistake. This isn’t a rom-com Roman holiday, as the lessons learnt from falling hard in love can be bruising.” Vogue

The Romantic captures the true essence and romance of Italy; the tastes, the smells, the sounds, the sights…Kate’s incredibly engaging writing style and frankness about her sexual encounters that she portrays as intimately as she did in In My Skin, keep you enthralled from go to whoa.” Emily Harms, Readings bookshop newsletter

“I imagined that someone who had spent five years working hard as a prostitute would fancy a few celibate months in Roma. That Holden’s Italian holiday might be more like the one Elizabeth Gilbert portrayed so charmingly in Eat, Pray, Love. But, no. The book has Holden reeling from man to man like an out-of-control addict….  Holden bonks her way through an impressive number of men in Rome and Naples, and at times the book reads like the script for a B-grade movie. I couldn’t believe my eyes, but I kept reading out of loyalty to Holden, whom I admire. I was looking for more beauty to materialise, much as she was, I suppose, in her ill-fated Italian quest for love and acceptance.” Shelley McInnis, Canberra Times

“Holden can be a graceful, even elegant writer and is admirable for holding her nerve and intrepidly chasing her dream of becoming a writer… Perhaps the same impulses serve both reality TV and explicit writing because, despite what Kate believes she is writing, these could be taken for sexual braggadocio masquerading as insight. Apart from the obvious ‘sex sells’, why write about it in detail unless you have the wit of Byron or the slyness of Casanova? Has she read too much of the insufferable Anais Nin? … There’s always an initial thrill in anything like this and it always becomes monotonous. Self-fascination isn’t attractive in any guise and ultimately sexual prowess is only part of one’s potential as a human being… Still, sex is a commercial thing. This book will sell.” Helen Elliott, The Age

“Holden is not shy about sharing her sexual encounters, as readers of In My Skin will know. On more than a few occasions I was reading this book on the train, desperately hoping that no-one was reading over my shoulder. As a ‘character’ (this memoir is written in third person), Holden is tough and vulnerable and at times maddeningly self-absorbed. She is also an incredible writer, and I loved this book for its honesty and its beautiful prose. This is a different story to In My Skin, which offered insight into a world of drug addiction and prostitution, but I’m sure anyone who has read and enjoyed Holden’s first memoir will be eager to continue her journey.” Four stars. Andrea Hanke, Bookseller & Publisher

“Another chapter in Holden’s already colourful life, bittersweet, illuminating, perhaps even a feminist tome for another generation.” Rebekah Davies, NO magazine (NZ).

“The crisp prose of the first memoir seems to have retreated into generalisations and a serious dependence on adverbs. On half a page alone, the narrator “stands tentatively” and smokes “balefully” while porters look at her “superciliously”, and so on… Where Holden accelerates, however, is in her sharp observations of certain types of male behaviour, practised by those who are usually dangerous and unavailable: the deceptions, the charms, the psychological games. She also excels in rendering her own vulnerability and confusion — her need to be desired — as a consequence of liaisons with such self-centred men.” Mandy Sayer, The Australian

“There is no doubt that Holden can write, particularly of sensory experience, but to be honest I think this is quite possibly the least romantic book I’ve ever read. Call me old-fashioned but I just don’t want to know that Holden can insert – or have inserted into her – a dildo as long as her forearm during a spate of orgiastic sex. But if it’s true that sex sells, then this book should sell, as its predecessor did, like hot cakes.” Candida Baker, Sydney Morning Herald

“This little lost girl is acutely aware of herself, chiding herself for being such a child-woman, ready to fall for anyone who makes her feel a little better about herself. Whatever people like Jack and I think of her insecurities, the older and wiser Holden’s book is brilliantly written. Its honesty is astonishing as the main character dissects her own insecurities and her sense of being inadequate in the face of the European adventure she has embarked on…. an unhappy, immature young woman has grown up to be a fearless and skilful writer. Jack and I stand corrected.” Leena Lavonius, Sunday Tasmanian

“This follow-up memoir to In My Skin is another intriguing read.” NW magazine

The book is beautiful and gripping, wise and mordant and finally tremendously buoyant.” Mark Tredinnick, author of The Blue Plateau

“Despite being let down by the book, the writing is beautiful even when the content is crude. The whole idea of identity is at play here (as it tends to be when a book is an autobiography!) and Kate really loses and distances herself as she refers to herself in third person in the book as if to point out that the Kate then is not the Kate now.” Mad Bibliophile blog.

