SustainIt Book Club: Let's take a look into The Women's Room

05 August 2014 by Ailsa Burns

Ailsa's review is part of the SustainIt book club. SustainIt are committed to demonstrating best practice in sustainability as illustrated by our Our Impact report. The SustainIt book club is our latest endeavour to be a truly sustainable company. SustainIt purchases one book per month.  Each month, a different employee will choose a book to purchase, read and then review. Once the book has been reviewed, it will be donated to the SustainIt library for the whole SustainIt team to enjoy. The SustainIt book clubs aims to demonstrate sustainability in action by promoting employee development. Each employee broadens their knowledge by reading a new book and develops their writing skills.  Read Ailsa's article on the 2degrees website to learn more about the benefits of an employee book club.


‘The Women’s Room’ is Marilyn French’s debut novel and most prolific, depicting the life of suburban housewives in America.  This semi-autobiographical novel was published in 1977 following French’s divorce from her husband and undertaking of a PhD in English Literature at Harvard University.  French’s life mirrors the experience of the book’s heroine, Mira Ward.  Marilyn French was angry and frustrated at the life she endured with her husband and this is reflected in Mira’s experience of marriage and ultimate divorce. 

I sat down to read Marilyn French’s ‘The Women’s Room’ because I wanted to experience an important book in feminist history.  The book depicts the mood of the time where middle-class housewives are defined by the men they are married to.  You also encounter the societal shift taking place during this time as the new generation of feminists jar with the already establish patriarchy.  The narrative is consciously biased towards women, focusing on the women that Mira encounters, painting men as empty shells, poorly understood and lacking in emotion.  At several points throughout the novel, French directly speaks to the reader acknowledging that she knows little of the lives of the male characters.  Without this level of bias, the reader would not feel the full impact of the message that French is trying to get across.  French skilfully writes creating a sombre atmosphere as she describes how the female protagonists suffer economic ruin, mental illness and violent encounters at the hands of the men they have committed their lives to.  These women are held hostage in an invisible cloud of oppression as they sacrifice and submit to expectations that ultimately destroy their lives. 

‘The Women’s Room’ is a compelling novel, taking you into the lives of lonely, unsatisfied and underappreciated women of the suburbs.  Perhaps it is not a novel to be read as a piece of escapism while you lie on beach in the sun but it will make you think.  It encapsulates a period of time and speaks from a point of view which did not have a voice.  Marilyn French’s ‘The Women’s Room’ is an important memento for women’s liberation.  


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