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The Women's Room (VMC) by Marilyn…

The Women's Room (VMC) (original 1977; edition 1997)

by Marilyn French (Author)

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1,580324,623 (3.87)90
Title:The Women's Room (VMC)
Authors:Marilyn French (Author)
Info:Virago (1997), Edition: New Ed, 544 pages
Collections:To read
Tags:Fiction, Virago Modern Classics, 1970's

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The Women's Room by Marilyn French (1977)


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English (27)  French (2)  Finnish (1)  German (1)  All (31)
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Mira and her friends represent a wide cross section of American 1950s & 60s society. Mira herself is from a middle class background. She is mildly rebellious in that she disagrees with her mother's view of the world, and in her late teens gains a bad reputation because she dances with several different men on an evening out with one of them. Nonetheless, she later marries Norm, a medical student, becoming a well respected doctor's wife and bearing two sons, Norm Jr. (called "Normie") and Clark.

Throughout the first few years of her marriage with Norm, Mira develops friendships with three neighborhood women: Natalie is a somewhat promiscuous woman, married to Hampden (called "Hamp") and the mother of three young daughters, Lena, Rena, and baby Deena. Adele is a devout Catholic, married to Paul and the mother of five (later six) children, Billy, Eric, Linda, Mike, and baby Mindy. Bliss is a Southern ex-schoolteacher, married to Bill and the mother of two daughters, Cheryl and Midge. Their bonds survive until Mira discovers that Bliss is having an affair with Paul, who has also had an affair with Natalie. Together, Paul and Bliss trick Adele into thinking that Mira might be the adulteress, resulting in irreversible damage to their friendship.

Mira and Norm later move to the small town of Beau Reve, where Mira meets Lily (married to Carl, mother of Andrea and Carlos), Samantha (married to Hugh "Simp" Simpson, mother of Fleur and Hughie), and Martha (married to George, mother of two). As her marriage to Norm becomes more and more routine, Mira witnesses Lily going mad as a result of her son's rebellious behaviour, Samantha being evicted after Simp loses his job and leaves her, and Martha taking a married lover who gets his wife pregnant. Through them she begins to understand the unfair advantages enjoyed by men in relationships.

After many years of marriage, Norm files for divorce, leaving Mira on her own. Following the divorce, Mira goes to Harvard University to study for a PhD in English literature. There she meets Val, a militant radical feminist divorcee with a teenage daughter, Chris. It is the heyday of Women's Liberation and Mira now too, finally able to verbalise her discontent at the society around her, becomes a feminist, although a less radical and militant one than Val. Their circle includes Isolde, or "Iso" (a lesbian divorcée), Kyla (married to Harley), Clarissa (married to Duke), and Ava (Iso's roommate, an aspiring dancer). It also includes Ben, a diplomat to the fictional African nation of Lianu, with whom Mira begins a relationship.

Following the rape of Val's daughter Chris, Val states (over Mira's protests), "Whatever they may be in public life, whatever their relationships with men, in their relationships with women, all men are rapists, and that's all they are. They rape us with their eyes, their laws, and their codes" (p. 433). Critics have sometimes quoted Val's dialogue as evidence of French's misandry without noting that the passage is only spoken by one of many characters in the novel [1][2]. Mira later ends her relationship with Ben after finding out that he expects her to return to Lianu with him and have a child together. Soon after, she finds out that Val has been shot following a violent protest at the trial of a rape victim.

The book ends with a doubling back in which the narrator begins to write the story the reader has just read.

  bostonwendym | Mar 3, 2016 |
Published in 1977, mostly set in Cambridge MA in the years 1968-71, I found this a profoundly thought provoking novel. I attended college in Boston during that era and as I read this account of the lives of a group of Harvard graduate students - all women - I kept thinking of my foolish life during those tumultuous times. So many tragic stories about women dealing with the challenges of their lives. After reading this I wonder how one can not sympathize with the feminine movement. ( )
  joeydag | Jul 23, 2015 |
This is an important book, full of emotion - anger, hope, frustration, love, sadness, regret. Mira moves from housewifery to Harvard, through relationships with family, friends, lovers and children, to a present as a writer, alone on a beach - but somehow whole. This is a book that matters because of what it says and what it feels - not because of the way it is written. Any woman will recognise parts of the book and argue with others - and will live through some of it. A life of liberated academia will never be for everyone, but a life of self awareness and choice is what French demands. It's closer now for more of us, but still too many women are locked in their rooms.
  otterley | Aug 13, 2014 |
A book that still resonates decades after it was written. Shows how far we have and yet at the same time haven't come.
1 vote traveltrish | Apr 8, 2014 |
A definite feminist classic and important work, or so I thought. I first read this book in the early 80's and remember how thoroughly it engaged me. I poured over every word, the women's stories moved me to tears and it was standard reading for most young women at the time. This novel opened the way to many, many discussions and we vowed to never let a man determine who we were and to firmly steer the course of our own lives. The Womens Room set me on the path of exploration; exploration into feminism and of who I was and wanted to be.

Nearly 30 years and many life experiences later I was eager to read this again. Disappointingly, the story feels very contrived, the characters don't feel real and it seems this was written mainly to repetitively hammer home the feminist agenda rather than because there is a tale to tell. My perspective has indeed changed so much that I felt it difficult to relate to the characters and I often just wanted to shout at them to stop whining and get on with it. However, having said that, this was still an important work for it's time. It was a catalyst for many women to start examining their lives and relationships, we do forget how incredibly and openly chauvinistic men were in those days, how difficult it was for women to break the chains of convention. We have come a long way since 1977 and it is partly due to novels like this that we opened our eyes and are now able to step up to the plate, rather than whining that someone wants us to wash it. ( )
  TillyTenchwiggle | Sep 26, 2013 |
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To Isabel, to Janet - sisters, friends
First words
Mira was hiding in the ladies' room.
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Disambiguation notice
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Wikipedia in English (3)

Book description
1968. Mira Ward is lonely, depressed and in a mess. Having spent years subscribing to the American Dream of a husband, children and a spotless kitchen in suburbia, Mira decides it's time to go back to school...From the shallow excitement of suburban cocktail parties and casual affairs, through the varied nightmares of rape, madness and loneliness to the dawning awareness of the exhilaration of liberation, Mira Ward's world is about to be turned gloriously upside down.
Arguably the most influential novel yet written abut the choices women make, The Women's Room is a classic of modern fiction and a landmark in feminist writing.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0345353617, Mass Market Paperback)

The classic feminist novel that awakened both women and men speaks to everyone about the deep feelings at the heart of love and relationships. A biting social commentary of an emotional world gone silently haywire, THE WOMEN'S ROOM is a modern allegory that offers piercing insight into the social norms accepted so blindly and revered so completely.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:32 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

A landmark in feminist literature, THE WOMEN'S ROOM is a biting social commentary of a world gone silently haywire. Written in the 1970s but with profound resonance today, this is a modern allegory that offers piercing insight into the social norms accepted blindly and revered so completely. 'Today's desperate housewives" eat your heart out! This is the original and still the best, a page-turner that makes you think. Essential reading' Kate Mosse 'They said this book would change lives - and it certainly changed mine' Jenni Murray 'Reading THE WOMEN'S ROOM was an intense and wonderful experience. It is in my DNA' Kirsty Wark 'THE WOMEN'S ROOM took the lid off a seething mass of women's frustrations, resentments and furies; it was about the need to change things from top to bottom; it was a declaration of independence' OBSERVER.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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