The appearance of these two books marks a new epoch in our social history. Although first published in the United States, both books deal with England and other countries. Susan Faludi extensively revised her 1991 American edition for the 1992 British edition. This version, with a Preface by Joan Smith, includes information regarding the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia. Marilyn French deals with Southern and Eastern countries, including the 'Third World' - a term which she thinks passť and dishonest. Both books are contemporary and well-informed, and both announce by their very existence that the Nineties are going to be a different era from the Eighties. One of the pleasures of both works is that they analyse the previous decade with knowledge and pungency. The word 'pleasures', it is true, is unlikely to occur very often in discussion of either book. To some, these writers will appear to be among the Monstrous Regiment of Women who are responsible - as women always are - for the Death of Civilisation as 'We' Know It. To other kinds of reader, these books will be too true to be good, painful indeed, as they clearly render acts of brutal injustice which women may expect to encounter as they live their lives. But for some of us the announcement of the truth after an era of lies and fictions is itself a pleasure - the mind, as Dr Johnson indicated, delighting to rest on the stability of truth. Both writers appear to have a strong sense of the paradoxical - or perhaps it is merely that the paradoxes that appear in the investigation of men's treatment of women demand recognition.
LRB 23 July 1992 | PDF Download