A review by Malcolm Croft
Witty, charming and honest. That’s my headline appraisal for Carrie Lloyd’s new book, Prude.
I have been fortunate enough to know Carrie Lloyd for many years, and worked with her initially on her first book, The Virgin Monologues. During this time, the two of us spoke at length about Carrie’s unique position of being an honest, open, fashionable and dare-I-say-it “on trend” person of faith in the twenty-first century – and how
While The Virgin Monologues takes another, broader, direction entirely, Carrie definitely hits a deeply personal peak with Prude. And is all the better for it.
With a frank and expressive approach, Prude is both brave and brazen, and Carrie’s vision of virginity is precisely the type of voice you’d want to listen to on the argument of for/against, and a voice that should gain the author many new fans and followers on her path to stardom. She could perhaps be a leading voice in the “new traditional” way of expressing realistic expectations of faith (as her day-job as a Pastor and as an author) in a world that is losing faith in the Divine with each increasingly commercialized Christmas. Yes, Carrie is a traditional, old-fashioned girl on a spiritual mission to find love and conquer her inner fears, but that never comes at the expense of knowing thyself first. Throughout the book, Carrie knowingly poses the pertinent question that becomes the dominant leitmotif: God comes first. But at what cost? And it’s a question many people of faith, young and old, still seek the answer to. But, as Carrie admits, the answer will always be elusive. And so it should.
As a writer, a message-spreader and (you suspect) a fabulous dinner-party guest, Carrie knows how to flirt and flabbergast an audience, all willing to fall under her spell because her dating experience drips off the page: she has been there, bought the T-shirt and lived to tell the ridiculous tale. In that respect, Prude isn’t some preachy relationship advice guide written by some out-of-touch and real-life prude, it’s a book about the importance of purity and sexual knowledge written by a person who has experienced the highs and lows of the relationship world from both sides of the bridge. And that’s a huge distinction. The reader can, and does, feel immediately at ease with the author, knowing he can trust her implicitly. There are no false claims of expertise or authority. Just a girl, standing in front of a guy asking him to love her…and her principles.
As a storyteller, Carrie also knows how to spin a fantastic sentence – both witty and touching at the same time with language that is evocative (especially when talking about her much-adored, and much-missed, father), often-humorous and self-deprecating. She knows how to catch you out. She knows how to deliver an emotional punch just to make sure you’re all still paying attention. Carrie isn’t afraid to lay things bare or ask questions that perhaps many books that tackle sexuality and religion like to sweep under the carpet. The beginning anecdote of the handsome and wealthy “Eagle,” for example, completely sets up Carrie’s tender intentions and immediately lets the reader know what to expect from that point on. Its placement in the book couldn’t be better. There’s no embellishment or smudging of truth – with Prude, what you see is what you get – the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God. Carrie is so achingly proud of her faith and her often uncontrollable emotions – and the direction she has chosen to take with purity and “rebooting her virginity” – that its hard not to fall in love with her, even if she wears her heart on her sleeve a touch too much (the chapter Make Love, Not Porn, may be a turn off for some readers – but fascinating nonetheless). Carrie’s security about how she feels (no matter how flawed they may appear) means she is never a wildflower in her own recollections, the lost wind in a wolf’s hurricane. She is the final pig in the fairytale, so to speak, the one has built her house out of bricks and mortar, but doesn't get all in-your-face smug about it.
While I disagree with some of Carrie’s perhaps too vague and meaningless throwaway sentences (“Society killed the art of talking long ago” – is this true?), she is bang-on the money when it comes to discussing what faith means to those who have it but are not entirely sure what to do with it and how to apply it to their own lives. In the book, Carrie traces her steps back through her own experiences to try and figure herself out: what sex and purity means to her in the realm and context of her own faith, and whether or not the two will ever meet in the middle. It’s clear, the book is both a journey for Carrie and the reader, discovering things together. I’ve spoken personally with Carrie about many of her experiences and know – truly – her heartbreak, anguish, frustration, confusion, dedication, persistence and questioning of her faith – I’ve seen her at her wits’ end, and at the beginning of many new chapters, so I can truthfully account for the realness behind the stories Carrie details throughout.
But this book shouldn’t be – and isn’t – just about Carrie. The author understands that she isn’t alone. That her experiences are not unique. And that the situations she has been through are similar to many other twenty- and thirty-somethings, all of whom will find the book a breath of fresh air, and completely unlike any other book about purity on a bookshop’s Self-Help and Relationships shelf. As an atheist male, it was hard to truly connect with all of Carrie’s emotional ups-and-downs – I’m not the target audience, for sure – but I do believe that the book does genuinely hold up a mirror to the zeitgeist, and to the lives of thousands of people experiencing similar feelings, and reflects back a true version of how many of us feel disillusioned and scared about finding ourselves, and finding love, without compromising our values and principles in this digital age.
But, and this is my most excited point about Prude, this book is fun. It zips along like a spitfire of stream-of-consciousness, and never runs out of steam. It has the readability of a high-brow celebrity magazine (low-praise, perhaps, but perfect for this subject matter), but the weight of an academic relationship guide. Carrie’s enthusiasm, personality, her message, and her first-hand knowledge of living successfully in the now, despite her anxieties and flaws, is incredibly good-natured fun.
in a nutshell. Bold, brilliant and bonkers – with a beautiful and brave personality to boot.
If I have any criticisms, or nagging questions, to add I would argue that “Misconceptions of A Neo-Virgin” perhaps incorrectly identifies the book. I’m not sure it accurately describes the contents. “Memoirs of a Christian Girl in a Modern World”, or “Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex but Were Too Religious to Ask” (joke!) could be more instantly appealing.
In conclusion, Prude is not worthy, pious, or preachy; it’s truthful, it’s flawed and it’s inspirational. We should all aspire to be more like Carrie – in touch with her own sense of self, and not scared to admit and publicly overcome her demons. Like the author, Prude is engaging and sincere and never betrays its mission, or message, from the start right through to the finish.
Malcolm Croft is a freelance author, editor and Senior Editor at Carlton Books. Over the past decade, Malcolm has published, and written over 20 music, film, travel, quirky reference, gift, humor and popular culture titles, including two of the bestselling Cool Series, aimed for pre-teens. He is the author of The Travel Book, and lives in London.