“The lucid, poetic style of which Holden is capable is capable in that detail [a scene with Guido], as is the lightness of touch, whereby the literal resonates to suggest more about Kate’s state of mind and being… The Romantic is so filled with sorrow and abjection that it calls to mind memoirs of atrocity and trauma theory. Trauma’s belatedness–its production of repeated effects long after its origins–is suggested in the loveless and mainly joyless experiences that Kate endures, which bear the trace of the commercial transactions she has left behind.” Felicity Plunkett, Australian Book Review

“While her encounters with various lovers swerve between deceptive and desperate, Holden doesn’t shrink from writing about them honestly. And whether she is wallowing in self-hatred or dissolving with desire, her insights are always keenly observed.” Sun Herald

Perhaps not so keen to throw herself headlong into remembering her past, Kate has written ‘The Romantic’ in the third person. This doesn’t change the level of intimacy though and it’s still a deeply moving read. Knowing that “Kate the character” is indeed “Kate the author” gives the reader a sense that, as Kate was writing this story, she was analysing what she did and why. In Italy, at the time that all of this was happening to her, she would have had an understanding of what she was going through. But it’s the allowance of time and reflection that’s given her the clarity now to describe precisely what was going on. How does a woman who has slept with hundreds of men for money then go on to find love? Or, ultimately, learn to love herself? ‘The Romantic’ is raw, innocent, dark, hopeful, sexy, exhausting and, as with all things Kate Holden, beautifully written.”

“It is a very sexy book and I like the way that she depicts the sex with an honesty and enjoyment. I love her honest approach to her sexuality, which is mostly appreciated by her lovers… She is a beautiful writer who loves literature and Italy, the Romantic poets and Casanova. She is also very honest and forthright about her enjoyment of her body, which is an inspiration.” Bookgrrl blog

The Romantic was damn good.  It’s beautifully written, brutally honest, and, yes, very sexy… [Sex] is  a notoriously difficult subject to write about, and Kate Holden does it better than anyone I’ve read. It’s never pornographic, gratuitous or repetitive, a remarkable achievement considering the sheer volume of it… The dynamics of her relationships are communicated through action, with good dialogue, active sentences and romantic scenarios, making for very readable prose… Kate Holden is one of the best modern Australian writers I’ve read.” Writeronwriter blog

“Plot-wise, Kate Holden’s latest memoir is a bit like the very dark sister of Eat, Pray, Love. A woman heads to Italy in search of romance, adventure and knowledge. She eats well, struggles with the language, has lots of great sex and constantly examines her own actions and motives, before finding a strange sort of peace and heading home. Yet there the similarities end. Kate Holden carries heavy baggage. Over five years in her 20s, as described in her previous book, In My Skin, she went from Melbourne honours grad to heroin user and sex worker – and somewhere along this squalid path discovered her own clear, graceful voice as an author. I found Holden’s sexual choices in this book distinctly unromantic, even confronting, and suspect many other women readers will, too. Yet it is a compelling study of damage.” Jennifer Byrne

“Kate Holden, still a young woman, is a prodigious talent  and her writing is both lyrical and arresting… Holden has the ability to describe the colours and textures of ancient buildings and art works with the eye of an artist.  Similarly she can describe insightfully her feelings of aloneness and her see-sawing moods that swing between euphoria at finding herself in the eternal city of Rome,  whose beauty and mystery is world renowned and her  feelings of desperation…. Holden’s sense of fun and irony helps redeem this memoir from becoming a tale of angst and disappointment with the men she meets and becomes entangled with.  At the end she doesn’t find true love, but I got the sense that she found out how not to judge herself and in a sense love herself.” Reader review, Parramatta Library website

Holden is, again, fearlessly honest… In her interview with Aedy, she said that she wanted to be “honest, sincere and authentic like the Romantic poets”. Well, she certainly seems to be that, even if much of what she is being honest about is not exactly “romantic” – unless, that is, we define ongoing self-questioning as “Romantic”. And here, in a way, is the rub. Holden is not only a fearless writer, she is also a good one. She knows how to string a sentence together, she describes character and evokes place well, and she expresses emotion clearly. But, I’m not sure what the point is for the reader. There is a lot of detail here about relationships – and sex in particular – that is not particularly positive for her….However, her interview with Richard Aedy in 2010 reveals a composed, confident and articulate woman. I look forward to seeing what this woman produces next.” Whispering Gums website

“The Romantic is an eclectic whirl of emotions, taking the reader through Kate’s journey, from her beginnings as a determined, recovering hopeless romantic, through heartbreak and self doubt, to new love and a new lease on life. Holden’s transparency in her retellings means readers are given the purest of details and a direct, sometimes brutal writing approach lends the story an overarching sense of uplifting soulfulness, despite the endless string of self depreciative encounters she experiences….Kate Holden really cements herself as a brilliantly fresh talent to the face of modern Australian literature with The Romantic, which unapologetically pulls the reader into her ruthless yet endearingly sensual world of transformation and sexuality.” CargoART magazine

“Her adventures can be read across-genres – travel, grunge, life writing,
confessional, soft-porn, cautionary tale, all laced with powerful evocation of place and
well-articulated psychoanalytic yearnings… Holden writes well. Her voice engages as it irritates, seduces as often as it repels… I look forward to her next book, which I hope holds more of her artful metaphors and psychological insights about men’s and women’s sexual relations, more of the minutiae of a writerly life which in this book seemed more gratuitous than the sex, and more of the courage that transforms her reckless risk-taking into self-discovery, but less painful self-consciousness.” Gay Lynch, Transnational Literature journal.

“those with an interest in human relationships will relate to Holden’s honesty in laying her emotional life open on the page. I look forward with interest to whatever she writes next.” Brouhaha blog review

“…At last, I thought, here was a woman after my own mind, who feels things too much…” Jessica White blog


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