Permission by Saskia Vogel
Despite Saskia Vogel’s clear gift for honest and eloquent storytelling, Permission feels too short to have dealt fully with its core themes
Echo is alone: her father has been swept away by a freak current, her mother is cold and distant, and she has no true friends. Feeling adrift, she enrols as a model in life-drawing classes, moves home and meets Orly, a dominatrix who lives with her houseboy, Piggy. Echo learns to deal with her grief, not only from the death of her father but from the mishandling of her bisexuality, and seeks comfort in Orly and BDSM.
Permission is a character study and in it we feel Echo’s frustrations with Los Angeles and sexism. Actions and motives are felt rather than explained and the novel's core strength is its handling of women’s ownership of their bodies and sexuality. BDSM is explored with insight and realism: its meaning to the people within is evident.
Vogel whips up a tornado of dizzyingly good prose, whirling the reader around themes of grief, womanhood, disappointment, sexuality and pleasure. However, midway the tornado dissipates: the novel loses steam and the pace slackens, chapters become fragmentary and the ending feels rushed. Despite Vogel’s clear gift for honest and eloquent storytelling, Permission feels too short to have dealt fully with its core themes. Echo’s experiences of sexism and loss are all too familiar and Vogel’s depiction of them is admirable, but ultimately the novel feels incomplete.