Wednesday 1 May 2024

Women Talking

Finished April 30
Women Talking by Miriam Toews

This book was inspired by a real life event that occured at a Mennonite colony in Bolivia named the Manitoba Colony. While eight men were convicted and jailed there, the assaults continued. Toews wrote this book as a reaction to those events. 
The book begins after the discovery that some men in this fictional Mennonite colony of Molotschna were using veterinary anaesthetic on women and girls in the the night and sexually assaulting them. Some of them are now pregnant. 
Most of the men in the community have gone to the city to try to bail out the men accused of the crimes. While they are gone, eight of the women and girls have decided to meet to talk about what they should do. August, a man who has returned to the community as an adult after his parents were ejected from the community when he was a child, has been asked to take minutes of the meeting. This is something that is gradually explained during the novel. 
The book is told through those minutes and through other observations by August that he has noted. 
The novel is slow-paced, almost all of it taking place in the loft of the barn where the women are meeting. The time period is only a couple of days and there is sometimes circular discussion, occasional moments of humour, and disagreements that make the time seem to stretch longer. The character with the most depth is August himself because he is the narrator. We see his sadness, his sense of loss, and his feelings of not belonging anywhere. The personalities of the various women and girls also comes out through their talk and small actions. 
This is a moving novel that gives the reader a lot to think about. It has since also been adapted into a film. 

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