By Marilyn French. (From Publishers Weekly) In her foreword to this first volume of a four-volume work, Atwood writes that women are not a footnote to history, but rather the necessary center around which the wheel of power revolves. That is the view that novelist and memoirist French (The Women's Room) satisfyingly supports. As in any survey, much of this volume reads schematically (For 99 percent of hominid and human existence, people lived in egalitarian matricentry), and like many historians, French has an agenda—but she backs up even her more controversial theories with an impressive accumulation of academically accepted historical, anthropological and sociological sources. French covers her material vividly as she discusses the formation of the gendered state in Peru, Egypt, Sumer and China and then surveys the differences between the formation of secular and religious states. The volume ends with a detailed analysis of the position of women in early Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and it's here that French's precise methodology really comes to life, though some will debate her interpretations. Written in concise, understated language, this is a significant addition to literature on women's studies and history. (May) The Feminist Press at CUNY (2008), English, Paperback: 336 pages.
"...draws on a vast body of research and help from consultants in all sorts of fields, to open out areas that are rarely accessible... Above all, she recalls the depth and breadth of the war that has been waged on women down the centuries, the restrictions placed in so many times and so many places on their sexuality, their education, their freedom to travel, their voices" -- The Guardian. "As a reference work it's invaluable: the bibliographies alone are worth the price. And as a warning about the appalling extremes of human behavior and male weirdness, it's indispensable." -- Margaret Atwood, The Times (London). "Nowhere have I ever seen assembled such a quantity and diversity of material about women. Nowhere have I seen such material forged into a consistently readable, entertaining whole, unashamedly slanted in its sympathies towards women and definitely designed to instruct women of this and future generations." -- Clara Thomas, Books in Canada.
About the Author
Marilyn French (1929- ) was born in New York. She received her PhD from Harvard and taught English at Hofstra, Harvard, and Holy Cross College. She is best known for her novels, The Women's Room and In the Name of Friendship, and her non-fiction works, including Beyond Power, The War against Women and her memoir, A Season in Hell. Margaret Atwood's most popular works include The Handmaid's Tale (1983) and The Blind Assassin (2000). She was born in Ottawa, Ontario in 1939 and received her undergraduate degree from Victoria University, along with a master's degree from Radcliffe College. She currently lives in Toronto with her husband, novelist Graeme Gibson.