We meet Greer Kadetsky in her first year at Ryland College. She was supposed to be at Yale but due to a financial mix-up (and possibly her parents’ ineptitude) has settled for what she views as a second-tier school. Greer is smart and quiet, ambitious but unsure of her future. After a traumatic run-in with another student in her first week at Ryland, Greer feels more put-down than ever. When a friend brings her along to hear popular feminist, Faith Frank, Greer has an encounter with the iconic older woman that ends up changing the course of her life.
The Female Persuasion is long and covers a lot of ground. Both of Greer’s life and those who surround her – her best friend, Zee, her boyfriend, Corey, Faith Frank herself. At one point I found myself reminded of Moby Dick. Nothing to do with the content but simply because in Moby Dick there was also a point where I thought, What happened to the main character? When was the last time we even saw them on the page?
There was a lot I liked about this book and a lot I could identify with. I’m older than Greer now but was in university in approximately the same years as her. The early, pivotal encounter she has with a young man at a party is an experience that, unfortunately, I know many women may be able to relate to. Greer’s commitment to and relationship with Corey is a lynchpin of both the novel and her life and they are a couple it’s easy to root for. I appreciated that their problems felt genuine, not simply manufactured for the sake of drama.
The problem I guess I had with the book is that it never felt to me like it found its momentum. Corey and Greer had struggles but what teenage couple doesn’t? Greer struggles in her career but so did many who graduated university in 2010. Why this story? Why this moment? It wasn’t that I didn’t care about Greer but I never felt myself propelled forward, eager to learn what would happen next. To be honest, if I’d been reading this in a physical format, I probably would have quit before finishing. Since I had it on audio and didn’t have another audiobook waiting for me, I kept putting it on when I was walking or washing dishes.
I’ve read one other book by Wolitzer, The Interestings, which my review from 2014 tells me I enjoyed more than this one so I won’t necessarily give up on her yet.
7 thoughts on “(Audio) Book Review: The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer”
I’m wondering if Faith Frank is a fictional Germaine Greer, and that’s why she’s chosen Greer as her main character’s name?
Hmm too bad this was a disappointment. I felt that way about a book I read a few months ago (I think it was called Talent?) and when I really feel so ‘blah’ about books like that, I find it almost impossible to review, because I just don’t care enough to even write about it haha
Yes, it’s hard to write reviews about books you mostly feel meh about!
Holy wow, I remember senior year of high school when couples were headed off to different colleges and had to decide if they should stick it out long distance and possibly miss new opportunities for personal and romantic growth, or separate and live like they aren’t shackled to another person at age 18.
When I was first teaching, and the school was a big state school with co-ed dorms, I heard so many freshman students bemoan that their roommate’s boyfriend had moved into their dorm room. Like, one room with two bunk beds — four girls — and one dude moves in because his girlfriend got into college and he didn’t, and they just COULDN’T be separated. I mean seriously, the audacity. I’d be the biggest snitch on campus, Karissa.
I am so glad I didn’t have to consider another person when making those decisions! Not many of my friends were in serious relationships at that point either so I don’t remember it being a big thing.
Ugh, I would fully snitch in that situation! I would not be cool with a random extra guy moving into my dorm room. I lived in a dorm for my first year and had one roommate and we had our issues but thankfully she never brought a guy to live!
What were some of the challenges you faced? I never lived in a dorm, so I’m not sure what it’s like, but it sounds like it’s different from roommates in an apartment, which I’ve experienced (hahahaha, the big one was one person buying a jumpy, nippy dog riiiight before I moved in and after I signed the lease).
I had a randomly assigned roommate and we shared a room with two beds. Mostly we were just very different personalities and we were both so young we didn’t have the skills or knowledge to have conversations about things that bothered us or that we disagreed about. All of our space was shared, which is different than when I’ve had roommates and you at least have your own sleeping space. There was also a lot of general drama in the dorm and my roommate and I came down in different sides of various things that were going on. I don’t think either of us did anything terrible, we were just young and selfish and weren’t really compatible. I had many roommates afterward in various shared housing and never really ran into issues with them.