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In the Name of Friendship


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Marilyn French (1929-2009) was an American writer and notable feminist scholar. She received her BA from Hofstra College (now Hofstra University) in 1951; in 1964, she returned to Hofstra to earn her M.A. and later earned her PhD from Harvard University. French is best known for her first novel, the 21-million-copy bestseller The Women's Room, which is considered one of the most influential works of the modern feminist movement, and its sequel, In the Name of Friendship. She spent fifteen years researching and writing her immensely readable four volume women's history series From Eve to Dawn: A History of Women in the World. Her other non-fiction works include Beyond Power: On Women, Men, and Morals; The War Against Women; and her memoir on her battle with esophageal cancer, A Season in Hell. In addition to writing, French taught at Hofstra, Harvard, and Holy Cross College.


French (The Women's Room; From Eve to Dawn) brings a novelist's eye, a scholar's sense of detail and a feminist's worldview to this didactic examination of marriage, parenthood, work and the creative process. Four friends meet to celebrate Lady Day, one of several "private holidays" celebrated at a Berkshires retreat for the affluent and artistic: Maddy, 76, a lawyer's wife and mother turned real estate agent; Emily, 70, a music teacher and composer; Alicia, 50, a New York-born writer whose psychologist husband has difficulty accepting his gay son; and Jenny, 30, an artist fitfully married to a more successful artist. In alternating chapters, French follows each woman as she struggles with her domestic grievances. To her credit, French provides no easy answers where families are concerned, though she has no problem defining what relationships are, what they ought to be and what the associated emotions feel like. And while her female characters are all strong and have no trouble finding success, the men feel uncomfortably campy, making this a novel for women with a progressive perspective on gender bias and an old-fashioned fondness for discussing the curveballs life lobs. Footnoted afterword and author bibliography by Stephanie Genty. (June) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

In 1977, French made waves with The Women's Room, a novel about women and the strides they had made toward freedom and equality at the time. This work is something of an update or a sequel. Four women of different ages, different backgrounds, and different lifestyles find themselves in a small town in the Berkshires. They become friends and support one another through life's ups and downs while sharing insights about the place of women in the world from ancient times to the present. The older women are bitter about the lives they were forced into, while the younger women are just finding themselves in lives previously ruled by men. Together, they grow, change, and improve. French is both an academic and a novelist, and her fiction forms a very thin veil over the history and sociology of the feminist movement, with dialog and stream-of-consciousness monologs that are preachy and pedantic. In addition, the setting is artificial and the happy ending a little too sweet. Recommended primarily for readers of feminist fiction. Joanna M. Burkhardt, Univ. of Rhode Island Lib., Ashaway Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Marilyn French is "brilliant . . . full of life and passions that ring true as crystal." --The Washington Post

"French brings a novelist's eye, a scholar's sense of detail, and a feminist's worldview . . . [this is] a novel for women with a progressive perspective on gender bias and an old-fashioned fondness for discussing the curveballs life lobs." --Publishers Weekly

"Without romanticizing women's friendships, she shows them to be the saving grace of civilization." --Gloria Steinem

"French continues to write about the inner lives of women with insight and intimacy." --The New York Times Book Review

"This finely detailed group portrait . . . [celebrating] women's cherishing friendships and creativity offers striking observations about how and why women's lives have improved and suggests that . . . it's time to bring progressive ideas . . . out into the light." --Booklist

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