“Three Women” – Lisa Taddeo (1/5 ★)

After reading “Normal People“, I decided to move on to the next hyped book I constantly kept hearing about – “Three Women”. Unfortunately, in this case, it didn’t turn out that well… The lesson I have learned here is to mind the upvoted ratings about the book on goodreads. Even though this book doesn’t have too low of a rating (3,7/5 ★), which was also the reason why I decided to give it a try, out of the top 10 most liked reviews about the book, six have given a rating of just 1 or 2 ★. This corresponds much better to a correct perception of “Three Women”.

The concept itself seemed quite interesting at first – the author following three women throughout almost a decade of their lives & writing a tale focused on their sexuality & desires. What ended up being a huge disappointment, was that the story simply didn’t live up to its promises or add up to anything special. Whereas you’re expecting some really juicy insights, as in looking in through a keyhole into someone’s life, it rather felt like the author wasted a huge part of her life with that kind of time consuming research. A fictitious story could have just as well have been made up in its place, which might have turned out better.

As usual, one of the most important factors for rating a book for me is the speed with which I finish it. In this case, it took me 10 gruelling days to get through its 300 pages. I just couldn’t connect, relate or build up compassion for any of the three characters & couldn’t be found caring about what happened to them. The only character who might have barely fit the role for that, blew it for me, when glorifying the “50 Shades of Grey” tale…

“Earlier that summer, Sloane had read the Fifty Shades trilogy and something had clicked. She told friends it was as if she’d been going through life with poor vision and then put on a pair of glasses.” (p. 212)

In the end, I had to force myself to sit down & read on, in order to finally finish it. This was once again the case of a book where the majority of the parts I highlighted, were to show why this book is so bad. I wouldn’t even know where to start with what completely blew my tolerance for bullshit – maybe it was the constant annoying mentions of the Christian/Catholic background of 2 of the three characters (that’s just a personal aversion though).

“Lina, at thirty-two, is the youngest, and the only Catholic. Some of the things these other women are saying make her uncomfortable […]” (p. 80)

“Lina had been a good Catholic her whole life. Adultery, she’d always thought, was for only the very selfish.” (p. 94)

“But Maggie knows how big her secret is, how much it flies against her Catholicism and the religion of her friends, who would look at her like a broken doll in the trash if they knew.” (p. 111)

“She is okay with the fucks but the goddamns hurt her ears. […] She grew up Catholic and is still Catholic and is not the kind of person who jokes about being a recovering Catholic, but she is also in touch with thee needs she has.” (p. 144)

“[S]he wants to think about sex in a positive way so she goes to a seminar called Catholics Love Sex, at a nearby church. […] One tall girl in the corner says the devil tempts humans with sex every day.” (p. 146)

“God, please don’t let him cancel, she kept repeating. She was certain her praying worked because when she pulled in she saw that his car was already there.” (p. 173)

It might also have been the cheesy descriptions of sex scenes that are reminiscent of the “50 Shades of Grey”. If I would’ve seen these quotes before picking up the book, I would have merrily given it away to someone I would’ve liked to gift an awful reading experience.

“He takes his strong arms and clasps one under each of her thighs and raises her up completely above him and lowers her crotch onto his face and sucks her. She feels as though she’s being eaten by a tiger. He moans into her vagina and keeps repeating, I love eating your pussy. He says this actually into her vagina so that she feels they’re having a private communion, as if her vagina and Aidan are engaged with each other and the rest of Lina is watching from above.” (p. 269-270)

The writing generally felt flat to me & the fact that all three stories were written in the 3rd person throughout the entire book created a disturbing distance. The only thing that the author managed, was to build up a very cold and toxic atmosphere. You would expect a lot of extremely personal insights since the author has gotten to know her main characters throughout such a long period of time but you won’t be able to detect any of that. On top of that, even though the experiences described are obviously subjective, they often felt very anti-feminist to me, reinforcing a narrative where women are only valuable when they’re young & thin.

“Even when women fight back, they must do it correctly. They must cry the right amount and look pretty but not hot.” (p. 292)

“Even when women are being heard , it is often only the right types of women who are actively heard. White ones. Rich ones. Pretty ones. Young ones. Best to be all those things at once.” (p. 299)

A book like this getting in the hands of too young of a reader where eating disorders, the obsession with ones appearance & the habits of excessive use of heavy medication are glorified, could potentially be very harmful presented in such an un-reflected way by the author. This was a huge reason why I rated it as low as just 1 & not even 2/5 ★.

“Later in life Sloane would hear the singer Amy Winehouse say of bulimia, It’s the best diet in the world. Why doesn’t everybody do it? […] She became not only anorexic-bulimic, but the absolute best anorexic-bulimic she could be. She was strategic, clean, informed, She knew that the worst kind of vomit is the kind that isn’t properly chewed up.” (p. 139)

On top of the style, the structure of the book felt all over the place for me. The stories of the three women were constantly alternating, so that you didn’t have the possibility to properly get into any of them & you were also constantly mixing them up. The childhoods, as well as the relationships to the parents of all three main characters were so messed up, that you couldn’t easily retain who was the one who got hit on by her older brother or who had a relationship with a guy double her age. The worst of the worst gets gathered up in the 10 page epilogue, where you have absolutely no idea which of the three women or the author herself is expressing her opinion. If you really still feel compelled to read the book, I would suggest you to read each story of each of the 3 characters one by one, bypassing the structure of the book (it’s quite easy to do, since the narrative of each individual character is separated by chapters titled with the corresponding woman’s name).

I guess the target group of people who might be into this book would be those, who have enjoyed reading something in the direction of “50 Shades of Grey”. Women who haven’t been able to live out their sexuality & would rather experience it through the safe lens of observation through a story within a book. Those are the only people I can see noting “Three Women” highly. In my case, I’ll make sure to stay very very far away from anything else written by Lisa Taddeo & I now understand the voices who are upset about this book being labelled as a story of female desire. What it really is, is a sad tale about:

  • A girl with psychological problems, who is naive or disturbed enough to believe that her high school teacher has emotions for her & that this “relationship” can lead to anything good;
  • A Catholic woman, who goes off to marry a random guy she doesn’t really have feelings for & then gets stuck in a marriage with him for 11 years, where she’s completely sexually starved. Instead of getting her ass up, getting a job & making her own money in order to take action on her own future & the future of her children, she rather decides to whine around about her “fate” to her female support group;
  • Another woman, who is also completely damaged from her childhood & the inexistent relationship with her family, who slides into eating disorders & an obsession with her physique. Instead of looking out for herself, she decides to do everything to please her husband, even if that involves sleeping with men he picks out for her & whom she’s not attracted to.

There are simply so many things wrong with this book, so if this review didn’t illustrate it enough yet, I’ll repeat it one last time – save your time & stay away from this book! (don’t be lured in by the pretty cover like I partly was 😛 )

★☆☆☆☆ (1/5)

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