The Female Persuasion Almost Persuades

Meg Wolitzer’s New Novel Is Woke, But Long

I’m a fan of Meg Wolitzer’s novels because of her smart, perceptive takes on motherhood, marriage and midlife. The Female Persuasion definitely has all of that, but this time the stronger theme is feminist history, both in its early days and now in the time of #MeToo. If a pink knit hat ever wrote a novel, it’d probably be this one.

After ambitious college student Greer gets groped by a fraternity boy who isn’t punished, she sets off on a woke path that leads her to Faith Frank, a Gloria Steinem-esque feminist icon. Faith and Greer begin a mentor/mentee relationship that feels familiar to any woman who’s ever found herself on either (or both) sides of that dynamic. Wolitzer insightfully writes about their complicated betrayals and loves, and the eventual power struggle that ends it all. It’s basically All About Eveexcept set at Ms. magazine and not as bitchy.

While I enjoyed the majority of this book, I admit that I was ready for it to be over. Maybe it’s because Wolitzer’s books are lengthy—I remember feeling the same when reading The Interestings and The Ten Year Nap—or maybe it’s because I found the end reveal to be anticlimactic and slight. Maybe, and most likely, it’s because in the year 2018, I don’t need a feminism debate in my fiction because there’s enough of that going on in my real life.

The Female Persuasion, by Meg Wolitzer

(Riverhead Books, 2018)

Wendi Aarons

Wendi Aarons is the creator of @paulryangosling. She writes the USWeekly Fashion Police column and comic essays for McSweeneys. Mostly she writes notes that she leaves on cars parked by assholes. She’s lived in Austin, Texas for 20 years and hopes you don’t move there.

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