The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer
Publishing Group: 4/3/18
eBook review copy; 464 pages
The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer is a highly recommended
coming-of-age novel that follows a decade in the life of a young
woman and explores friendship, relationships, ambition, and mentors.
Greer Kadetsky is a freshman at Ryland College who is trying to keep
a long-distance relationship going with her high school boy friend,
Cory Pinto, who is attending Princeton.
She has always been a bookish, intelligent, independent girl with
parents who were more self-involved than parental. She was also
accepted at and planning to attend an Ivy league school with Cory,
but her parents messed up the financial aid form, which Greer still
resents. When Greer gets groped at a frat party during her first
weekend at college, she is hesitant to report it. Her politically
savvy friend Zee urges her to, but she doesn't until other girls go
through the same thing. When the university hearing on the matter
results in no sanctions or actions, Greer and Zee are angry at their
inability to address the actions of this young man.
Greer and Zee are still angry when they go to hear the famous,
charismatic feminist Faith Frank, sixty-three, speak on campus.
Greer is mesmerized by Frank, asks her a question related to the
groping incident, and the university's empty response to the
charges. Later the two continue their discussion in the bathroom.
Faith is taken by Greer, talks to the young woman and gives her her
card. This leads to an opportunity after Greer graduates to work for
the feminist icon at her new foundation, Loci, which sponsors
conferences about women's issues.
The writing is excellent. I loved this: "You know, I sometimes
think that the most effective people in the world are introverts who
taught themselves how to be extroverts." It is clear from the
beginning that Wolitzer knows how to tell an entertaining and
engaging story while keeping her plot moving forward. The Female
Persuasion really becomes a saga as it follows Greer and the
others through the decade. The narrative follows Greer, Cory, Faith,
Zee, and another male character. These are all well-developed but
flawed characters, with strengths and weaknesses. The characters are
all distinctive and have their own individual voices. While Greer is
the compelling central character, in some ways Cory is actually the
more sympathetic and humane character.
Is this the feminist blockbuster of our times? Well, I'm not
convinced it is, but perhaps I'm too old for it. It is certainly a
very good novel and I was engrossed in the story. I would agree that
it explores embracing womanhood, yet also suffering because of it.
All the young characters start out emotional, wanting to change the
world, striving to make their mark on the world and do something.
They are also can be a bit entitled, naive, and sometimes, well,
whiny. I realize that they don't feel the need to acknowledge what
women before them have experienced, how many of us have been groped,
or worse long before they came along, but they also seem to want all
women to be pigeon-holed into walking lock-step with a set list of
"'Sisterhood,' she said, 'is about being together with other women
in a cause that allows all women to make the individual choices they
want.'" Although this sentiment was shared, it was never really
embraced in the novel and perhaps that is what is bothering me. As
women, we fought for the right to be individuals and to be able to
voice our own opinions and be in charge of our own bodies. We don't
need to throw that away by insisting that it means only these ideals
or only a specific stand on certain issues. Sometimes I see women
destroying our own freedoms by not allowing others to have their own
views and opinions based on their experiences.
My review copy was courtesy of the
Penguin Publishing Group.