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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Better than the title suggests
Typical of Marge Piercy's style of multiple narrators, some actual historical characters and others imaginary, this is a look at the early years of woman's suffrage in the 19th century. Testament to her skill as a writer the imagined characters are every bit as fleshed out and 'real' as the actual historical characters and the historical background detail is wonderfully...
Published on 6 Sept. 2010 by J. C. Raine

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Somewhat disappointing
Unlike much of Piercy's writing, I found this latest novel a tad mediocre. Of the four narrative strands, three utilise the real life characters of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Victoria Woodhull & Anthony Comstock, with the fourth strand being that of a fictional Jewish working class woman searching for her sister who disappeared. It is this strand which features prominently...
Published on 1 Feb. 2011 by bobthekelpie


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Somewhat disappointing, 1 Feb. 2011
This review is from: Sex Wars (Paperback)
Unlike much of Piercy's writing, I found this latest novel a tad mediocre. Of the four narrative strands, three utilise the real life characters of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Victoria Woodhull & Anthony Comstock, with the fourth strand being that of a fictional Jewish working class woman searching for her sister who disappeared. It is this strand which features prominently on the jacket description and I was disappointed to see that it is only a minor part of the novel, rather than the major part implied. A novel about the life of this woman in her time and place in society would have been fascinating, and she is given an all too small part of the book.

The focus on three real life historical characters makes the book a bit turgid, especially given that so much information is available over the internet, and as a result the book moves slowly and feels a bit tired and lacking in the energy that characterises Piercy's 60s & 70s novels. Beacuse of this, I felt their characters were never expanded fully to a point where I could empathise with them, and the writing seems constrained, as if there were a glass wall between the author, the characters and the reader. Oddly enough, City of Darkness, City of Light, based on a similar mix of real life and fictional characters during the French Revolution did not face this issue, and remains a good book.

If you are a Marge Piercy fan, you'll want to read this anyway. If you're new to her work, I would recommend Small Changes, Braided Lives, Gone to Soldiers and He, She & It to start with, rather than Sex Wars.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Better than the title suggests, 6 Sept. 2010
By 
J. C. Raine "Celievamp" (Hartlepool United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Sex Wars (Paperback)
Typical of Marge Piercy's style of multiple narrators, some actual historical characters and others imaginary, this is a look at the early years of woman's suffrage in the 19th century. Testament to her skill as a writer the imagined characters are every bit as fleshed out and 'real' as the actual historical characters and the historical background detail is wonderfully drawn. It is a fascinating and involving read.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting But A Little Too Crammed with Data, 9 Dec. 2013
By 
Kate Hopkins (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Sex Wars (Paperback)
Reading the back blurb on Marge Piercy's sixteenth novel in the English edition, you might believe it's the story of a Russian Jewish woman called Freydeh, her struggles to establish a better life in New York (even harder after she is widowed) and her desperate search for the younger sister who came to join her and whose letter went astray, so that she arrived in New York with no idea where Freydeh was or how to find her. Freydeh's story is indeed part of Piercy's 'Sex Wars', but it's only one of four stories told in the novel. Freydeh's story, of her search for her sister Shaineh, of her work as a manufacturer of condoms (would an Orthodox Jewish woman have embraced this career so enthusiastically, even if she was freethinking?) and of her decision to foster two street children to make up for the fact that she lost her own baby, runs alongside three stories of real-life figures: the feminist campaigner Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the feminist, spiritualist and first female stockbroker Victoria Woodhull, and Anthony Comstock, the evangelical Christian who vowed to cleanse America (which included trying to put all feminists, and anyone involved in sex work of any kind in jail). Through her four principal characters and a massive cast of secondary characters, Piercy tells us of the birth of American feminism and the struggle for sexual equality, from the 1850s to 1915. It's fascinating, and Piercy has done a vast amount of excellent historical research. However, I felt with this novel (unlike with Piercy's novel of the French Revolution, 'City of Darkness, City of Light' that Piercy's sheer diligence stopped her at times really bringing her characters to life. The Freydeh sections of the story were beautifully written and compulsively readable, and Piercy deserves a good deal of credit for managing to show a sympathetic side to the loathsome Anthony Comstock in his early stages (later he become increasingly vile). But all too often the real-life historical characters tended to speak as though they were reciting manifestos rather than engaging in human dialogue (the Elizabeth Cady Stanton sections were particularly problematic in this regard, much though I liked the character) and the characters came across sounding rather wooden. Although I felt from what I read about him that Anthony Comstock certainly deserved plenty of condemnation (he sounds an appalling man), I found the arguments in the book at times a little one-sided: every prostitute or Madame who appeared in the novel came across as extremely sympathetic and even noble (I'm sure many were, but there must have been others who really were either petty criminals or hated their work!), we seemed to be expected to admire Victoria Woodhull largely because she took a lot of lovers (and if she was such a believer in monogamy when involved in an affair, why did she cheat on her husband so much) and most of the men in the book (with the exception of the courageous streetboy Sammy) were either weak, greedy or villainous. The search for Shaineh ended up as a massive anti-climax, though Freydeh's later story was interesting. And Piercy had problems linking the four stories together, as all of them were about such different people, in very different circumstances (though the links between Comstock, Freydeh and Victoria were interestingly explored.) Some of the characters were underdeveloped (Susan B. Anthony, for example, who sounds more interesting than she came across in the book) while others, such as Victoria and her sister Tennie, got rather repetitive in their constant restatements of their beliefs (and I wasn't sure whether we were meant to believe that Victoria really WAS a spiritualist, or that she was using her 'gifts' to make money). I also felt some of the personal situations (such as Victoria's relationship with her second husband James, who seemed to go from being a loyal supporter to a selfish leech within pages) could have done with more clarification. And inevitably, as Piercy was trying to cram in data covering fifty years and more of feminism, the final section got rushed (and I think at times a little historically inaccurate - my belief was that Victoria and Tennie were fairly estranged during their last years?). It also seemed odd that in the final 1915 section no one was talking much about World War I.

I did enjoy this book, particularly the sections about Freydeh, and also found it a fascinating way to learn about feminism in 19th-century America. But I did feel (interestingly I didn't feel this about Piercy's French Revolution novel 'City of Darkness, City of Light') that Piercy was trying to cram in too many stories and too much historical information into one novel, and I found it easier to care about the purely fictional rather than the historical characters. Maybe it might have been better to focus the story more closely on Freydeh and her life, and to have kept the other figures and their stories as secondary. Still, I would definitely recommend the book for anyone interested in feminism or American history. I'm looking forward to reading some of Piercy's work set in her own time next.

Three and a half/three-quarter stars.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, 8 Sept. 2013
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A. Julian (Oxford, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Sex Wars (Paperback)
Loved this book - couldn't put it down, she interwove the different story lines (based on real people) very well, and it painted an interesting picture of the emergence of the woman's rights movement in the US without being too dry.
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Sex Wars by Marge Piercy (Paperback - 5 Jan. 2006)
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