Three Women, Lisa Taddeo

I’ve learnt a lot about how books are marketed since starting to write myself as well as through writing these reviews, though mostly I’ve learnt about it through Twitter and seeing how other books do and who’s talking about what. Although I used to write lots of short book reviews for The Independent, it’s been years since I did that. I try not to be 100% cynical in my approach to life these days but I do have a more sly appreciation of how books are publicised and sold. It’s easy to see how okay-ish books do spectacularly well.

When everyone was talking about Three Women, a non-fiction account of the intimate lives of three American women – intimate as in sex and love and everything in between – I was careful not to get too excited about the praise shooting for it from every angle. I still ordered it to arrive on publication day, and I read it in three or four days. The stories of Lina, Maggie and Sloane are gripping, heartbreaking and alarmingly original, despite the fact this is a work of non fiction and all three are recognisable as ‘ordinary’ 21st century women.

The poetry of Taddeo’s prose is unflinching as she leads us through the daily lives, and the adolescences that led them there, of these women who want their husbands to listen to them, to respect them and to desire them. She spent eight years researching this book, even moving to live near some of them. She began following more women but a number dropped out as the magnitude of the project became evident to them. The conscientious application to detail is reminiscent of New Journalism, and she has been compared to Truman Capote, but nothing about Three Women feels unkind, voyeuristic or manipulative. It feels like they are complicit in the book as much they are in their lives, and that Taddeo sacrificed as much to them to get the story out.

It’s not a spoiler to tell you that these women do not have straightforward interior lives. Taddeo presents their actions through a sharply focused lens but with the flat hand of no judgement, even when it comes to the parts we are so obviously – at least only a sociopath wouldn’t – going to cry for them over.

READ THIS BOOK. If you’re a man, even better.

You can buy it for £12.99 on Hive (Bloomsbury)