Three Women by Lisa Taddeo is one of ‘those’ books. The kind of tome that we are told we must read, that we are told is important, that as women we have a duty to buy. I don’t really believe in that kind of twaddle about books, but I do believe in Lisa Taddeo. Three Women is captivating. I bought it speculatively before a nine-hour flight and feared that it would be dry. As a consequence I didn’t even give it a go until a couple of weeks later and was delighted to find that it was so much better than I expected it to be.
Sex, desire, wanting and judgement seem to formulate the basis of this non-fiction read. Taddeo tells the stories of – can you guess it? – three women, Maggie, Sloane and Lina. In some ways they are every woman, although even as I write this I’m acutely aware that society still sits uncomfortably with women being open in their sexual desires, encounters and personal stories. We aren’t supposed to kiss and tell, we can be sexual, but not discuss it beyond our partners and maybe our closest friends. These stories feel like fiction because that’s the context that we are used to, when it comes to reading about sex, but they aren’t, they are every bit as real as you and I and furthermore, they resonate.
There’s no judgement from Taddeo of the women she celebrates in this story, but judgement is everywhere else. Within the pages of this book, Maggie, Sloane and Lina are all judged, not just by the men they are involved with, but by the women in their lives too. Lina is a bored housewife with a difficult childhood behind her, married to a man who doesn’t understand what it is that she craves. She speaks of sex and wants it to be love, not able to understand that the two are not always intertwined, or if she does find clarity, it doesn’t sit with her personal narrative. Sloane is a beautiful, elegant woman, not afraid to explore sexual acts that sit outside the norms of society, whilst finding little long term satisfaction in life. Maggie was the girl who fell in love with her high school teacher, a romance that has shaped and tarnished her whole adult life. Three enormously different stories, three women trying to understand their relationship with sex, love and society in general.
Oddly enough as sad as these stories are, the end result is captivating. It’s one of those books that you don’t want to end. As kids we are raised to believe in happy endings and handsome princes and yet as adults we discover that the world is very different to that. Reading Three Women you want each tale of have a happy resolution, but of course that’s not what sex brings us. After all, as a wise person once told me; if you want a happy ending, you need to know when to stop.