A Review of the Novel "3"
by Lisabet Sarai
some, power is the ultimate aphrodisiac: power to control a partner,
to wring pleasure or pain from the other's body at a whim, to
submerge her in shame, humiliation, even terror, yet still see
her obey. For others, ecstasy can be found only in surrender,
in the freedom that comes from opening the self to the lover and
holding nothing back. When someone of the first type comes together
with someone of the second, their complementary passions can produce
a bond of awesome, dangerous strength.
and Ilan have a love like this, pure and fevered, a connection
that sets them apart from the world. Ilan's power is borne of
knowledge. He sees Maya truly when everyone else quietly ignores
her, her brilliance, her vulnerability, the physical and emotional
of which she is capable. They meet when they are in their late
but Ilan has insight and sexual skills beyond his years. He teaches
Maya about her capacities, tapping into her need to be mastered
even as he molds her into the woman he wants her to be. Thirsty
for love, Maya submits eagerly, seduced and transformed by Ilan's
need for Maya is equally intense. He basks in the totality of
devotion. But for him, she is not enough. He needs to prove his
mastery by captivating and bedding other women. When Maya discovers
him in flagrante, his pain at the possibility of losing
her is nearly as great as hers at the betrayal. And so they strike
a bargain. Maya agrees that he can have other women - but only
if she is present and included. Gratefully, Ilan responds by marrying
a while, it appears that they have found a perfect, if unconventional,
solution. Maya finds their kinky games with the women Ilan chooses
doubly arousing. Not only is she pleasing him, she finds her own
pleasure in the silky, wet flesh of their partners
(deliberately selected to resemble her, with the same red hair
time Maya acquiesces to Ilan's demands, however, they become
crueler and more extreme. Little by little, playful bondage and
blindfolds give way to "play" with razor blades and
begins to understand the darkness edging the blaze of their passion.
She senses that if she does not leave Ilan, he will eventually
kill her. Still, she is paralyzed, unable to imagine life without
twists of plot that follow are part of the delight and anguish
of reading '3'. Maya escapes from Ilan, and yet she can never
escape him. I will not reveal the details here, but merely warn
that the story is shocking, surprising, and deeply revealing.
Hilden writes with authority and sensitivity about the darker
aspects of sex. She shows clearly how Maya and Ilan's connection,
rooted in complementary perversities, becomes an obsession that
literally threatens their lives.
is Maya speaking, after Ilan is gone:
first night at home, I let sleep take me very early in the evening.
As I become drowsy, watching the light outside the windows fail
and fade, it is as if I begin subtly to feel myself disappear.
I shimmer out, I begin almost to see you, Ilan; the dark bruise-like
circles under your eyes start to resolve. I cannot help it; my
heart races with a mere glance... Burning, I rise in sleep, like
a body jerked upward by invisible strings -- as if in a moment
I will levitate. Pleasure runs through me like a tremor, like
a seizure, like faith.
is no ordinary love; it is diabolical and all-consuming. Nor is
the sex in '3' of the ordinary variety. An edginess pervades the
sex scenes, even the most vanilla. The characters are constantly
boundaries, and pleasure is always tainted: by fear, by shame,
do not mean to imply that '3' is not arousing. Ilan and Maya's
encounters, on their own or in their contracted threesoms, have
breathless immediacy that pulls the reader into the scene. However,
the sex in '3' is always a cipher, a physical manifestation of
motivations and conflicts far more tangled than the intermingling
bodies. Even as my pulse raced, I was acutely aware of the
ambiguities and dangers lurking below the surface.
Hilden has created a compelling and disturbing novel, one that
will haunt you long after you have finished reading, as the vanished
Ilan haunts Maya. Weeks after I completed the book, it still colored
my thoughts. I suddenly recognized the irony in the title. No
matter how many women Ilan brought home for menages a trois,
finally there remained only Ilan and Maya, only two. Or perhaps,
in a seductive, frightening and yet starkly true sense, one.
A Review of the Novel "3"
2003 Lisabet Sarai