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Meg Wolitzer addresses feminism through fiction


The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer tackles the evolution of contemporary feminism through the experiences of fictional 20-something Greer and 60-something Faith Frank. It’s a riff on the old theme of A Star is Born where the veteran is overtaken by her protégé. We’re introduced to Greer as a young girl being raised by seemingly indifferent parents. Her neighbour Cory becomes her best friend, lover and hoped-for life partner. Both Greer and Cory are gifted students with great futures predicted for them both at high-end ivy-league universities. Cory successfully qualifies for a scholarship and attends Princeton while Greer grudgingly attends a lower echelon college because her parents couldn’t master the scholarship application forms.

During her first year of college, at the urging of a friend, Greer attends a presentation by a famous early feminist, Faith Frank. During a post-speech encounter in the ladies room, Greer scores a business card from empathetic and powerful Frank which Greer uses when she graduates to land a job at Faith Frank’s feminist foundation. In the meantime, after graduating from Princeton, boyfriend Cory’s career in business takes him to Manilla. During his overseas assignment, Cory receives devastating news that results in his returning home to take care of his mother. Complications naturally arise and the characters’ career trajectories are diverted. As Greer and Cory’s individual lives evolve, their personal relationship evaporates.

There are many reasons I looked forward to reading The Female Persuasion:

  • I enjoyed Wolitzer’s earlier book, The Interestings.
  • The plot focuses on the evolution of feminism, an issue of deep interest to me.
  • When I saw the author interviewed on The Social I was impressed with her intelligence and powers of observation.
  • The book is a New York Times best-seller and film rights have been optioned by Nicole Kidman.

However, just because all these criteria come together in The Female Persuasion it doesn’t necessarily mean I loved the book. I found the plot to be a tad cliché and the story didn’t keep me strongly engaged. It’s only because the book was a best-seller and I held out hope that it would get better that I kept going. Parts of it were crushingly boring and could have used further editing. I’d call it light reading and more about love and romance than feminism. I disagree with New York Times’ readers. I’d be interested in knowing what you think. Rating: 5 out of 10.

To order The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitizer from Amazon.ca, click here.


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Trip into the light fantastic


When I saw that I was number four on the waiting list at the library for Meg Wolitzer’s current best seller The Female Persuasion I decided to try another of her books while I waited for Persuasion to become available. The Uncoupling was written in 2011 and it turned out to be an interesting choice. I had no idea what to expect but it’s sort of a fantasy that wouldn’t normally have been my kind of book, however it turned out to be a really fun read. The plot follows the inhabitants of Stellar Plains, New Jersey as they fall under a spell that is reminiscent of a Greek play being performed by students at the local high school. If someone you know is a teacher, they’ll really enjoy this book.

We are first introduced to Robby and Dory Lang who along with their teenage daughter Willa form a perfect Stepford family. Robby and Dory teach English at Eleanor Roosevelt High School and Wolitzer’s descriptions of the students, teachers and the assorted members of the community is razor sharp. The Spanish teacher is called Señor Mandelbaum; Leanne Bannerjee, the school psychologist is having an affair with Principal McCleary; two of the students wear tee shirts that read SLUT I and SLUT II.

When a new drama teacher, Fran Heller arrives on the scene, the established social order is thrown off balance. As expected of a drama teacher, Heller is unconventional and paints her house in southwestern Arizona colours that are completely incongruent with the northeastern community. Her husband lives far away in Chicago and her precocious son Eli becomes a classmate and BFWB of Willa Lang. The play Fran Heller finally selects for her students to perform in their annual February event is a Greek comedy, Lysistrata, the Aristophanes comedy first performed in 411 B.C. Fed up with their testosterone-loaded men spending all their time killing and fighting in the Peloponnesian War for the past twenty years, the women in the play stage a sex strike to deprive their men of what they want the most in life—SEX—until they stop warring.

Coincidentally, a cold wind blows through various homes in Stellar Plains around the same time and deprives all the local females of their sex drive. They turn away from husbands and lovers creating an atmosphere of confusion, anger and resentment. As you can imagine, this action has grave repercussions. The drama culminates in a keystone cops kind of conclusion during the students’ grand performance of Lysistrata that made me think of a toned-down version of Jack Nicholson’s comeuppance in Witches of Eastwick. Except, there’s a solid moral to this story. Really fun read and I plan to check out more books by Meg Wolitzer.

Thought for the day:

What if American women staged a similar strike until the men got rid of their guns. Imagine . . .