That’s one of therapy’s cruel aspects: the therapist is unique to you, but not the other way around.TEN WOMEN
Four books in and we’re finally on a truly translated book! Thank you for sticking by me through this long journey, I know it’s been hard on us all. Which is why we’re all diving into some group therapy down in Chile. Should be a barrel of laughs, y’all. Deemed “psychological fiction”, this story is spread out over ten [long] chapters of each woman telling her story. I’ve never been to group therapy, but this setup was impactful and revealing to me as a bystander. However, I did need almost two full months to finish this book. I didn’t start to enjoy the stories until halfway through, I’m not sure if that’s because they built on each other or I finally sank into the concept.
Before I started this blog, Ten Women (2014) was one of a handful of books I downloaded with my KindleUnlimited subscription as an uncoordinated attempt to read non-American authors. Here’s a secret: I read this book nearly a year ago in April of 2018. While I’m still riding through the older translation that is Don Quixote, I thought I’d review one of the original instigators for this blog.
Spoiler: In case you weren’t keeping track, there are nine women in the therapy session, yet there are ten chapters (like the book title). The final chapter is devoted to the story of Natasha, the therapist that brought them all together.
The daughter of writers, Marcela Serrano is known as one of the most accomplished authors in South America—her debut novel We Loved So Much won Santiago’s Literary Prize in 1994. Most of her stories reflect her own feminism and leftist political leanings. While not all of her novels are set in Chile, one even starred an American protagonist, it wasn’t until this novel was translated that she was exposed to English readers.
That’s right, I said translated, people! Originally published in 2011 Diez mujeres was translated into English in 2014 by Beth Fowler. I’ll dig more into the book’s contents here soon, but the translation was impeccable. Growing up in Texas, I know a decent amount of Spanish but this book was entirely in English. There were even some parts I chuckled at, and humor is the most difficult part of speaking another language. (Or so I hear.)
Originally from Inverness, Scotland, Beth Fowler earned her degree in Hispanic Studies from the University of Glasgow, including a year teaching English in Santiago, Chile. A perfect fit for this Chilean powerhouse’s first English translation.
What I loved:
The cynical humor. As a novel entirely set in a group therapy session of downtrodden women, there were many moments of self-reflection and absurdity that sometimes came out as one-liners. Sometimes you’ve got to laugh to keep from crying, eh?
The madwomen, here come the madwomen, the workers on the grounds will be saying, spying on them from behind the trees.TEN WOMEN
Mané: “Old age is measured by the percentage of the body that bears scrutiny. When you want to cover up yourself completely, you’re screwed.”TEN WOMEN
Juana: “Susy is submissive like she’s been bitten by a vampire.”TEN WOMEN
The brutal honesty. In order for therapy to be truly effective, the patients must be fully honest with not only themselves but also their therapist. In the case of Ten Women, that honesty carries a greater weight when exposed to a group of strangers.
The female perspective. Similar to many Latin and South American countries, Chile has a history of machismo culture. Marcela Serrano has a tradition of showcasing strong women and her own feminist ideals in her work. These ten women have all had struggles and setbacks, yet they all managed some small triumphs along the way, in the face of it all.
What I liked:
The wide variety. As a feminist, I’d like to think that equality for all really means that: all. Ten Women covers the young and old, rich and poor, well-educated and illiterate. Feminism isn’t socialism, but rather providing everyone opportunities and support to make their own way. At least, that’s what I think.
Mané: “Because despite everything, I was always insecure, like all women.”TEN WOMEN
What I could do without:
The pace. As I mentioned at the start, this book took me over two months to finish. Unlike a tv version of group therapy (Go On anyone?) these chapters are unbroken by interruption or deviation. It’s simply one woman telling her life story and what led her to therapy. I really shouldn’t have been surprised, but I really thought there would be more drama or hijinks involved.
The lack of dialogue. Similar to my first reviewed book, Chemistry, there are no quotation marks for dialogue in Ten Women. Unfortunately, this style choice makes this already detailed book plod on even slower as you have to pay very close attention.
The length. Each woman’s chapter was over 20 pages, the longest came in at 30 pages. With no dialogue and only the very occasional poem or song, that’s a long time to stay on one person’s life story. Part of that distance may have come from the international differences, as well as some of their ages, but I still persevered.
Read an excerpt and the reviews of someone that loved this book before reading. It is a bit of a commitment, but many people enjoy simple stories of daily life. However, I use books as an escape and prefer stories that really stand out for the characters, situation or setting. I originally gave this book a 4/5, but I’m leaning more toward 3 now. Many of the money and political challenges of Chile (as well as living in a large city like Santiago) mystified me and didn’t allow me to connect with the women like I should have to enjoy the story.
Also, let me know in the comments if this book would make you want to travel to Chile or not!
One thought on “Let’s talk it out.”
Pingback: Like mother, like daughters – Found in Translation