Reviews

Women Talking, by Miriam Toews

serinalovesreading's review

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challenging emotional hopeful sad tense slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? It's complicated
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No

3.5


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bradfordreader's review

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challenging dark emotional hopeful reflective

4.5


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mirareadsbooks's review against another edition

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challenging dark hopeful inspiring reflective medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? No

4.0

flowers_and_the_moon's review

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5.0

I can see why people likened this to "A Handmaid's Tale" by Margaret Atwood.
The sad part of this is, this happened.

Whilst the conversation of the women is imagined, the events that lead up to the plot are real.
This book takes an interesting choice of being set out as the meeting minutes of the women.
The minutes are taken by a man of the village, as none of the women can write or read.
Through his perspective, we get added context to the words of the women.
Who they are, their family history, how he knows them, and their place in the events.
The events themselves are never explicitly talked about, with details not delved into.
This is partly because the women are afraid to speak of the despicable events, and partly because some of the women want to have them stay in the past so they can move on.

The women have a limited time to come to their conclusion if they are staying or leaving.
And for the most part, this goes around in circles, as the decision is weighted on both sides.
Leaving means being vulnerable to the outside world and having to find a way to fend for themselves.
Staying means forgiving the men, and potentially allowing it all to happen again.

The narrator also adds a lot of himself to the meeting minutes.
Something I feel may have annoyed other people, but that I found both a little endearing and a little ironic.
He has a troubled past and wants to help these women the best he can.
But in adding his own story into the notes, he is sort of adding a bit of focus back on himself.
In a society where the women are often sidelined for the males of the village to take priority.

This book was a bleak look into what happens when women are so oppressed they lose all power.
This along with "The Handmaids Tale" should be a grim warning of how these types of dynamics play out.
And a dark look into societies with deeply rooted sexism.

I don't think it is a bad thing that this echoes "the Handmaid's Tale", because I believe it adds to it.
Adding proof that Margaret Atwood's words of warning were not grim fairytales, but likely truths under the right circumstances.

terisobeck's review against another edition

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I should've realized from the name that the entire book was just...talking. But since it's all notes written by someone observing, there's no actual quoted dialogue. 

emidonovan18's review against another edition

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dark emotional informative sad medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? No

3.0

scamshanlon's review

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1.0

dnf, could not STAND august

athenameilahn's review

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3.0

Mixed feelings.
I really liked the premise-women and girls in a community were attacked by its boys and men. They were expected to do the emotional labor of simply forgiving them so they could get back to business as usual and not have to change their behaviors or mindset. The women revolt (I know one of them didn’t like the word but I do). Based on a true story, I’m enraged that the males would do that but so glad to hear the women are thoughtfully and determinedly exploring their options.

August is the only man allowed as the scribe to take the minutes. His interior moments give the tiniest of glimpses into the damage the reflexive patriarchal rule for the sake of preserving religion has on boys and men too. At the end we understand his existence is due to his own mother’s rape by the man who is now the head of the colony. The abuse rises to the highest level.

This wasn’t really driven by plot. We already know the event occurred. The book sets up the women’s discussion and August’s role as the focus. Inevitably his perspectives are embedded in what he writes. He is translating from the type of German into English and to keep straight who said what. He procures a map, explains how to read it, and a locked box with money and dynamite to open it. He provides info about the outside world. He is not passive, he’s integral.

All of that sets out to make the book something more than historical fiction. I appreciate that desire but I wasn’t thrilled with the execution. The discussions were quite philosophical. The ideas were certainly relevant and show how clearly and thoroughly the women were thinking through the options. If only women can leave what willl happen to the tween boys? If they forgive the men they can preserve their religious faith and stay but is it really forgiveness if it’s for self-preservation? Will the men obey their new manifesto? They know how to provide for themselves but do the men? If they don’t stay to re-educate the men on the values in the manifesto how will change occur?

All of this was substantive and worth noting, but an audio book didn’t lend itself to that. A paper book to refer back to passages and of #s would have been far better.

I expected to like this a lot more than I did. Perhaps in paper form I would have. I’m curious what colleagues in gender, philosophy, and religion would make of it. It is an interesting counterpoint to the book Catherine recommended where the women already live in isolation of men and do quite well when 3 explorers crash nearby and enter their world, “Herland” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. The women are brutally honest that they are more advanced and successful than the society from which the men came.

kareimer's review

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4.0

This book was one of a kind. It was particularly interesting for myself as someone with Mennonite heritage.

The good: as I said very unique - I’ve never read a book where the whole story is one meeting. The narrator made this format work as he wove in his own thoughts while also renaming somewhat an omniscient narrator. The book also gave me an understanding of a different form of feminism. I think it’s easy to forget that some women are still living in societies where they are viewed as objects to be used and given very little autonomy on their lives. It was inspiring to see the ways the women wove a sense that their treatment was wrong but also having few tools to change (no reading or writing) also the topic of religion was fascinating how they were dealing with reconciling the importance of religion to them with the fact religion has been taught to them by men and used to suppress their rights.

The bad: there was a lot of names and it was hard to determine storylines of individual characters. This was made worst as I was on an audiobook. Overall I kind of wish there was more on individual lives of the women instead of just a mob of voices debating.

mks74354's review

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challenging emotional mysterious reflective tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No

3.0