Saturday, 5 May 2018


The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer  {Reviewed by STELLA}
Meg Wolitzer delivers a cutting analysis of the feminism of ‘our time’. InFemale Persuasion, we meet Greer Kadetsky: young, idealistic and yearning for attention; and Faith Frank: ageing, dynamic, pragmatic and fearful of irrelevance. While the novel is set in the world of ‘new feminism’, and Wolitzer references feminist movements and philosophies, and floats these concepts through the guise of her characters’ actions and their words, The Female Persuasion is much more about the relationship between these two women and their relationships with others. Greer Kadetsky arrives at university, sans her childhood boyfriend, Cory, the only strong relationship she possesses, as an awkward, geeky and naive student intent on getting through. From the first days, she is thrown together with the more outrageous and politicised Zee, who drags her along to a lecture by the celebrated 70s feminist Faith Frank. From here an admiration is born and Faith Frank, for whatever reason, takes an interest in Greer. Years on, university complete and stranded in her small hometown of Macopee with her ex-hippie parents, Greer gets up the nerve to approach Faith for a job on the fem magazine, Bloomer. All a little too late, Greer arrives for an interview on the day the magazine folds, no longer relevant or appealing to the new wave of feminism. Yet Greer’s luck holds when Faith Frank invites her to apply for an assistant role in a new women’s foundation, LOCI, backed by Emmett Shrader, a corporate billionaire of some dodgy dealings. Ironically, she never seriously questions the locus of power, too enamoured with Faith Frank and all she stands for. She will do anything for Faith. It’s hard to wholeheartedly like Greer or Faith, and you shouldn’t, yet you can understand the idealism of the younger and the pragmatism of the older. Wolitzer shows up organisations and their power structures for what they are: mechanisms to get things done, yet also mechanisms which place power in the hands of a few, with willing acolytes ready to jump. After reading a few reviews of this book, I was surprised that many had missed Wolitzer’s irony and wit that plays out throughout the book. Wolitzer is similar to Jonathan Franzen and Jeffrey Eugenides in style: dramatic relationship plots are layered over popular culture, and her social commentary often cuts to the quick. It often had me laughing out loud (those unforgettable moments when the team are at the summer house and Greer goes along with the pack tucking into her rare steak even though she’s a vegetarian). In Female Persuasion the all-white liberal female world of privilege of the LOCI foundation will make you wonder who this sanitised feminism is for. How will our classic good girl, Greer, respond when she is confronted with the truth? Added to this mix are the compelling voices and stories of Cory and Zee. Both have epiphanies driven by dramatic events or hard choices that help them develop from cardboard cut-outs of what they think they should be in their early 20s to the people they become a decade on, and this keeps you engaged with this novel at a deeper and fundamentally more human level.  

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