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Meg Wolitzer pulls her punches.
on 4 July 2018
When famous feminist Faith Frank gives a speech at Greer Kadetsky’s small-town college, quiet student Greer plucks up the courage to speak to her afterwards and – despite her shyness – makes an impression. Years later, she will come to work for the woman she so admires.
Meg Wolitzer is a fine writer and turns many a phrase to delight the reader:
“Faith’s cheeks were so bright they looked freshly slapped.”
The college students who go around together and “travelled in one group, like children inside a camel costume.”
“People’s marriages were like two-person religious cults, impossible to understand.”
A soft, floppy sandwich with “a stiff Elizabethan ruffle of kale”.
But what initially promises to be a bracing novel about the feminist struggle soon disperses into a vapid read featuring the usual American post-college suspects: coming of age, friendships, first love, career choices, disappointment and betrayal. And as it becomes clear that Ms Wolitzer does not intend to develop her central feminist theme, the second half drags and becomes increasingly ragged. A failure of nerve perhaps? Only in the conflict between Greer’s personal and her professional morality does the author bring a bit of bite to her narrative and say something of greater depth. Towards the end, as the story moves to present time, the Trump era is seemingly referred to in disparaging terms – but even here, Ms Wolitzer pulls her punches. She doesn’t name him.