Trainwreck: The Women We Love to Hate, Mock, and Fear… and Why – Sady Doyle


5 star
Genre: Nonfiction 

Publisher: Melville House Publishing

She’s everywhere once you start looking for her: the trainwreck.

She’s Britney Spears shaving her head, Whitney Houston saying, “crack is whack,” and Amy Winehouse, dying in front of millions. But the trainwreck is also as old (and as meaningful) as feminism itself.

From Mary Wollstonecraft—who, for decades after her death, was more famous for her illegitimate child and suicide attempts than for A Vindication of the Rights of Woman—to Charlotte Brontë, Billie Holiday, Sylvia Plath, and even Hillary Clinton, Sady Doyle’s Trainwreck dissects a centuries-old phenomenon and asks what it means now, in a time when we have unprecedented access to celebrities and civilians alike, and when women are pushing harder than ever against the boundaries of what it means to “behave.”

Where did these women come from? What are their crimes? And what does it mean for the rest of us? For an age when any form of self-expression can be the one that ends you, Sady Doyle’s book is as fierce and intelligent as it is funny and compassionate—an essential, timely, feminist anatomy of the female trainwreck.

What do Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus, Nicki Minaj, Mary Wollstonecraft, Charlotte Bronte, and Billie Holiday have in common? They’re all trainwrecks!

Trainwreck is one of those novels you have to experience to understand how awesome it is. I used the word experience instead of read because reading this novel is a powerful experience in and of it self.

 “A victim turns perpetrator; a naked body that people were willing to commit theft to see becomes unsightly and shameful the moment it’s exposed consensually. Sexually pure or sexual predator, uncorrupted virgin or corrupting whore, godly or Godzilla: these are the options. Thus are train wrecks made.”

Doyle walks the reader through the making of a trainwreck, her options, and her role in our culture. Throughout each of these sections Doyle weaves a compelling narrative with ample evidence that will leave you stunned, stocked, and disgusted. I wouldn’t say that I’m an avid consumer of celebrity gossip, but that kind of information always finds its way into my repertoire of facts, so I was nauseated at how these women were exploited, in life and in death.

Each chapter of the novel is deeply entrenched in telling the reader, not convincing, that trainwrecks are engrained in our culture. Doyle demonstrates this by including analysis of some of the most well known women and how they were dragged through the mud for their thoughts and actions. Seeing Britney Spears and Miley Cyrus being compared to Mary Wollstonecraft and Billie Holiday is eye opening and effective.

“A live trainwreck is an affront. A dead one is confirmation: No one can be that beautiful, that sexual, that successful, that free. Something has to go wrong; she has to pay, with her life, for breaking the rules.” 

I could sit here and throw around words like “powerful”, “groundbreaking”, “eyeopening”, “unabashedly feminist”, and “brilliant”, but these words still wouldn’t do Doyle’s work justice. So, just read it!




2 thoughts on “Trainwreck: The Women We Love to Hate, Mock, and Fear… and Why – Sady Doyle

  1. I would never have guessed the connection, but now that you mention it, putting them all together to highlight that very point does sound like it would make for a fascinating read. Thanks for sharing! 😀

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