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The Women's Room by Marilyn French
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The Women's Room (1977)

by Marilyn French

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1,653316,355 (3.88)107
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English (26)  French (2)  Finnish (1)  German (1)  All languages (30)
Showing 1-5 of 26 (next | show all)
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 |
from 11/2013:

last time around i didn't want to tackle so much in a review, because there is a lot that she covers in this book, and a lot to respond to, especially when i was new at writing reviews. i wish i had written more, though, because i feel so clearly differently about it this time than last.

i still won't write all that i could, because this review would be book length itself.

there is so much in this book. so much of it has stood the test of time and so much of it hasn't. so much of it is profound and so much of it is dead wrong. it's a hard book to read. it's dense and the main character isn't likable (for the most part). it's challenging (in a good way) but also off-putting.

i think this book, through it's group of women characters, has important conversations and realizations about feminism and gender bias and rape culture, exposing the reader to political issues, radical feminism, race issues, class issues, and lesbian issues. or it was intending to. she fell short on many of these (race and sexuality in particular) but it was a valiant attempt for its time. and realistic in that throughout their conversations, many of the women stumbled or slowly came to their convictions. but there was a lot of reinforcing of stereotypes that bothered me. and i'm not sure if she (french) meant it when she had so many of the women want (or think they want?) forcible sexual encounters. if she didn't mean for that to be true it wasn't as clear as it could be. her depiction of the token lesbian really irked me as well. iso sleeps with any of the women in their friend circle who is vulnerable basically. it's a very stereotypical (and unflattering, even as iso was one of the "better" characters) and not too typical (from my experience) representation. she used the "n word" all the time, and not always in a way that seemed to be intentionally political, but as if she was just using it. but she also manages to bring to the surface so many issues about gender that i would think reading this book when it was written would make your head explode. it's a testament to how far we've come that so much of it hasn't held up well, and a testament to how far we still need to go that much of it still reads like it could have been written yesterday.

i'm all over the place here. i think that is because, for me, this book tries to cover too much ground. it could have been hundreds of pages shorter and still gone more in depth about "women's issues" and been more accessible and more of a lightening rod.

at the same time, i know when i first read this, i really felt like this book spoke to me on a visceral level. i felt this book said things that i, and women i knew, were saying or thinking and that i wasn't reading elsewhere, even 30 years after it was written. so that's something. this time, though, while parts of it really spoke to me, other parts made me want to scream back, and i wanted the whole of it to be better, more true to life today, and more applicable. a lot has changed in the years that she wrote this, so this isn't a book that can be taken and seen as if it was written today. but at the same time, it's immediately clear that so much is still the same, so much is keeping women in many of the same or similar places we were in when french wrote this. so maybe this book has more staying power than i'm giving it credit for. and i will say that it very much makes me nostalgic for those college days of group friendship and long philosophical talks where you think you and/or your friends have just come up with the most original and profound stuff that could change the world.

lots of the quotes won't work out of context because there were pages and pages leading up to the point she makes but i'll include some of what i noted throughout:

"Wife or whore, women are the most scorned class in America. You may hate niggers and PRs and geeks, but you're a little frightened of them. Women don't even get the respect of fear."

"...everybody despised boys, everyone looked down on them, the teachers, her mother, even her father. 'Boys!' they would exclaim in disgust. But everyone admired men."

"I've often seen blushing young men with shining eyes behave the same way [as titillating young women], but no one says of them that they want to be raped. ... no one accuses them of being cunt teases."

on abortion, and one of the religious problems on ending an unwanted pregnancy that had never occurred to me:

"'I'd love to get one! But if I did it, I'd have to go to confession and say I was sorry, but I wouldn't be sorry so I couldn't say it so I couldn't go to confession and I could never take communion again!' It poured out like a stream of rage."

"'It's as though there's more freedom, but all it means is more freedom for men.'"

"What I don't understand is where women suddenly get power. Because they do. The kids, who almost always turn out to be a pile of shit, are, we all know, Mommy's fault. Well, how did she manage that, this powerless creature? Where was all her power during the years she was doing five loads of laundry a week worrying about mixing the whites with the colors? How was she able to offset Daddy's positive influence? How come she never knows she has this power until afterward, when it gets called responsibility?"

"Men always seem to think power is more attractive [to women] than lovingness. I suppose they have some reason to think so."

(3 stars)

from 4/2008

too much to discuss here, too much to think about. a feminist manifesto of sorts, with a not so feminist discussion of rape toward the end that only partially redeems itself...

2 quotes from the passage that challenges me the most (and which might not make sense out of context) :

"I've dropped out of that world. I belong to all women's groups now. I shop at a feminist market, bank in a women's bank. I've joined a militant feminist organization, and in the future I will work only in that. Fuck the dissertation, the degree, Harvard. They're all part of the male world. you can't compromise with it. It eats you alive, rapes you body and soul...."

"I don't look for pleasure any more in life. It's a luxury I can't afford. For forty-odd years I've been a member of an oppressed people consorting with the enemy, advancing the enemy's cause. In some places that's called slavery. I'm through with it."

(4 stars) ( )
  elisa.saphier | Apr 2, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (17 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Marilyn Frenchprimary authorall editionscalculated
Faludi, SusanAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To Isabel, to Janet - sisters, friends
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Mira was hiding in the ladies' room.
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Wikipedia in English (3)

Book description
VIRAGO EDITION:
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.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0345353617, Mass Market Paperback)

"Couargeous...Honest...Powerful."
CHICAGO TRIBUNE
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)

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