Taryn's Reviews > The Female of the Species

The Female of the Species by Lionel Shriver
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's review
Oct 25, 2009

it was ok
bookshelves: what-i-read-in-2009
Read in October, 2009

My first review, and it's a negative one! Oh well. It's really because I was excited to read something by Lionel Shriver and was pretty disapponted by this novel. I've heard a lot of good things about Shriver, especially "We Need to Talk About Kevin," so when I was last in a bookstore I wandered around with her name in my mind. Unluckily for me, this was the only book of hers they had.

Basically, it's the story of a famous and well-respected anthropologist who is brutally taken down by late-in-life love during the 1980s, documented by her lifelong assistant and friend.

Oy, this book. My main problem with it was that I was unable to relate or even sympathize with any of the characters. Errol, the reader's proxy, is spineless and way too obsessed with Gray. His mental "home movies" are a cheap way of sharing information with the reader that we otherwise wouldn't know, and honestly, just plain weird. I didn't find Gray to be brilliant, admirable, or strong -- just irritating. Raphael was sleazy and the attempt to humanize him through his difficult childhood felt condescending.

And Raphael's true motives are so transparent from the moment he steps onto the scene, the fact that Gray couldn't or wouldn't see through him made me question her sanity. I almost couldn't believe that everything ended up the way it did, because it was so predictable from the start. I kept hoping for a twist that never came. (And that New York City scene was riiiidiculous. Not only cliched, but total stereotyped.)

In fairness, I did enjoy Gray's Africa flashback scenes. I would definitely read a story all about young Gray or Corgie and their adventures. Too bad that wasn't this book.

And I still want to give Shriver a chance. Next time I'll make sure I pick up something of hers that's a bit more recent...or use the library.

If you want some good storytelling, read Joyce Carol Oates' "The Female of the Species" instead. Same title, crazy good stories.

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