Crossing Washington Square by Joanne Rendell
I’ll admit it, I’m a book snob. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t actually read stuff that is all THAT high-brow, I’m not out there reading “Ulysses” or anything. However, I’m a total snob about romances and chick lit. I don’t actually judge other people for reading them, but if anyone suggested that I read one of those books, I would definitely turn up my nose. That is starting to change, however. Mostly because I am discovering smart women’s fiction written by authors such as Allison Winn Scotch, Marisa de los Santos, and, now, Joanne Rendell. Although my enjoyment of Allison Winn Scotch and Marisa de los Santos has already caused me to rethink my prejudices to some extent, Joanne Rendell’s “Crossing Washington Square” really made me examine them, while also entertaining me.
Diana Monroe and Rachel Grey are both professors at the prestigious Manhattan University, but, particularly in Diana’s opinion, they could not be more different. Diana is a serious scholar, focusing largely on Sylvia Plath. Rachel, on the other hand, teaches a class called Popular Women’s Fiction and wrote a book about women’s book clubs. Diana is aloof, Rachel passionate. However, they’re more alike than they think (and aren’t they always in books and movies?). Finally, when the two women find themselves leading a study abroad trip in London, their problems with one another come to a head and they finally have to figure out their relationship – can they even work together civilly?
Despite the oft-used ‘they’re more alike than they think,’ “Crossing Washington Square” did not feel cliche. I really liked Rachel and somewhat liked, somewhat hated Diana. I appreciate women’s fiction like this that deals primarily with the relationships between women or the emotional growth of women, books that aren’t just “OMG, that guy!” (actually, that’s my personal definition of women’s fiction vs. chick lit). I also really appreciated Rachel’s well-reasoned defense of popular women’s fiction. Long story short, I’m still not sold on romances or neon pink book covers as a personal preference, but I am starting to really embrace women’s fiction, and I think that “Crossing Washington Square” is a great example of a good women’s fiction novel.