Originally published: 28 July 2022
Author: Jo Bloom
Published by: Legend Press
Length: 272 pages
Reading dates: 7-11 November 2022
Can your marriage survive if you’re both sleeping with other people?
After more than 20 years of marriage, Fay and Steve are happy enough, though life’s become routine and lacks excitement. Fay believes an open relationship could reignite the spark they’ve lost. But can sex ever just be sex?
Steve eventually agrees to the idea of sleeping with other people, but first they must set some ground rules; no sex with friends, no telling the kids, and a limit on how many times they can see the same person. Can their marriage survive non-monogamy – even if they have permission?
When I was approached to read Permission, I was immediately interested. I’d been following the podcast of a distant family member who was talking opening about her open marriage, including all the sordid details and being very nosy, I was fascinated! I’m not married anymore but am in a long-term relationship and we have talked a lot about the subject (because of the podcast) and both of us agreed we can think of nothing worse than an open relationship, but I am interested in how it can work for some people.
In Permission, Fay and Steve have been married for around 20 years and have two children, 19-year-old Billy and 6-year-old Rose. They have the conversation about trying an open marriage after a friend of Fay’s has an affair. Fay is the one that instigates the discussion and Steve is reluctant but after giving it some thought he decides to give it a go. Fay promises that her reasons for doing it aren’t because she doesn’t fancy Steve anymore. She is convinced them seeing other people will add to their relationship and ultimately make them closer.
Steve comes up with several rules for them both to follow – they need to be honest, not see someone more than 15 times, have no emotional involvement, have no one at the family home, not see mutual friends and to keep it a secret from the children. They even get new phones so they can keep their two lives separate. I won’t say any more about how the experiment goes but I will say I was absolutely captivated by this story. It felt like I was reading a true story.
I’ve never read anything quite like Permission before and while I felt like I knew both characters almost as real people, I certainly related to the way Steve felt much more. An open and brutal look at marriage and families which isn’t sugar coated and is realistic. It didn’t change my opinion about open relationships at all, but I think this would be an excellent book club read with lots to discuss! A brilliant read that I thoroughly enjoyed and one whose characters will stay with me.
Thank you to Jo Bloom and Legend Press for my copy.
About the author:
Jo’s debut novel, Ridley Road, was published in 2014 and adapted into a major four-part series for BBC One in 2021. Jo has worked as a freelancer in the communications field for over twenty years, with a focus on arts publicity and e-learning. She also contributed to the book review section of Time Out, London for a few years. Prior to this, she lived and worked in Prague and New York. She now lives in Brighton with her family. Permission is Jo’s first contemporary novel.