Review: Sunshine: The diary of a lap dancer

4 December 2020

Samantha C. Ross: Sunshine: The diary of a lap dancer

Allen & Unwin, 2020

ISBN, 9781760878344, $29.99, pp. 314

Samantha C. Ross’ Sunshine: The diary of a lap dancer follows the titular stripper as she flits from Gentleman’s Clubs around Australia and beyond with a sharp wit, affinity for alcohol and delightful pettiness. Told through journal entries spanning roughly a year in her life, this memoir takes the reader deep into the red-velveted, dimly lit world of scantily clad beauties sucking men dry of their money. When the heels are off though, the reader is reminded that these enchantresses are merely human, and so too do they suffer from insecurities, betrayals, and injustices.

When I first picked up this book, I was eager to dive off the deep end into a completely unknown world and be enlightened. The blurb promised an intimate and revealing exploration of the adult entertainment industry from the perspective of one embedded right within it. And that’s what I got, so you’d think I’d be happy. But after finishing the novel, I was actually left both satisfied and unsatisfied. Confusing, I know. See, this tale had potential in a lot of ways, but most of it was never fully realised. The spunky and honest narration soon became one-note with her judgements of the men and women surrounding her. The various towns, homes, clubs and communities all blurred into one unengaging and shallowly rendered Australian context. Sunshine’s stripper friends were introduced as supportive, funny and slightly dysfunctional party animals, but their impact quickly proved to be of the worst kind for a secondary character: two-dimensional and interchangeable.

In the spirit of this narrative’s subject matter, one might liken the experience of reading this novel as being left blue-balled.

Then did I enjoy any aspect of this book, you ask? Well, it did give me a fascinating and in-depth understanding of the stripper profession, including paragraphs detailing how these dancers are contracted and paid, the different levels of permissible contact in Gentleman’s Clubs, and the unspoken rules set by these women to maintain a hierarchy amongst each other and their clients. Furthermore, the light-hearted and witty tone kept me entertained enough to finish the book. I’m also a sucker for romance plots, so the addition of a charming love interest intrigued me. Finally, the interpersonal drama in the way of cheating lovers, two-faced friends, creepy clients and arrogant bosses spiced up the narrative and built suspense as I waited to see when Sunshine’s familiar world would erupt.

Each of the narrator’s journal entries ends with her jotting down a highlight and downside of the day. Though this minor feature became redundant and added little as the story progressed, I figured I’d take a page from this book to end my review.

HIGHLIGHT: Revelled in Sunshine super-gluing a stiletto to the roof of her horrible boss’ car.

DOWNSIDE: Couldn’t keep from cringing at Sunshine’s friend (a woman of colour) being described as a “Pacific Island princess”.

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