Summary and book reviews of The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer

The Female Persuasion

A Novel

by Meg Wolitzer

The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer X
The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer
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  • First Published:
    Apr 2018, 464 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2019, 480 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Meara Conner
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About this Book

Book Summary

An electric, multilayered novel about ambition, power, friendship, and mentorship, and the romantic ideals we all follow deep into adulthood, not just about who we want to be with, but who we want to be

To be admired by someone we admire - we all yearn for this: the private, electrifying pleasure of being singled out by someone of esteem. But sometimes it can also mean entry to a new kind of life, a bigger world.

Greer Kadetsky is a shy college freshman when she meets the woman she hopes will change her life. Faith Frank, dazzlingly persuasive and elegant at sixty-three, has been a central pillar of the women's movement for decades, a figure who inspires others to influence the world. Upon hearing Faith speak for the first time, Greer- madly in love with her boyfriend, Cory, but still full of longing for an ambition that she can't quite place- feels her inner world light up. And then, astonishingly, Faith invites Greer to make something out of that sense of purpose, leading Greer down the most exciting path of her life as it winds toward and away from her meant-to-be love story with Cory and the future she'd always imagined.

Charming and wise, knowing and witty, Meg Wolitzer delivers a novel about power and influence, ego and loyalty, womanhood and ambition. At its heart, The Female Persuasion is about the flame we all believe is flickering inside of us, waiting to be seen and fanned by the right person at the right time. It's a story about the people who guide and the people who follow (and how those roles evolve over time), and the desire within all of us to be pulled into the light.

An Excerpt from The Female Persuasion

Greer Kadetsky met Faith Frank in October of 2006 at Ryland College, where Faith had come to deliver the Edmund and Wilhelmina Ryland Memorial Lecture; and though that night the chapel was full of students, some of them boiling over with loudmouthed commentary, it seemed astonishing but true that out of everyone there, Greer was the one to interest Faith. Greer, a freshman then at this undistinguished school in southern Connecticut, was selectively and furiously shy. She could give answers easily, but rarely opinions. "Which makes no sense, because I am stuffed with opinions. I am a piñata of opinions," she'd said to Cory during one of their nightly Skype sessions since college had separated them. She'd always been a tireless student and a constant reader, but she found it impossible to speak in the wild and free ways that other people did. For most of her life it hadn't mattered, but now it did.

So what was it about her that ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
Questions and Topics for Discussion

  1. The Female Persuasion is about the relationship between a young woman and her mentor. What does Greer learn from Faith, and vice versa? In what ways do Greer and Faith surprise or disappoint each other? Have you ever had someone come into your life and change it forever?
  2. Greer and Cory are high school sweethearts, but their romance is much deeper than their age might suggest. How do the social settings of their hometown and their families turn them into the couple that they are? Discuss the class differences between Greer's family and Cory's. How do family origins affect the characters' ambitions?
  3. Cory is entirely consumed by grief after a family tragedy. Talk about the ways in which grief can change a...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

The discussion of feminism and its portrayal within The Female Persuasion is somewhat narrow. Because Greer Kadetsky and Faith Frank are both white, middle-class, straight women, they represent a very specific subset of feminism in the United States that leaves out a range of experiences. The Female Persuasion is an enjoyable and entertaining look into feminism in the United States today. However, the book's real strengths lie in the relationships Wolitzer builds between her characters. The politics are somewhat incidental; read this novel for the genuine, profound ways the characters find to relate to one another.   (Reviewed by Meara Conner).

Full Review (695 words).

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Media Reviews

The Boston Globe
Wolitzer spins a thoughtful tale.

Time
Much has changed in the feminist movement, and for all women... and this book observes those changes with a gimlet eye.

Esquire
Finally, a novel about a complicated relationship that doesn't get nearly enough attention: that between mentor and mentee. Full of Meg Wolitzer's signature acumen and insight.

Southern Living
An intricately woven and deeply layered story that follows women who connect, yearn, chase their ambitions, navigate structures of existing power while claiming their own, and who write their own stories—stories that ignite their imaginations and, sometimes, look vastly different from what they first planned.

The Chicago Review of Books
This dazzling novel about embracing womanhood and ambition is a timely read... Electric.

The Guardian (UK)
A novel to get excited about.

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Ambitious and satisfying…This insightful and resonant novel explores what it is to both embrace womanhood and suffer because of it.

Booklist
Starred Review. Sweeping yet intimate, Wolitzer's timely saga places her characters at the heart of a new wave of feminism, one clinging to the old paradigms of protest while encompassing current politics of personal responsibility.

Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review. Symphonic… The perfect feminist blockbuster for our times.

Reader Reviews

lani

A female manifesto
How prescient of Wolitzer to create a novel that is so reflective of the current atmosphere that we live in. On the surface, it is a story of young Greer Kadetsky, her boyfriend, her mentor that she meets in college,and the female friendships she ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Gloria Steinem

Gloria Steinem in 2011 Though the character of Faith Frank in The Female Persuasion is an amalgamation of many '60s feminist icons, she appears to be drawn most heavily from Gloria Steinem. Steinem got her start writing articles for magazines like Esquire and Cosmopolitan on women's issue topics such as contraception and abortion. In 1963, she received widespread recognition for going undercover as a Playboy Bunny in the New York Playboy Club to ascertain its working conditions.

In the following years, Steinem became involved with a number of protests and organizations fighting for women's rights, eventually co-founding the National Women's Political Caucus in 1971. Steinem was criticized not only by those opposed to the feminist movement, but by some of ...

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