A review by sauvageloup
Three Women, by Lisa Taddeo

challenging dark informative reflective sad medium-paced


Rating this book for how much I liked it, versus how well I thought it achieved its purpose, feel like totally different things.

- Taddeo definitely has a pretty way with words. Sometimes it hit exactly right and was very astute and/or moving. She weaves the stories together really well and collected all the threads into one big carpet of 'desire in women' which I know from trying to bring fiction plots together AND bringing university essays into a neat but inpactful conclusion is really hard.
- it was definitely thought-provoking. When i couldn't sleep because of my cold, I thought about this book and the women in it, trying to puzzle them out at the same time as my reaction to it, and how it related to my life, my gender. 
- I liked very much that Taddeo acknowledged that Black and poor (and other maginalised) women have it much harder. The book wants women to go after their desires without being limited by society, or men, or other women, or shame, or the law. But it does admit this is far easier for some than others, and the women it focuses on in the book are all (to my knowledge) white.
- Some of the parts on desire did ring true to me. Women shamed for wanting sex, or wanting part but not all of it, of the word 'slut' hanging in the air even when it's not said, of being terrified of sex but desperate to abate the loneliness at the same time. Somewhere in there, it did hit a chord at times.

- Primarily, I found it hard to relate? or objectively view? this book because of my own feeling around woman-ness. I'm non-binary, I've deliberately rejected being called a 'woman' in whichever places I feel comfortable enough to come out. But in society at large and my own home with my parents, I'm still considered, against my will, to be a woman. I feel so strongly about not being a woman that I've gone out of my way and caused myself pain trying to figure this truth out inside me, and yet I was brought up as one, are viewed as one 90% of the time, and have the body parts of one. So that alone makes any book trying to "cut to the heart" of being a woman very difficult.
- That said, I didn't feel like i could relate to much of what the women were feeling or doing, either in what I'd observed in women around me or in the feminine parts of myself. How much of that is down to my own denial, me not being a woman, me not being observant or experienced or cynical enough, or even me being British not American, I don't know. I had a visceral rejection to many things in each of the women's story's that just said 'that doesn't feel True'. Not the events, of course, I don't doubt the trauma and the awfulness the women went through, but how they reacted to men and the cruelty between women didn't feel true to me. I haven't met women so consumed by men, or women being so cruel. Maybe I'm naive. (but then there's all the reviewers saying that the book 'gets to the heart of who we are' and i'm just like ????
- I also felt that the book was trying to be brand new and yet didn't feel that original at all. It said here, look at these women's pain and feel shocked and angry on their behalf. I've read other books that talk brutally about rape and abuse (Notes to self by Emilie Pine and Escape by Carolyn Jessop) in real life as well as the struggles of parents who didn't do right, who didn't protect their daughters. I suppose the fact that Maggie wasn't believed in her rape trial shows that these stories need to be out there, but I feel it's preaching to the choir sometimes. But I don't know how much is me trying to be like, I'm different, I wouldn't act like that, I would believe the women and support them and be happy for their successes and I know the world is complicated and wouldn't judge them for having an affair, or being too brash, and goddammit i'd say something if someone got an eating disorder. But there's always the doubt of, would I actually?
- Sometimes the flowery writing was just A Bit Much, and sometimes it was painfully blunt. Both of which I could more used to as the book went on, but it felt like unnecessary excess at times, in crudity and in flowery-ness. (But I think maybe Taddeo was aiming for that - to try to capture something bigger than the literal, and to be brutally honest. So here's where what i like and can manage to read splits away from reviewing whether or not Taddeo wrote a good book.)
- There was also the problem of the assumption that to be a woman you must experience sexual desire. That they all do. That it's normal. Impying that it's not normal if you don't. If you're asexual for example. I don't know, perhaps I'm expecting too much. I know this focuses on three allosexual women who like men, but when a book is claiming to be trying to include the whole of female desire, i felt it could have at least touched on women who don't want sex, or on women who have a penis. (also the implication that men are wrong if they don't want sex?? Lina's damp-fish of a husband, who's described as 'smirking' after the therapist validifies his desire not to want to kiss. Like, he *is* valid. He's just wrong for Lina, as she's wrong for him.)
- Finally, I feel uneasily like Taddeo might be the type to be a terf. I can't find anything that suggests so, but the literal one mention of queer people in her book (a gay man) is followed immediately by him acting badly. There's no discussion of gender beyond the binary, and Sloane's experiences as a queer woman seem primarily to be at her husband's bequest and not hers. Taddeo talks about women's desire, but never about women's desire for other women.

So yeah. Complicated.

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