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Book Cover Stevie‘s review of Women by Chloe Caldwell
Lesbian Literary Fiction published by Fourth Estate 08 Mar 18

In spite of this book’s uninspiring cover and its less-than-helpful blurb, I decided to give it a chance. After all, it was being re-released by a reputable publisher of literary fiction, who seemed to be taking a chance on something a little more innovative than their big-name authors. Although the author teaches ‘creative nonfiction writing,’ this novella is pure fiction, albeit told in the first person and in a memoir style with plenty of references to well-known queer literature and media. So it ought to have been just the book I was looking for.

Unfortunately, this is not the book I was looking for. The narrator is too self-involved for my liking, and while I have no problem with unlikable characters in general (some of them can be a lot of fun), there needs to be an authorial awareness of their protagonist’s flaws, something I really don’t get a sense of in this narration. The narrator moves from her mother’s rural home in a not easily identifiable part of the US to an unnamed city, still in the US, we assume. There she meets, and soon falls in love with, a much older butch woman, Finn. While fiction needs more butches in all varieties, the narrator is far too obsessed with her own feelings to investigate her lover’s personality and motivations in any great detail.

I dislike the romance trope of two characters who are so in lust with each other that they can’t put a brake on their desires and think of how their actions will affect other people’s feelings, Finn is in a long-term relationship when she embarks on the grand affair, yet her partner’s situation is never explored even in the abstract. Likewise, when the narrator tries to connect with other women through dating apps in an effort to distance herself from Finn, we never get a feel for how they feel about her general selfishness and flakiness. Admittedly, the narrator is young, but she also claims to have packed a lot of travel and addictions into her pre-Finn life and hasn’t been totally unaware of lesbian relationships prior to falling in love with a woman. Much is made of her mother’s closest neighbours being a middle-aged lesbian couple.

While I appreciated the references to lesbians in popular and queer culture, I didn’t feel that any of them helped to give the narrator any kind of clue to how she fitted into either the queer or the mainstream world, if indeed she did. I’m sad that this book wasn’t anything I wanted it to be, but I suspect it may have appeal to a younger, more US-centric audience.

Stevies CatGrade: D


A young woman moves from the countryside to the city. Inexplicably, inexorably and immediately, she falls in love with another woman for the first time in her life. Finn is nineteen years older than her, wears men’s clothes, has a cocky smirk of a smile – and a long-term girlfriend. With precision, wit and tenderness, WOMEN charts the frenzy and the fall out of love.

No excerpt available.