The Wrong Kind of Woman: A Novel
In 1970, Clarendon College still clings to its traditional all-male ways, despite the world changing around it. But change is inevitable, whether one welcomes it or not. Virginia is confronted by this when her husband, an untenured professor at Clarendon, dies suddenly, leaving her to raise their teenage daughter alone. Louise, the only woman on campus with tenure, finds her position unexpectedly vulnerable when she advocates too strongly for greater inclusion. And Sam, a junior, is drawn to both the new arena of computing and a mysterious group of radicals who are planning… something.
I attended a college much like Clarendon, arriving only a couple of years after the first female students did, so was very familiar with the social landscape that Crow depicts. She tells the story from various points of view, although primarily from Virginia’s as she frets that she “doesn’t know how to be the right kind of woman.” Through careful layering of detail, the author establishes four very different personalities and gives them time to slowly grow and change as she builds to a climax.
The plot resolved and wrapped up a bit too neatly for my taste: dissertation completed and won, problems resolved, and women on campus at last, as was inevitable. But that doesn’t mean that they have it easy and the novel clearly depicts how the female students and faculty still face obstacles that will be best surmounted through forging bonds of sisterhood.
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