Women Talking by Miriam Toews

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I liked how a novel called Women Talking dared to be about just that. More broadly, it’s about women in a Mennonite community meeting in secret to discuss their plans to escape the men who have been drugging and assaulting them in their sleep. It felt at times more like a play than a novel.

This novel is in turns a fascinating and frustrating experience. The characters all sort of sound the same, which is frustrating when I felt like I couldn’t tell them apart or connect with any of them, except for the narrator, a young male teacher in the community who is trusted to take the minutes of the meetings because the women are illiterate. It’s impossible to ignore the fact that the narrating character–the character whose eyes the reader sees from–is a man. That a novel about women talking is also about a man watching, helpless.

I can’t say this is a fun read but it’s certainly riveting and fiercely feminist. It is, of course, based on a true story. I found the ending to be a let down, but then again, anything else wouldn’t have felt true.

Thank you to Bloomsbury USA and NetGalley for providing me with a review copy of this book.

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