PositiveThe Observer (UK)... essays that shock and illuminate as they walk around the central themes of what it means to be a woman and a commodity, poking at them with a variety of sharpened tools ... At times the reader is a popcorn-eating audience; at other times her therapist ... It’s thrilling, often, to sit with Ratajkowski in the roiling surf of her life, in elegant stories written with uncomfortable honesty. It’s revelatory, too, to explore digital life and body politics through the eyes of a person whose body shapes a discourse, and unexpectedly moving to see the bruises left behind. The only problem with this being a smart and glittering collection of essays, rather than simply the glamorous celebrity memoir Ratajkowski could have sold, is that its quality reveals its limits ... Read as memoir, it’s extraordinary; read as activism, it’s unsatisfying. Her commentary on the industry she’s chosen is passionate and chilling, and yet at times rings hollow, in part because of her reluctance to subvert the male gaze she critiques. She returns to the concept that her power lies in her body, without interrogating the idea that her body could also walk away ... It’s fair, of course, for her to criticise the system she works within, but it’s unclear whether she cares enough to change it. To do so would mean (among other things) leaving social media, where images remain commodities to be exploited and crushed, often taking women’s identities down with them. Just because she can see the problems (capitalism, beauty standards, misogyny) are structural doesn’t mean she is not implicated in them. Or, indeed, is not perpetuating them daily ... But perhaps this project is a beginning. Perhaps it’s not Ratajkowski’s responsibility to overthrow the patriarchy, or redefine beauty, or destabilise capitalism. Perhaps it is enough for her to simply write a dazzling book considering the contradictions of living in a body like hers. To hold her stories up to the light, shards of glass, and see which ones draw blood.
PositiveThe GuardianWolitzer has a knack of spreading time like it’s butter. The effect is oddly dizzying—having sat with this story for the equivalent of 50 years, the reader finally looks up from the page with the disconcerting realisation she knows even the most minor character better than her own son. Suddenly we’ve lapped ourselves, arriving at a party to celebrate Greer’s bestselling Lean In-type book, Outside Voices (a too-neat reference to her first conversation with Faith) ... Unlike a women’s summit, nobody will come away from this novel feeling either tipsy or empowered. There are no free keyrings. Instead, it asks us to consider the state of contemporary feminism and the ways we use pedestals ... With affection and generosity, Wolitzer exposes the limits of power through a handful of well-meant lives and she leaves us uneasy. The sense that we may have smashed a glass ceiling, but now are standing in the shards, discreetly bleeding.