The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer | Book Review

The Female Persuasion Summary

To be admired by someone we admire—we all yearn for this: the private, electrifying pleasure of being singled out by someone of esteem. But sometimes it can also mean entry to a new kind of life, a bigger world.

Greer Kadetsky is a shy college freshman when she meets the woman she hopes will change her life. Faith Frank, dazzlingly persuasive and elegant at sixty-three, has been a central pillar of the women’s movement for decades, a figure who inspires others to influence the world. Upon hearing Faith speak for the first time, Greer—madly in love with her boyfriend, Cory, but still full of longing for an ambition that she can’t quite place—feels her inner world light up. And then, astonishingly, Faith invites Greer to make something out of that sense of purpose, leading Greer down the most exciting path of her life as it winds toward and away from her meant-to-be love story with Cory and the future she’d always imagined.

The Female Persuasion Review

Feminism. It’s a topic we’ve heard discussed many a time, however, remains to be an important one. Whilst we’ve made a lot of progress in the last hundred or so years, in terms of women’s rights, there’s still a lot to be done. In her book, The Female Persuasion, Meg Wolitzer attempts to address the feminism of today in the framework of Greer Kadestsky’s life, in addition to some of the significant people in it.

The book kicks off in a way slightly reminiscent of a young adult novel: Greer has just jetted off to college and finds herself struggling to navigate her new life, separate from her boyfriend and stuck in a new place. This soon changes after she’s sexually assaulted at her first frat party, causing her to propel into activism, determined to make this boy, who she finds out is a repeat offender, realise the consequences of his actions. However, it’s her brief interaction with feminist figurehead Faith Frank that truly sets Greer on her path.

It’s at that point when the novel changes trajectory, continuing to follow Greer out of college, but now with additional insight into the lives of her boyfriend, Cory, fellow activist slash friend, Zee and Faith Frank herself. With chapters being written in each of their point of views, allowing for introspective commentary on their own situations. The story also turns to dealing with topics, such as trauma, mentorship, power, alongside the original ones of activism, family and friendship.

Meg Wolitzer hasn’t created a tidy book with neat, likeable characters, she delivers ones that feel real – tangible in their flaws and fragility. Which, of course, can be frustrating as a reader at times, but allows the novel to be a more honest portrayal, reflective of the “real world” and makes it easier to garner lessons for learning along the way. In addition to this, the relationships Wolitzer chooses to focus aren’t ones of romance, but that of mentorship and family, which I appreciated a lot as I find that the former ends up being the driving force in novels so often.

All of the main characters in The Female Persuasion are feminists, to varying degrees; what I find most interesting is how their beliefs transpire through in different ways: Faith Frank is an inspiring icon, well-established in the feminist world; Greer eagerly trying to follow her lead. Zee is wanting to contribute to the “greater good” of the world and make a difference, shaped by her identity and her past. Those three women stand out as the “most feminist” in the novel, or at least the most obviously so. However, feminism is also present, in a subtler way, in the actions – both big and small – of the other characters in the book. It’s these which, to me, are of more significance. As it’s the every day, quieter feminism carried out on a small scale by many people which contributes just as much, potentially even more so, to making a difference than the big movements, protests and speeches.

“I think there are two kinds of feminists. The famous ones, and everyone else. Everyone else, all the people who just quietly go and do what they’re supposed to do, and don’t get a lot of credit for it, and don’t have someone out there every day telling them they’re doing an awesome job.”

Zee, The Female Persuasion

If you’re looking for a book to educate you on contemporary feminism and ignite a passion for the causet then The Female Persuasion may not be for you. Nor if you want a concise storyline with a defined take-home message. However, if you’re wanting a heart-warming read that will make you think along the way; leave you pondering and discussing afterwards then it will be up your street. It doesn’t matter so much that Meg Wolitzer is repeating insight that you may already know, but the importance is buried in the way that she presents it.

Rating: 4/5

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