This book took me very much by surprise. There were mixed reviews online but I thought it was a very bold work of genius. When you consider that this was first published in 1974, it must have sounded a resounding crack across the bows of HMS Misogyny.
Jong has created one of the enduring characters of literature with Isadora Wing, the mixed up narrator who relates the relational messes she has found herself in throughout her life. Flashbacks to previous relationships puncture the contemporary narrative of a trip with her psychoanalyst husband to a convention in Vienna where she meets what she believes will be the answer to all her romantic and sexual longings.
In a way, Adrian does provide her with the answer, and it’s not necessarily one that feminists at the time, less so today, would feel altogether satisfied with. Still, for me, the novel’s strength lies in the way Jong used Isadora to explore what the roles of men and women in marriage actually mean.
Jong writes in a deceptively racy style. It’s easy to forget that there are layers of imagery here starting with the title and continuing throughout this very quotable novel. There were a lot of passages I felt compelled to read out to the wife for her view. It’s a great discussion starter.
This was an important book in the feminist canon, not necessarily because it provides all the answers, but because it honestly deals with the dilemmas of the issues involved. I liked the fact that it raised more questions than it answered, that the ending didn’t wrap everything up perfectly but left some element of doubt about whether Isadora had done the right thing. That seems to me a much more honest approach than attempting some Rand-ish polemic about the ideal roles of men and women. Life is messy; two lives together messier still. And that’s the way it will always be.
Key: Legacy | Plot / toPic | Characterisation / faCts | Readability | Achievement | StyleRead more about how I come up with my ratings