Nothing Natural is the 1986 debut novel by Jenny Diski,[1][2] initially published in hardback through Simon & Schuster. It follows a young woman who enters into a sadomasochistic relationship with a charming and domineering man.[3][4] The book, perceived as an S&M-book by the New Yorker,[5] received some backlash upon its release, as critic Anthony Thwaite criticized it as being "the most revolting book I've ever read," and the feminist magazine Sisterwrite chose to ban Diski from publishing with them.[6]

Nothing Natural
First edition (UK)
AuthorJenny Diski
PublisherMethuen (UK)
Simon & Schuster (US)
Media typePrint
Pages256 pages



Rachel Kee is a depressed single mother who has been slowly withdrawing from the world around her. She's still suffering from the lasting effects of a disastrous childhood where her father abandoned his family, pushing Rachel's mother further into madness and prompting Rachel's removal and placement in a foster home. When she meets Joshua, she's almost instantly drawn to him. The two begin to indulge in a sadomasochistic relationship where Joshua will appear for a rough session of sex and then disappear for months on end. Eventually Rachel begins to question the relationship, especially after reading about the kidnapping and rape of a young girl, complete with a composite sketch that greatly resembles Joshua.



Kirkus Reviews praised it as "an S-M novel with soul", calling it "effective, absorbing fiction".[7] In contrast, The New York Times panned the novel as being "uninspired" and commented that the author "lectures rather than lets the reader experience. And she even fails to warm the cold bones of the central character, who ought to invite us to see in her desperation some of our own."[8] The Washington Post heavily criticized the book, which they saw as a "sad day for feminism" due to the depiction of the relationship between Rachel and Joshua, and that they would "almost trade back Title IX and Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor if I could be sure that not one reader would come away from this book believing that women (not to mention feminists) really degrade themselves and each other the way the women of this novel do."[9] Dr Doris McIlwain commented on the book's characters, stating that Diski uses the characters' "failure to show proper feelings, and certain unlikely continuances in courses of action" to highlight the monstrosity of the book's plot, where Joshua rapes a child.[10]

Further reading



  1. ^ Tuten, Frederick. "Jenny Diski (interview)". Bomb. Retrieved 15 May 2014.
  2. ^ Horeck, Tanya (2003). Public Rape: Representing Violation in Fiction and Film. Psychology Press. pp. 133–135. ISBN 041528855X.
  3. ^ Brulotte, Gaëtan; John Phillips (2006). Encyclopedia of Erotic Literature. Routledge. pp. 349–350.
  4. ^ Rennison, Nick (2004). Contemporary British Novelists. Routledge. p. 43. ISBN 0415217091.
  5. ^ Daphne Merkin (18 February 1996). "Unlikely obsession". New Yorker Magazine. Retrieved 8 August 2021.
  6. ^ "Making a solo voyage". Scotsman. Retrieved 15 May 2014.
  7. ^ "Nothing Natural (review)". Kirkus Reviews. 1987. Retrieved 14 May 2014.
  8. ^ Davis, Thulani (26 April 1987). "Demon lover no. 2". New York Times. Retrieved 14 May 2014.
  9. ^ McManus, Jeanne (3 July 1987). "A Sad Day For Feminism". The Washington Post (subscription required). Archived from the original on 29 June 2014. Retrieved 15 May 2014.
  10. ^ McIlwain, Doris. "Losing Ourselves: the Burden of Consciousness in the Writings of Jenny Diski". Orporealities: Energies, Affects, Selves -- Collected Papers. 4: 6. Retrieved 15 May 2014.