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The Woman Destroyed (Pantheon Modern Writers) Paperback – August 12, 1987


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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Witty, immensely adroit . . . These three women are believable individuals presented with a wry mixture of sympathy and exasperation."
—The Atlantic

"A remarkable feat of empathy."
—The Times Literary Supplement

"Brilliant craftsmanship." 
— Harper's

Language Notes

Text: English, French (translation)
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Product Details

  • Series: Pantheon Modern Writers
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon; Fifth Printing edition (August 12, 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394711033
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394711034
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #154,581 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

63 of 68 people found the following review helpful By "me-jane" on March 16, 2003
Format: Paperback
This was my first experience of de Beauvoir, and I remember it vividly: I was seventeen and staying at my grandparents house, supposedly studying for my final high school exams, but it was a sweltering afternoon and I was bored and listless; I found an old 70s copy of "The Woman Destroyed" on the bookshelf (it must have belonged to my radical aunt during her university days.) Anyway, I picked it up and couldn't stop reading until I finished it. While "The Woman Destroyed" described experiences very removed from my own limited seventeen year old world - mainly, the pain experienced by three different women as they grow old and watch their children, husbands and even sanity abandon them - these stories absorbed me totally. These are intense, complicated, ambiguous tales, and de Beauvoir has a breathtaking ability to capture and elucidate the knottiest of emotions. It's certainly a bleak collection of stories; de Beauvoir is unflinching and sheds no sentimental tears for her women characters. They are wrenchingly, sometimes pathetically human, and that's why you come to inhabit them so completely and care about them so much. Highly recommended.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By I. E. Kostro on January 27, 2007
Format: Paperback
This are three short stories potraying three middle class women who are past their prime and face crisis in their lives. Simone de Beauvoir - existentialist philosopher and feminist reflected the conditiion of her contemporaries with genuine insight and understanding. Written almost 40 years ago the book did not loose its actuality, to the contrary , it's very moving.

I would recommend this small masterpiece to anyone, but I think that mature women's audience is going to appreciate and understand it the most.
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24 of 30 people found the following review helpful By D. M. Purkiss on February 16, 2006
Format: Paperback
Good gods, how French women needed the feminism De Beauvoir sought to bring them. I wish I didn't sometimes think they still did....

When Monique in the title story reflects that she should have known her marriage was on the skids when her husband told her she should buy a one-piece bathing suit, she immediatley reflects guiltily that she has let her thighs get fat, that her stomach is no longer completely flat... If I were Monique, I might reflect that it was a missed chance to craquer cher Maurice on the head with a deckchair.

Instead, Monique immediately stops eating (quelle surpise) and the first thing her estranged daughter says to her is that her resulting weight loss suits her. It's no wonder that after fifteen years of this, Monique is gimpless when Maurice starts an affair with a younger woman.

Sans doute, de Beauvoir was attempting a critique of such overmastering dependency, but it's also very, very raw-feeling. The price paid by those chic women for thier polish and beauty is this overpowering, constant self-scrutiny; no wonder existentialism, no wonder a modern book like Thornytorinx (in case you think the problem is solved).

This is powerful, true stuff, then, which reminded me of some of Dorothy Parker's best stories (without the humour) but I also felt irrtated with the spineless protagonists of all three stories. Don't be so needy, I wanted to scream. Go to a bar. Go to a jardin. Go to a boulanger. Live a little, before you finally die. In other words, the book feels not so much dated as in need of contestation. I would have enjoyed it more if another character had voiced the limitations of the protagonists' viewpoints.
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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Alexiel on April 14, 2002
Format: Paperback
Too many people can't separate the ideas of "militant feminism" from De Beauvoir, and why this is, I can't understand. De Beauvoir is hardly extreme or radical; she simply advocates equality between the sexes... and who among us doesn't? How is this radical.
Anyway, to get to the book, this book is not like "All Men are Mortal" or "The Second Sex" in that, there is less advocation and pontificating going on here (this is a neutral judgment, by the way). It is more straightforward fiction; I would liken it to a minimalization of Balzac's view for the French society: It captures three woman in sharp, short snapshots at specific points in lives. What comes of this? Read and find out.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Stella on April 10, 2008
Format: Paperback
The title story teaches us: Nothing can destroy a woman but a man, or even better, a woman can destroy herself only because of a man!

There is no woman who will not identify with most of the story. I was clearly thinking - only a woman can write such a story, becuse a man would never get it. Getting so desparate as to do the handwriting analysis, reading the horosocpes, seeking advice from anyone, and NOT LETTING GO, becuse she lost herself in this marriage and she can't bear the thought of finding herself back. I felt for both women in the story and both were so real.

A woman who ever denies feeling even parts of what Monique is feeling is lying to herself and others.

This is so painfully realistic!
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Format: Paperback
Good one! I've only read an excerpt of The Second Sex and was happy to find this collection of short stories (or stories and a novella) at a yard sale. I love de Beauvoir 's writing, both her use of language and how she deeply examines her female characters' internal lives.

The first story, "The Age of Discretion," deals with a mother of a grown son. She'd always had such a strong influence on him and on his life decisions, and now copes with his independent views and choices. An American might call her controlling and withholding, but many mothers, including me, might also relate to the conflicting feelings of a child pulling away (although it usually happens when they are children!). At the same time, this mother, a respected writer, has come out with a new book, one that receives only mediocre reviews. She is forced to deal with the idea that her years of work on that book and a related follow-up she is currently working on are wasted effort. Twined in with all this is the simple fact of aging and diminishing. She observes it in her husband and confronts it in herself. Such good writing.

"Monologue" is a long stream-of-consciousness rant, difficult to read due to long paragraphs and esoteric punctuation. This woman rails against everything and everyone. She's one put-upon lady. No fun to read, not the format and not the subject. Luckily, it's the shortest story.

The best by far is the title story, about a woman whose husband is having an affair. This is told in diary form by the betrayed wife, Monique, so would reflect her innermost thoughts on what happens and how she responds. de Beauvoir's writing is so intelligent and the storyline so French.
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