My novel Perfect Ten is number nine in the Feminist Critique category again. It was previously a bestseller in that category along with Naiomi Alderman’s The Power and Mary Beard’s Women and Power. So what makes my psychological thriller about revenge feminist?
I am always interested in what people who read Perfect Ten have to say about it. Some people have read it and loved it, other’s not so much. That is absolutely fine, because when I wrote about Caroline Atkinson’s knee-jerk revenge on her cheating husband Jack, I knew that it would enrage some people.
Caroline find’s Jack’s diary in some misdirected luggage and, already destroyed by their marriage and acrimonious break-up, she takes action. Is it the right action? It’s what a lot of women have thought about doing but haven’t – I asked a wide range of women if they had ever fantasised about revenge. She exacts revenge in a drastic manner on Jack and the women he has cheated with and uncovers some interesting dynamics.
Here’s the breaking news: feminists don’t always do the ‘right thing’. Feminism is a ideology and a lifelong journey, not an instruction manual. I liken my experience of being a feminist as a kind of fight – a lot of bad decisions have generated a realisation that perhaps I wasn’t making them alone and some kind of cultural influence – hello patriarchy – was pulling me in the opposite direction to where I really wanted to go.
It’s a tug of war. It’s a power battle. None of it is easy and not every woman (or man) is a feminist. In Perfect Ten Caroline makes some questionable decisions. She tries out lots of different scenarios but the one she lands on, the only one that gives her peace, is that collaboration with other women. That shared space where we can reach an understanding about what the fuck just happened. Where we can reconcile ourselves with the fact that other women, divided and ruled by patriarchy, are making the same bad decisions as we are. And eventually that there is a better way froward where we can be happier and sometimes angrier.
So Perfect Ten, on a deeper level than life level of cheating, social networking, drinking, dancing, work, kids, is about the fight to sometimes even just stay on the surface. It’s marketed as a psychological thriller, and it is, but hopefully those readers who have had even a glimpse of how unfair divorce and psychological abuse can be for women will understand Caroline’s battle.
But some people won’t understand it, and that’s just fine.