All Lina wanted was to be desired. How did she end up in a marriage with two children and a husband who wouldn’t touch her?
All Maggie wanted was to be understood. How did she end up in a relationship with her teacher and then in court, a hated pariah in her small town?
All Sloane wanted was to be admired. How did she end up a sexual object of men, including her husband, who liked to watch her have sex with other men and women?
Three Women is a record of unmet needs, unspoken thoughts, disappointments, hopes and unrelenting obsessions.
A work of non fiction about three women, Maggie, Lina and Sloane, the author in her note states she is confident that these stories contain vital truths about women and desire. And I think they do. The three women have very different stories to tell about their sexuality and yes, their desire but I was left feeling somewhat despondent about the needs of women, how these are viewed, framed and articulated and actually women’s ability on any level to have true autonomy around their sexual needs and desires.
This book was brilliant, it was extremely well written and engaging. I liked the way it was set out, the stories of each women were told throughout the book, so a chapter on each and then again, rather than three stories told sequentially. The writing was occasionally a bit verbose and not entirely clear but this did not hinder my enjoyment of the book.
Maggie’s story reminded me a lot of the fictional book My Dark Vanessa, (read my review here), her story and name is in the public domain due to the court case against her teacher – the ‘teacher of the year’. What is depressing is the way these victims are portrayed, as with My Dark Vanessa and Lolita our willingness to see female children as sexual beings controlling of or tempting male desire.
The story of Lina was sad, she seemed a lonely woman whose loneliness was tied up in her desire for physical contact, to be French kissed and sex and this desire seemed to be at times at a cost to her sense of self and dignity. Leaving her indifferent husband to pursue a physically passionate but otherwise equally indifferent lover.
Sloane’s story was different, on the surface she seemed successful and in love with her husband and sexually liberated, however as her story unfolds we are left again with the impression that she was consistently compromising her needs for him and being held responsible for his desires.
A highly recommended read that demonstrates in a range of ways the complicated nature of sexual desire in women and how this is culturally framed within a white patriarchal society. This book feels very timely and sits well with current memoirs such as Know My Name and She Said, both detailing accounts of men sexually abusing women. Similarly the aforementioned work of fiction My Dark Vanessa explores the exploitation of a female pupil and a teacher, similar to Maggie’s story and like the fictional account we see the stalling of the girl’s life, the ostracization of the female and the confusion and realisation that follows.
About the Author
Lisa Taddeo spent eight years and thousands of hours listening to the women whose stories comprise Three Women, even moving to the towns they lived in to better understand their lives. She has contributed to the Sunday Times, Guardian, New York Times, New York magazine, Esquire, Elle, Glamour and many other publications, and her short stories have won two Pushcart Prizes. She lives with her husband and daughter in New England.