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Best Books of the Year So Far
Looking for something great to read? Browse our editors' picks for 2015's Best Books of the Year So Far in fiction, nonfiction, mysteries, children's books, and much more.
"An experience not to be missed." -San Francisco Chronicle
" I kept forgetting it was fiction . . . [French's] women pulse with life and individuality." -The New York Times
"The kind of book that changes lives." -Fay Weldon
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.
From the Publisher
Women's Room by Marilyn French is a classic of feminist writing. You can learn about the feminist movement in it's hayday, by soaking up this engrossing novel. I wish I were picking it up for the first time, so I could enjoy it, and remember.
For those women who think the situations and descriptions of male attitudes and behavior is too negative -- you must under the age of 55. The descriptions in this of what women went through before and during the Women's Movement are not exaggerated, they are accurate. Yes, that was exactly what our world was like. With all the freedoms women enjoy today (although we still have a long way to go), it's hard to believe how things used to be -- even those of us who experienced these anti-women attitudes, behaviors and laws are amazed at the progress women have made. This book helps us remember The Way It Was.
PS -- To the younger women who are now enjoying all those delicious freedoms the Women's Movement won: We did it for our daughters and granddaughters. We're proud of you. You're welcome!
I'm not sure I could (or would want to) put aside the feminist message of this book. Even though I'm in my 20s and come from a different generation, I was able to empathize Mira's struggles of trying to be a good wife in the 50s and 60s, and then rebelling in the 70s to reclaim her identity and role. At the time this was published, these ideas were probably more revolutionary than they are today, but I still think they are just as important. There were many moments in this book that were happy, many more that were sad, and it was always touching. I recommend this book to many of my women friends of all ages, and always consider it to be one of the best books to read if you're frustrated with your life and need to think about going in a new direction.
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French's work is a maddening, beautiful, horrific, and eloquent work of artistry that truthfully tells of women's lives. I recently read it at college (yes, I am Feminist, we'll get that out of the way) and this novel allowed me to find the words to connect the thoughts that had been floating in my own head for years. The point of this novel is not even in its compelling, wonderful plot, it is in the ideas expressed and the intelligence of French's work. I am certainly not a 1950's suburban wife with two children, yet I found pieces of my life in every one of the characters of "The Women's Room." If you can get past the insipid idea that French is claiming all men are oppressive, all women meek or radical, and relationships between the genders are doomed, you'll be a different person, emotionally and intellectually by the time you turn the final page. Read it slowly, savour the language, get angry, cry, laugh, become empowered, and find your own voice with the help of this remarkable novel.
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Putting aside the anti-male aspects of the book (I didn't know it was an "important feminist work" when I started), I'd sooner describe it as an epic novel, a story of intelligent people encountering different stages, events, structures in their lives--perhaps a bit of a soap opera. The book went surprisingly quickly; the narrator's voice drew me in, and the plot stayed interesting throughout, since each section brought radical changes in Mira's life and cast of friends. It starts with her growing up in the 40's, getting married, having kids and becoming a (miserable) suburban housewife, but is punctuated with passages of the narrator philosophizing, and framed by a group of thoughtful, "modern" women sitting around in 1968, interrupting with "but how could you have lived like that?"--"well, my house wasn't so different really"--"it had its good points too"--"aren't you glad all our relationships are more equal than those?" [heh]. Plenty of reflection, along with close up individual perspectives. The high points glowed, parts forced me to put down the book for feeling sick or depressed, and there was no lack of wit and strong characters. A compelling story. Then there's the recurring theme of how women keep getting screwed over. The author's got a point, and it's actually a little hard not to hate men while reading the book, but she takes it too far. Somehow despite characters being round and believable, men always turn out to be insensitive, to put it mildly, and women a classic "oppressed people". Real life is (I hope!) more fair. (These days, anyway. I'm also immeasurably grateful for the almost 50(!) years of societal change separating her birth and mine.Read more ›
The story of Mira and her group of friends at two very different periods in the character's life is informative, especially from the standpoint of the 2000's. The first half of the novel dealt with Mira's life as a young suburban doctor's wife and mother of two young sons. It describes many of the women she truly bonds with and how women were definitely at the mercy of their husband's career choices, level of fidelity, even their spending habits. Lack of communication between the couples highlights these desperate housewives and their working husbands. The second half of the novel is of Mira, newly divorced, living on her own and pursuing a post-graduate degree at Harvard. From a fish-out-of-water she begins to form friendships with a diverse group of feminist women and their male admirers. Mira begins to find purpose intellectually, passionately and socially. Women's Room is excellently written and although it is steeped in sterotypes; the miserable housewives and the hard line angry feminists, I still found it enjoyable at every level. In the end, had it not been for the feminist women of the 1960's/1970's we would not have the opportunities we have today. The choices and the fact that our worth fails to expire at age thirty is very apparent by reading this book. I highly recommend it.