The Female Persuasionby Published 03 Apr 2018
|The Female Persuasion.pdf|
Greer Kadetsky is a shy college freshman when she meets the woman she hopes will change her life. Faith Frank, dazzlingly persuasive and elegant at sixty-three, has been a central pillar of the women's movement for decades, a figure who inspires others to influence the world. Upon hearing Faith speak for the first time, Greer--madly in love with her boyfriend, Cory, but still full of longing for an ambition that she can't quite place--feels her inner world light up. Then, astonishingly, Faith invites Greer to make something out of that sense of purpose, leading Greer down the most exciting path of her life as it winds toward and away from her meant-to-be love story with Cory and the future she'd always imagined.
"The Female Persuasion" Reviews
The Female Persuasion is a novel with little story and a lot of ideas, none of them particularly new ones.
It stands out for being an overview of the white feminist experience during the nineties and early 21st century. Because, though it may feel like one must, I actually don't think a book like this existed before. Or, at least, not in mainstream literature.
So I can see some value in it, but I just didn't enjoy this anywhere near as much as I thought I would. Or find any new ideas or inspiration in its pages. I can picture, many years from now, students sat in a classroom and analyzing this book for its historical context, as a book that covers a broad range of feminist issues that are relevant to people today. Wolitzer has captured the recent history of feminism, in breadth more than depth, showcasing discussions on everything from abortion rights to the wage gap, and from porn to rape culture.
It all begins on a college campus where the shy Greer Kadetsky attends a talk by influential feminist, Faith Frank. Faith heads a foundation called Loci, which sponsors feminist conferences, and during her talk, Greer asks a question relating to her own assault. This triggers a number of events leading to Faith offering Greer a career opportunity. Alongside this, there is also the story of the relationship between Greer and Cory.
It seems that the book attempts to bridge the gap between second and third wave feminists, and between Gen X and Gen Y-ers (Millennials), and yet I don't think it does this very well. Faith Frank is part of an antiquated, predominantly-white feminism, which is acknowledged and then kind of brushed aside. Despite obvious attempts to be self-aware and point out privilege, The Female Persuasion never quite becomes intersectional in its feminism. It definitely doesn't help that every character with more than a brief mention is cisgender and white, aside from the Portuguese Cory.
It is a long book with very little story to justify its length. It felt like lots of conversations were had between the characters but, other than offering a platform to discuss all the hot feminist topics, I didn't get the point of the story. There were lots of boring parts.
Greer's shyness and anxiety interested me at first, but she quickly grew into a bland character who I didn't care for. Perhaps ironically, though perhaps not (who knows what irony is, anyway?), the guy character - Cory - was probably the most interesting character in this book.
So, yes, I think this book gathers a lot of ideas together, but I don't think it adds anything to the discussions being had. I'm sure years from now this book will help future generations understand the conversations being had during our time about feminism and privilege, but right now it did very little for me. For such an acclaimed author, everything about this had a surprising lack of depth.
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I have read a lot of books recently that concern themselves chiefly with the experience of being a woman in the modern world. While THE FEMALE PERSUASION seems to be about this as well, I'm also not quite sure what it's about exactly. I can tell you what all the pieces are--the complexity of female friendship, the joy and danger of female mentorship, what it means to do good--and yet I didn't finish this book feeling like I'd seen any new insight, felt a deep kinship with the characters, or seen my experience or the experiences of others I know reflected back at me.
Much of the book takes place around a setpiece of privileged women gathering, paying a ridiculous ticket price, listening to women deliver inspirational messages, with manicure stations and fancy food all around. The book knows this is not a good look, and yet I often felt like I was at an event like this while reading the book, it's all very nice but none of it feels real.
My own personal tastes certainly come into play here. When our protagonist finds herself at a perfectly standard liberal arts college, her disappointment that it isn't an ivy made me roll my eyes. When our protagonist moves to the big city fresh out of college with a dream job and an apartment without roommates, same. And when we discover early on that our protagonist will eventually become famous. And when a woman who comes from money encounters people who don't for the first time. And so on. It's often hard for me to read books about privileged people working hard to make the world a better place. And it's odd because our protagonist doesn't start out as privileged but she seems to ease into it so quickly.
My favorite section of the book was about one of the only male main characters and what happens when all those trappings are suddenly gone. His detachment from everyone around him, his motivations, his actions felt more real even if I didn't find myself fully transported to his point of view. I should add that I have read a few of Wolitzer's books and never really enjoyed them. I read this one because of its premise but I think she and I are just not a good fit. She doesn't seem to write the kind of stories I can lose myself in for whatever reason.
Right now I admit I set a higher standard for books about women and feminism. We have a lot of ground to cover, and I don't see the point in books that don't push us forward, ask new questions, bring us into new conversations. Most of us have long since moved past second wave feminism, but this book seems to be speaking to people who are still enamored with it. I would have liked to see something bolder, something that asks more questions about women's choices, but it seems Wolitzer isn't quite there yet.
4 idiosyncratic enthusiastic stars!
The Female Persuasion is one of those novels that felt flawed, but that I still really enjoyed reading. This is the third novel I’ve read by Meg Wolitzer. She writes dense stories. She portrays characters that are not particularly likeable or sympathetic. She engages with complicated contemporary political and social issues. It doesn’t all come together perfectly, but I always feel like she gives me a lot of food for thought.
The Female Persuasion focuses primarily on Greer, from adolescence to her late 20s. She is very bright and driven, but somewhat rudderless given her aloof parents. She ends up being very drawn to an older well known feminist — Faith Frank — seeking to get meaning out of working for Frank’s foundation. There are a few other characters who play a big role in Greer’s life — a long term boyfriend, a best friend and Frank’s onetime lover who funds the foundation. The book grapples with issues such as how to live a politically meaningful life, the intersection between the political and the personal, and the relationship between different generations of feminists. There are no answers or messages — although there are many moments of interesting reflection.
I suspect that The Female Persuasion won’t work for readers looking for a crisp story or clear meaning. But I really liked it, even in all of its dense messiness.
Thanks to the publisher and Edelweiss for giving me access to an advance copy.
I doubted I'd ever be someone who had "favorite authors," but this settles it. Meg Wolitzer is at the top of that list.
The Female Persuasion is a novel about women, sisterhood, family, ambition, and ideals. More than a book it is also a depiction of what feminism means, what it was like decades ago and how it has evolved. Of course, we learn this from the point of view of the characters limited by their circumstances.
The story is narrated from different points of view but the character we spent the most time with is Greer Kadetsky. We follow her beginnings as a teenager all the way to adulthood. Her search for meaningful work and the disappointments she encounters along the way.
The point at which Greer's life changes is when she meets Faith Frank and becomes inspired by her speech and ideals. A few years later, Greer starts working with Faith and, I would say, this is where the novel became interesting to me.
Overall, this is a well-written novel with engaging characters and backstories. I enjoyed it and recommend it to readers of contemporary fiction.
Received ARC from the publisher via Edelweiss