Books: The Helen 100 – a Rollercoaster Ride of Heartbreak

The Helen 100 is a witty, autobiographical novel written by journalist and media personality, Helen Razer.  The premise of the book is this: after her life is turned upside down when her long-term partner suddenly decides to leave one afternoon, a shell-shocked Razer looks for any way to get over her grief, and frankly, satisfy her horniness which has reached new heights.

Trawling the online dating world – less tinder, more XXX sites – she’s a little lost. There’s got to be something she can do. And so, refusing to indulge in one more hot roast chicken on her kitchen floor, sans pants, she heads to her beauty therapist who recommends instead of narrowing down the search she date a slew of people. Razer decides to do just that, to date one hundred people in just under a year – a form of therapy that would surely help her overcome her heartbreak, right?

It’s funny, it’s an emotional rollercoaster, it’s raw and it’s uncomfortable. Razer doesn’t hold back in describing her grieving process, and is quick to recognise where she went wrong. She’s not proud of how she responded, but she doesn’t sugar coat it either, filling pages with self-deprecating humour and outrageous remarks that demonstrate she is not encouraging this behaviour for others. It’s this openness that makes for such an engaging read.

I was originally surprised by how long the book actually takes to get to the dates – about halfway through in fact. From its premise, I anticipated almost diary-like entries covering the detail of the dates form the get-go. However, The Helen 100 is more of a frank look at heartbreak; the vulnerabilities, the sucky side to dating, and a bit of a scathing review of the dating scene today.

The first real date doesn’t happen until almost halfway through the book and yet the more I read the more I understood that this novel was less about the dates themselves, and more the recount of heartbreak and advice on how to get through it, day by day. Grief from the loss of a long-term relationship can dictate your life, and as Razer demonstrates, everyone will find their own way to cope.

While at times I was wishing it would get into the juicy details of the dates, the cringe-worthy moments, I see the value of the exploration into how Razer got this point. It took the novel from a shallow, light-hearted read into an insightful (and still very witty) look at the complexities of heartbreak.

It’s not something usually so freely discussed, no holds barred, and I admire Razer’s willingness to put it all out there.  She doesn’t shy away from sharing her more “undignified” encounters with a gay man half her age but rather explains the situation in almost crude detail.

It needs to be said, the interpretation of a date was sometimes loosely used – a meeting with a friend where a deep conversation was held, for one example. Group speed-dating sessions? There go 15 or so dates in one. But honestly, who can blame her.

I wanted to root for her, to congratulate her on her boldness and ambition, but I couldn’t. And honestly, I don’t think that’s what Razer was looking for. She’s quick to acknowledge that she was acting from a state of grief, her lust often overpowering her criteria for a partner. Even after an awful date at a tear-inducing Barbie concert, she hasn’t ruled out sleeping with her date. And more power to her.

The pages are rife with little quips aimed at the audience, pockets of advice to do exactly the opposite to what Razer herself did, and these help to bring lightness to the book.

The humour is at times outrageous and crude, with explicit messages shared among friends and strangers on an XXX app.

Perhaps because we are in different stages of life, perhaps we just have differing opinions, but I often struggled to truly relate to Razer in this novel. But that doesn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy it.

The Helen 100, while not a new favourite book of mine, was an easy, humourous and commendable read. Anyone who has been on an awkward date or attempted to float through the murky waters of online dating will be able to relate to at least one of Razer’s frustrations.

Its not a particularly uplifting novel, Razer’s cynicism and hurt cutting through fairytale perceptions of finding ‘the one’, but it’s a bit of fun, underpinned by a raw, honest recount of heartbreak and advice on how to get through it day by day – not through meaningful quotes, but practical tips – take a shower, you’ll feel slightly more human.

Score: 8/10

 

 

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