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Tuesday, October 22, 2019

'Three Women' by Lisa Taddeo

Received from the Publisher 

From the BLURB: 

All Lina wanted was to be desired. How did she end up in a marriage with two children and a husband who wouldn't touch her? 

All Maggie wanted was to be understood. How did she end up in a relationship with her teacher and then in court, a hated pariah in her small town? 

All Sloane wanted was to be admired. How did she end up a sexual object of men, including her husband, who liked to watch her have sex with other men and women?

Three Women is a record of unmet needs, unspoken thoughts, disappointments, hopes and unrelenting obsessions.

Ok. So I’m a little obsessed with this book, 'Three Women' by Lisa Taddeo.

Not ... not so much the *topic* - which follows three white, ordinary, mostly heterosexual American women over the course of eight-years and specifically mapping their sexual history, encounters, and desires... But the FORM, the narrative non-fiction style in which it’s written is a master-stroke and makes for compulsive reading. It really does impress like fiction and it’s hard to remember these are real women, but it’s also so incredible to discover the research Taddeo put into this.

If you don't know the background to this book yet, you should definitely look it up (this Guardian article was good) - but the crib-notes are that it took Taddeo eight years to write as she went all over America interviewing dozens of potential subjects who, for various reasons either dropped out of her project or were suitable by the end ... until these three women were left. 

Quite a few people have already pointed out in various interviews and reviews that 'Three Women' isn't exactly a wide cross-section. It's three, heteronormative and largely lower to upper-middle-class white women and their (therefore) rather limited and specific sexual and romantic desires (plus Taddeo's migrant mother, whose story Taddeo tells in a type of flashback). 

I definitely think the limited scope of this exploration should be taken into account, but I didn't find that it lessened my perverse enjoyment of the writing, and begrudging curiosity of the subject-matter. At a time when white women are being particularly destructive the world over - but especially due to their social and political leanings - I think it's fair enough their their sexual provocations and machinations are put under the microscope, particularly in the realms of middle-America to try and unpick some of the Kinsey-ex logic to unlocking what makes them tick. 

I really did enjoy this book; and I can see how these women are maybe a microcosm for a small section of modern, middle-class sex & sexuality? But I really do think it’s Taddeo’s style that elevates everything and does feel like you’re reading an impressive new literary star. For that alone I do think it’s one of the must-read books of 2019! 


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