Publication Date: July 9th 2019
‘In suburban Indiana we meet Lina, a homemaker and mother of two whose marriage, after a decade, has lost its passion. Starved for affection, Lina battles daily panic attacks and, after reconnecting with an old flame through social media, embarks on an affair that quickly becomes all-consuming. In North Dakota we meet Maggie, a seventeen-year-old high school student who allegedly has a clandestine physical relationship with her handsome, married English teacher; the ensuing criminal trial will turn their quiet community upside down. Finally, in an exclusive enclave of the Northeast, we meet Sloane—a gorgeous, successful, and refined restaurant owner—who is happily married to a man who likes to watch her have sex with other men and women. Based on years of immersive reporting and told with astonishing frankness and immediacy, Three Women is both a feat of journalism and a triumph of storytelling, brimming with nuance and empathy.’ – Goodreads
Trigger Warning: This review mentions sexual assault and rape.
Three Women was gifted to me in the July 2020 edition of the Books That Matter subscription box, my review of which you can read here. I’ll admit that I had not heard of Three Women before this, so I had to do a lil’ bit of digging! I now understand it to be one of the most talked about American books of 2019. Needless to say, I was so excited to read it! Yet it left me a little… underwhelmed.
Let’s start with the positives first. Three Women is marketed as biographical non-fiction portraying the narratives of the sex lives of three women. Taddeo interviewed and even lived near, these three women for eight years. That’s right – eight years. That is an incredible amount of dedication to put into a book. You can tell that Taddeo is very passionate about the subject she is writing on. One of the biggest strengths of this novel is that Taddeo’s journalistic skill shines throughout the novel’s entirety.
“Women shouldn’t judge each other’s lives if we haven’t been through one another’s fires.”
Taddeo’s prose is also beautifully written – it flows, yet it is not flowery. I appreciated this when reading, as it makes it a little easier to get through. Most especially when reading about the difficult subject matters that are written about in this book.
Now – the negatives. There has been a lot of criticism of this novel. The biggest being that although it says it portrays the sex lives of three women, those three women are very similar. These women are all white, all American, all cis, and two out of three are straight. This, of course, meant that these women’s experiences are limited to these categories that they belong to. There is an extreme lack of diversity in the women’s stories and this frustrated me immensely. Especially given the amount of time and effort Taddeo put into writing the novel. The novel feels very 2012/2013 feminist – which makes sense considering this is when her research begun. I just feel that Taddeo could have updated it to modern standards.
“If people are denied certain parts of relationships they need as children, they hunt for these parts as adults.”
Furthermore, it’s just exhausting to read. Despite being marketed as a sex-positive book, there’s a lot of sexual assault and rape. It just left me emotionally tired from reading about such a traumatic subject matter for most of it. Of course, these are important stories to tell, but I felt like Taddeo could have done so much more with eight years of research.
To conclude: read this book if you’re looking for a deep dive into the lives of three white, cis, American women. Just be aware of what you’re getting into.