BEST BOOKS ON... SISTERHOOD
I AM writing this ahead of the 95th Academy awards this Sunday. One of the quieter films nominated that I hope makes some noise is actordirector Sarah Polley’s Women Talking with its cast of female powerhouse talent, including Claire Foy, Rooney Mara, Jessie Buckley, Frances McDormand and Judith Ivey.
Polley adapted the film from Miriam Toews’ 2018 novel of the same name. She, in turn, was inspired by real events at a remote ultra-conservative Mennonite Christian colony in Bolivia in the 2000s.
Over a period of years, women and girls report being drugged and raped in the night.
The women, whose claims were at first dismissed, are put under immense pressure to forgive and forget. Eight women meet in a hayloft to debate their best course of action: should they stay and forgive; stay and fight for justice, or flee? The traumatised illiterate women are fearful of what life will be if they leave. But they are also terrified about their afterlife: the elders have told them that salvation is dependent on their forgiving the men.
In fiction, female-only spaces are often depicted as a bulwark against male violence. Matrix by Lauren Groff is set in a medieval English abbey. Its leader is Marie de France, who arrives as a gangly French teenager, aggrieved at having been exiled from the court of Eleanor of Aquitaine, with whom she has a weird psycho-sexual obsession. In time, Marie will build up the abbey and its wealth into a mighty female fortress protected by a maze.
Sophie Mackintosh’s uncanny The Water Cure is a dystopian feminist fable. Grace, Lia and Sky are three sisters, brought up in isolation on an island. They have been raised to believe that contact with the outside world, especially men, will be toxic to them.
If these all sound too heavy-going, The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim is a joyous novel about a group of women holidaying together on the Italian Riviera.
All these make for rewarding female company.