Monday, June 20, 2016

Reading Flashback: The Women's Room by Marilyn French

From my diary, 1979:

Just finished The Women's Room. I feel cold and sick all over. I'm never getting married.

After that pronouncement, I reasoned to myself that Marilyn French's 1977 novel took place during the 1950s through the 1970s. Those were the Bad Old Days, weren't they? Men these days wouldn't dare to be so caddish, would they?

Yes, of course they would, and example after example has come down through the years, thankfully, hardly any of them personally affecting me.

 My first thought, even after all this time is: "Whoa! This is like The Women's Room!"

I had this thought again when the news about the Stanford swimmer/rapist was splashed all over social media along with his despicable father's horrible letter as well as the judge who gave that guy the lightest little knuckle rap of a sentence.

And I thought: These are the Bad Old Days.

When The Women's Room was first published, it was a bestseller, but it was also sneered at as being too soap-opera-ish and of course the old, tired, dismissive "shrill".

From what I remember: It's searing. It's scene after scene after scene of men behaving like assholes. Men from every walk of life being disappointing at least and harmful at most. This novel is anguish and white-hot rage. Things are grim, then there's a glimmer of hope, then the door slams shut. All is dark and comfortless.

My original copy of The Women's Room is long gone, read to shreds. I went to the library and checked their copy out a few days ago. I want to revisit the novel and see if it's what I remember after almost 4 decades.  I know that it can't affect me in the exact same way because I've changed from a 17-year-old girl to a fiftysomething woman. Will it still make me cold and sick? I'm almost afraid to start. But I must.

Is The Women's Room read at all today, or largely forgotten? Did any of you read this book? What was your reaction? 

1 comment:

Unruly Reader said...

Oh, yes. I read that book in my mid-20s and felt chilled. But I also learned some important things, and some of them proved very useful.

If it's not still being read, I think it should be. There's life lessons in there, sisters!