Thursday, 10 August 2017

Difficult Women by Roxanne Gay

"Are you just trying to be difficult, or don't you realise you are?" he said over my shoulder as I was paging through this enticing book in the bookstore. True story. What to do? Do I flip over to the cover and reveal that yes, I am a Difficult Woman - note exhibit 1? Wait, maybe he saw it already, and was being funny? No, and I was saved from my quandary by his huffing off to look at something else. I couldn't even remember what I'd done.

So of course I went back another day and got the book. With that coincidental introduction, we were meant for each other.

These stories were exceptional. The writing is effortless, yet rich, deep and chock-full of emotion. Here are some examples:

“She pressed her forehead against mine. Something wet and heavy caught in my throat. ‘Why him?’

‘I’d be no good to a really good man and Darryl isn’t really a bad man.’

I knew exactly what she meant.”

"She pushed Sal away, negotiating the complexity of making her point without getting fired.”

“They had been dating for four years and their relationship was mostly unremarkable. She was smart enough to want more but tired enough to accept the way things were.”

Comments on the book have ranged from - "Why are these women considered difficult?" to "I thought this was an historical account of women in history". It's neither. Because, if you are a woman, you have a innate sense of what Roxanne meant when she titled it thusly. So much. From "Life is difficult for all women" to "Is it not the difficulties encountered that make us so difficult ourselves?" and including "Make us a mould, then - see if we don't fit into it. Because we won't." 

I wanted to read this slowly, but I found I couldn't. I wanted more and more and then some more. On each page I found a piece of my soul.

Not an easy read,  some explicit and extreme imagery,  and plenty of anger and lots of pain, but worth every minute. This is an intense little book.

And please please please don't give me the excuse that you don't read short stories. Because - a) You should and b) Have I not yet convinced you how good this book is yet?

And from my opening paragraph, in case you're still wondering - Yes "difficult" is the word I use to describe myself in an interview when asked to talk about my areas for improvement. And to be honest, I don't really want to change that particular flaw. I kind of like it.

You may also enjoy Maverick by Lauren Beukes or anything by Emma Donoghue - The Wonder is great. 

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