RaveTIMEDonoghue masterfully conjures a suffocating space, this time the glorified closet where Julia helps women give birth ... The timeliness of Donoghue’s premise proves more than a gimmick. Her analysis of how pandemics place an undue burden on women resonates in today’s crisis ... Donoghue’s book recounts a frightening history we must not repeat ... (Donoghue clearly reveled in her research on early 20th century medicine. This novel is not for the squeamish.) ... The characters themselves in The Pull of the Stars are thinner than those in some of Donoghue’s past books, but the nonstop action of the maternity ward is so compelling that it hardly matters ... the entire narrative feels like a flu—induced dream—a prophetic one we should all heed, lest we slip back in time.
PositiveTIMEWhat if Hillary hadn’t married Bill? No spoilers, but Sittenfeld’s answer is likely to alternately elate and enrage readers of all political affiliations. She spins a wild political tale that involves a certain lascivious New York City billionaire, a bizarre leg-shaving scandal and Silicon Valley orgies ... gleefully abandons biographical analysis for thought experimentation ... Certain early passages read like cringe-inducing fan fiction: it would be one thing to encounter veiled approximations of Bill and Hillary getting hot and heavy in law school. It is quite another to read sex scenes that invoke the real names of one of America’s most prominent couples. Sittenfeld even goes so far as to imply that Bill is a sex addict, crumpled under the weight of an unstoppable affliction ... Sittenfeld, an admitted Hillary Clinton fan, reflects on real-life Hillary’s outsize role in Bill’s capturing the presidency through compelling vignettes ... yet even as Sittenfeld grants Hillary the ability to finally do and say whatever she pleases, Rodham doesn’t always satisfy. For one, Sittenfeld never pinpoints a clear motivation for her hero’s desire to enter politics. Real-life Hillary notoriously switched her campaign slogans with abandon, which some took as proof that she could not articulate her reasons for running. Where supporters saw a woman responding to the call to service, critics accused her of being power hungry. Sittenfeld, despite the freedom of her format, lands on neither theory — nor does she offer a convincing alternative ... If her aim was to offer new insight into Hillary’s mind, she doesn’t succeed. But who cares? Even if the character isn’t compelling, her mission to break the glass ceiling is. For a certain reader, the chance to dwell in an alternate reality will be enough. For others, there’s always the orgies.
MixedTIMEThe 70-some chapters, written in a muddled stream-of-consciousness style, deal primarily with Roiphe’s relationships with a series of toxic men ... But even after years spent poring over their letters and diaries, Roiphe seems unable to reconcile the passivity of her literary heroes in the face of cruel romantic partners — and makes little progress in determining her own place in that lineage ... The most compelling moments in The Power Notebooks come when Roiphe analyzes her own stories of abuse ... She writes...\'I was not purely powerless does not mean I was not facing a man who was twisting or distorting his power.\' Roiphe’s articulation of that sentiment might be read as a breakthrough, if only she applied it to anyone aside from herself. This is the most striking problem with the book ... Even outside the realm of abuse, Roiphe seems unable to draw a connection between her own experiences and those of other women. She spends an entire chapter bemoaning the decisions by feminist writers — including Roxane Gay, Joan Didion and Zadie Smith — to admit their vulnerabilities in their work ... In The Power Notebooks, Roiphe is finally making room for herself to express weakness and to feel pain. Hopefully, someday, she will do the same for the rest of us.
RaveTIMEFarrow...prove[s] that money and power really do run the world. It’s a chilling revelation that further explains why even the most successful and influential of Weinstein’s victims could be silenced: The Hollywood super-producer had more than his own considerable resources at his disposal ... The reader comes away with the understanding that when a person speaks out, she faces not just men like Weinstein, but also a larger network that uses the same weapons to silence, intimidate and shame ... What sets Farrow apart is his proximity to those in power...He’s both a dogged reporter and an insider who can offer a glimpse into the halls of power ... o Farrow’s credit, he uses his privilege to elevate the voices of survivors ... Farrow understands that it’s important to remember who these stories are really about: the women who have risked everything to speak truth to power ... The connections between presidents, media moguls and spies described in Catch and Kill are stranger than fiction. As a novel, it would be a page-turner. As a reported piece of nonfiction, it’s terrifying.
PositiveTIME\"... equally engrossing but still more conventional [than Conversations with Friends] ... Rooney’s writing is at its best when [Connell and Marianne] clash ... Their wry, well-observed dialogue keeps the pages turning and captures the youthful struggle of trying to find your place in the world. But the book falters when its players succumb to damsel and hero archetypes ... Still, Rooney shines when she depicts how the waves of trauma consume both the victim and her romantic partners. The author offers a realistic portrayal of how two teenagers might struggle with the ramifications of one’s upbringing — and often fail one another in the process. The fallout of abuse remains a subject well worth exploring. Here, Rooney takes an admirable first step.\
MixedTIMEThe once vivacious women at the center of both novels [The Devoted and R.O. Kwon\'s The Incendiaries] become marionettes in the hands of men. Their vulnerability can be frustrating. Neither Kwon nor Hurley provides a particularly compelling portrait of the figures who lead them astray. They never entice—they only abuse. The reader is left wondering why two complex female characters would succumb not only to their loved ones, but also to mere sketches of evil ... a terrifying but insightful warning not to look for easy answers offered by false prophets. That impulse is all the more dangerous in a political era when voters choose to read news that reflects their own myopic views–and vote for politicians who forgo nuance and promise the impossible.
RaveTIMEMegan Abbott isn’t afraid of a little blood. Her new thriller, Give Me Your Hand, is soaked in it ... But Abbott isn’t just any crime writer. She earned a Ph.D. from New York University studying noir literature and has built a blockbuster career subverting the genre’s tropes ... Abbott couldn’t resist the idea of a condition that could be both an explanation for bad behavior and an excuse that ignores the complexity of female killers. She masterfully mines that gray area to build tension ... Abbott’s talent lies in dissecting the complicated tension between women at any age.
PositiveTIMEWhile many celebrity memoirs read like raucous meditations on being a performer, Schumer’s tests the bounds of dark humor ... Schumer’s stories of experiencing misogyny wind up being among the most light-hearted tales in the memoir...Schumer concludes that humor has largely allowed to get her through these hardships, though as a reader you often find it difficult to laugh.
MixedTIMEWhile the cult’s nefarious acts keep pages flipping, Cline’s attention is trained on the women who are conditioned to want nothing but to please men. It’s a perceptive societal critique, but one Cline makes rather unsubtly. Instead of showing how Evie accedes to magazines that instruct on the perfect makeup application needed to catch a man and radio ballads that turn women into objects of lust, Cline uses Evie to simply state her thesis...It’s a reductive gender dynamic. But it’s easy to forgive the first-time novelist who otherwise does a compelling job of tapping into the psyche of women pushed to the edge.
RaveTIMEThese 43 stories, mostly published from the 1960s to the ’80s, illuminate a gritty world where pink-collar workers seek illegal abortions, endure unwanted caresses from strange men and scavenge for pennies to nurse their addictions ... While Berlin’s tales are of a particular time—one character tells her 11-year-old cousin that crooked stocking seams have sex appeal—hindsight hones their relevance. In the decade since Berlin’s death, the economic chasm between the haves and have-nots has widened, especially among women. Berlin’s stories feel like nudges to a feminist movement that in its eagerness to evolve has left some of the less fortunate behind.