REVIEW: Women Within, Anne Leigh Parrish

Thursday, 9 November 2017


With themes of reproductive rights and feminism, this multi-generational novel presents three women whose paths cross at the Lindell Retirement Home. Constance Maynard, fierce, independent and proud, reflects on her long life promoting women’s rights through her career as a professor of history. Eunice Fitch, the perfect caregiver, is often unlucky in love, yet even in middle age refuses to give up searching for the perfect man. Sam Clark is a young aide with a passion for poetry, and small beautiful things, but at war with her own large, ungainly physique. All together they weave a tapestry as rich and complex as the female experience itself.



Women Within is a character study into the lives of three very different women whose paths converge at a retirement home. I will say that all of them feel incredibly human and the flashbacks are able to paint a realistic picture of these women’s lives, but maybe this is the cause of my issues with the book - the women felt so real but they weren’t particularly likeable or even very happy. No matter what stage the book finds them currently in, none of them seem particularly satisfied with the way their lives have turned out… and is this feminism? Portraits of unfulfilled, down-trodden women? The more I read, the more that I believe this is so.
The first of the women that Anne Leigh Parrish focuses on is Constance, a patient in the facility and a former history professor who has spent her life priding herself on being a ‘feminist’ by rejecting every single one of society’s expectations for women. Despite all of the knowledge she seems to have regarding feminism, she doesn’t seem to understand the term at all - she looks down on other women and seems to resent them; measuring them to the standard of how much they have followed suit in their subversions. And her relationship with her daughter? Do not even get me started! She is bloody awful to her! (She is bloody awful to most people, let's be honest).
Eunice, who seems to flit from one bad relationship to another. Her story is certainly the least compelling, partly because she makes some absolutely abysmal decision throughout her life that I could never see myself making. The entire fiasco with the beautiful young man and her inheritance is only a situation that someone incredibly and ridiculously naive could stumble into. And the whole lesbian/cat sidebar? Just no.
The final of the three is Sam. Oh, Sam. Overall I have no big issues with Sam as a character, well rather, I don’t have as many issues with her as I have with the other two; the main issue I have in this section of the novel is with her mother. Sam spends the first 20-odd years of her life believing that her mother conceived her after being sexually assaulted by a man far richer (and with far more lawyers) than herself. Then one day, COMPLETELY out of the blue, she confesses to Sam that this entire tale is nowhere close to the truth of the situation.
Obviously, this is a storyline that I - and I believe many others will - have many, many issues with and it is certainly one of the main reasons why I could not award Women Within a higher rating.
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for sending me a copy of this book in exchange of an honest review

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