Review # 22 / « Take my hand » by Megan Abbott
Do women have a chance?
I discovered Megan Abbott with The End of Innocence ((The End of Everything), in the summer of 2012. I seem to remember that I bought the book in large format at a station (which I am not really sure anymore … maybe I am confusing with Nothing stands in the way of the night by Delphine de Vigan that I never managed to read). This novel had unsettled me, the universe had deeply marked me. Megan Abbott talks about young girls as a person and she has a rare talent for creating atmospheres that persist far beyond reading. At the time, I advised my friends who shared my tastes in literature.
To write this article, I took a look at the forums, just to see what other readers said about this book which I only vaguely remember (this is often the case for the reads that we liked ) and I was amazed by the number of comparisons with Lolita from Nabokov.
I read Lolita when i was in college (maybe ten years ago now), a friend gave it to me for me to read this monument of literature that she had loved. I remember not liking at all and thinking that if it had been written by a woman, everything would have been very different (which goes without saying – I write this and I tell myself that it is really time to read it again.) But what is certain is that the comparison never occurred to me. In my rather vague memories, we were more on the side ofAmerican beauty.
My admiration for Megan Abbott is that she is a woman who writes about women in particularly relevant and impactful ways. The way she looks at her characters is incisive but also fair. In my opinion, one never falls into caricature. And if certain characters may seem archetypical on paper (the lost teenager, the career researcher, etc.), their treatment is never. Megan Abbott made in lace. She never puts her foot in the dish and always uses roundabout paths, elegance and subtlety. She takes her time and invites us to do the same. Nothing is given to the reader, everything is offered for delicate reading.
Before I get to his last two novels – Before everything breaks ((You will know me) and Take my hand ((Give me your hand) that I both loved – you have to make a (very) short detour by the dark novel that she made her own for a while. Red Room Lounge ((Die a Little), Absent ((The Song is You), Goodbye Gloria ((Queenpin) … so many titles that made her a professional in the genre, all revolving around figures of more or less fatal women in Hollywood America in the 50s.
Before everything breaks was about a teenage girl promised to glory in the world of gymnastics. A man was killed, the girl was injured, the universe collapsed and parents tried to maintain the foundations at all costs for their daughter to realize their dreams.
With Take my hand, we are attacking a new side of ambition. The heroines are not as young but still as young, the parents are dead and we are leaving the gym for the laboratory. In this new framework, we find the structure of the trio, entirely feminine and particularly anxiety-provoking.
Kit, the eternal second, finally touches his dream: tenure, when the eternal first, his childhood friend, Diane (goddess of hunting, but also – we forget – chastity and virginity ), reappears in his lab, alongside his idol and patron, Dr. Severin. She joins Kit’s team when places are expensive. Kit is hardworking, a good student, but nothing to do with Diane who leans more on the side of genius: an extremely bright but tortured girl. And the subject of research of our three women (the male characters of the novel occupy very secondary roles: they play the role of revealers, catalysts) also brings its stone to the edifice: the Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PDD) would push women completely « normal » to commit violent and uncontrollable acts. Dr. Séverin, if she can prove that this pathology exists, would revolutionize criminal theory by proving that a certain number of women accused of murder (for example) were not conscious, not responsible for their acts. The objective of this research that fascinates our three women is therefore to make this disorder recognized, but also, perhaps, to find a way to treat it in order to improve the lives of their sisters and to prevent them from becoming criminals despite they. Diane’s position, however, is unclear. She is not there for the same reasons as the others.
We are here in a universe that we tend to describe as masculine (medical research, just like sport in Before everything breaks) so women won’t last long. There is this fatality everywhere, at Megan Abbott’s. And if I found this novel particularly brilliant and successful, it is because we feel that his reflection on the question is becoming more and more global: everything in this fiction makes sense and refers to the main core: can women y happen in the current state of affairs? Do they have at least a chance? Nothing is less certain at Megan Abbott’s.