Review: Beautiful You by Chuck Palahniuk

Beautiful YouFrom the author of Fight Club, the classic portrait of the damaged contemporary male psyche, now comes this novel about the apocalyptic marketing possibilities of female pleasure. Sisters will be doing it for themselves. And doing it. And doing it. And doing it some more…

Penny Harrigan is a low level associate in a big Manhattan law firm with an apartment in Queens and no love life at all. So it comes as a great shock when she finds herself invited to dinner by one C. Linus Maxwell, aka ‘Climax-Well’, a software mega-billionaire and lover of the most gorgeous and accomplished women on earth. After dining at Manhattan’s most exclusive restaurant, he whisks Penny off to a hotel suite in Paris, where he proceeds, notebook in hand, to bring her to previously undreamed of heights of orgasmic pleasure for days on end. What’s not to like?

This: Penny discovers that she is a test subject for the final development of a line of sex toys to be marketed in a nationwide chain of boutiques called ‘Beautiful You’. So potent and effective are these devices that women by the millions line up outside the stores on opening day and then lock themselves in their room with them and stop coming out. Except for batteries. Maxwell’s plan for erotically enabled world domination must be stopped. But how?


It has been years since I’ve read a Palahniuk novel. The last one was Haunted, which I loved. It was appropriately disgusting, shocking, and riveting. So much time has passed, it was a worry of mine that anything else I’d read of Palahniuk’s work would disappoint. I’m glad to say this is definitely not the case now I’ve read Beautiful You.

Beautiful You may not be disgusting in the same way as Haunted was, but is appropriately shocking and riveting. The power of the female orgasm used as a device to create a dystopian society is something I find both amusing and clever.

On the one hand you could be highly offended by a story depicting women completely controlled by pleasure. It reduces the female population to easily manipulated, shallow beings, and once again inferior to man. Except, one could argue this is how media portrays and differentiates man from woman. In Beautiful You it’s only to an extreme.

The story beginning with Penny being raped in a court room amidst a large crowd, is something I found daunting. I don’t find pleasure in reading about rape, regardless of whether it’s in fiction, or not. I did hesitate knowing Beautiful You was beginning with that scene.

Thankfully the great writing quickly overcame my hesitation. I couldn’t put Beautiful You down. Between all the erotic descriptions, the ludicrous reactions, and the depictions of addicted masses, the character development of Penny was very engaging. She’s a delightful character and Maxwell is an equally delightful villain. I did find parts of the story repetitive though, but luckily it wasn’t too much of a hindrance to my attention.

There are so many things I love about this story. I just want to read it again. It not only entertained, but it catered to my dark sense of humour. I’ll definitely be reading more Palahniuk novels and preferably in the not too distant future.

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