About The Book
Living alone in New York, Frannie teaches creative writing to a motley bunch of students, and secretly compiles a dictionary of street slang: virginia, n., vagina; snapper, n., vagina; brasole, n., vagina.
One evening at a bar, she stumbles upon a man, his face in shadow, a tattoon on his wrist, a woman kneeling between his legs. A week later a detective shows up at her door. The woman’s body has been discovered in the park across the street. Soon Frannie is propelled into a sexual liaison that tests the limits of her safety and desires, as she begins a terrifying descent into the dark places that reside deep within her.
In The Cut by Susanna Moore was originally published in 1995 and is somewhat of a cult classic about sexuality, sexual politics and gender. It is being reissued in a post Me Too world where the conversation about women and how we are treated is constantly in the public domain. 2019 has seen a plethora of books which examine these issues, the most well known of which is possibly Three Women by Lisa Taddeo which was published earlier this year to much critical acclaim. I was intrigued by In The Cut and wondered how it would stand up against more ‘current’ reads on these subjects. The reality is that the only thing which was glaring was the lack of technology, everything else scarily felt like it could be written about 2019.
So, what it is about? Well, our protagonist is an English teacher living in New York and working with young people who are disadvantaged. She is in her mid thirties, is divorced and is writing a book about slang and how it is used differently depending on your location and social background. One night she is in a bar with one of her students when, taking a wrong turn on the way to the bathroom she opens the door on a woman performing a sex act on a man. His face is in shadow and although he can see her she can only see his body and a tattoo on his inner wrist. The next day the woman from the bar is found brutally murdered and she finds herself in the orbit of Detective James Malloy who is in charge of the investigation.
This sounds like a crime book, and I suppose it kind of is as there is a mystery at the crux of it but, for me, it felt more like a fierce examination of female sexuality. This book may be nearly a quarter of a century old but it feels completely fresh and new with very little off limits in terms of the content. It is dark and dangerous with increasingly blurred lines for our protagonist between what is right and wrong. She is written in such unflinching terms that, despite the book being very short (it comes in at just under 200 pages) I felt I knew her and she got firmly under my skin
I thought this book was a beautiful and powerful read but a challenging one. That isn’t a criticism by any means, in fact it is a compliment. It is overwhelming and uncomfortable and I kept having to pause to absorb what I read and to let the message sink in. There are phrases and words used in this book to describe women which are shocking and observations about the way women are viewed which made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. Lines such as “I reminded myself that Pauline says they have to despise us in order to come near us, in order to overcome their terrible fear of us” hold a quiet power. There is violence in these words and an unsettling truth too.
This isn’t an easy read, but it is an important one. I felt a whole range of emotions after reading; devastation, fear and anger primarily. It is terrifying to realise that in some ways we haven’t moved on and that a book written a quarter of a century ago still holds weight and contains a society that is recognisable to us.
Where You Can Buy It
My thanks to the publisher Orion for providing me with a copy of the book via Netgalley.