Adrienne Urbanski picks up where The Women’s Room left off, exploring and experimenting with the definition of modern womanhood in The Love Children.
Marilyn French’s first novel, The Women’s Room, embodied the women’s movement of the ’70s with its depiction of a submissive housewife who divorces her husband to find her own life. The Love Children, her last, picks up where that feminist classic left off, exploring the lives of the daughters born to the women who achieved liberation at that time. Unsurprisingly, French shows that many limitations exist for these women, even with their generation’s newfound freedoms. The book focuses on Jess, a girl trying to find herself while growing up in the late ’60s and ’70s. When her feminist mother divorces her overbearing and self-absorbed father, Jess is thrown for a loop. She struggles to etch out her own sense of identity, experimenting with drugs, sexuality, and career paths in a bid to find a fulfilling existence. After being mistreated in college by male sex partners and patriarchal professors, she abandons school, hoping to find a more suitable life in a commune, only to find that even the men inside this supposed utopia see women as lesser beings to be used for their sexual whims. Though Jess is from a different era, her struggles resonate today. The Love Children is valuable in its exploration and depiction of the many ways in which gender can still be a limitation, even within a supposedly more enlightened society.