WOMAN by Natalie Angier


An Intimate Geography
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Passion and intelligence meet in a gorgeous book about what it means to be a woman today, yesterday, and forever. Pulitzer Prize—winning science writer Angier’s (The Beauty of the Beast: New Views of the Nature of Life, 1995, etc.) “geography” ranges from the south pole of the mons veneris and associated vulval landmarks to the high peaks of the brain in her exploration of female anatomy, physiology, psychology and countless other -ologies across the life span. By turns she is serious, angry, joyous and loving; at times hortatory and didactic, other times confessional. And always she displays the high style and metaphor that New York Times readers have come to expect. The result is a book rich in information, from the microanatomy of the egg cell and the X chromosome to the cultural heritage that perpetuates the Madonna-whore dichotomy for women. She is extremely good at detailing the hormonal changes in the menstrual cycle and in pregnancy, on the wonders of the uterus, the placenta, breast milk, and breasts in general. (She puts Desmond Morris and others in their place—no, the breasts are not misplaced buttocks). Of special interest is a chapter on love, with the observation that at least one hormone, oxytocin, may in part subserve the emotion. Angier speaks frankly of her own sexuality, pregnancy, and childbirth, of the war between mothers and daughters and of aggression as the other side of love. Her voice is a bit too strident in condemning the medical profession for treating menopause as disease: Not all docs urge hormone replacement therapy on their female patients. The voice also reaches crescendo peak in preaching the virtues of exercise. Okay, already! But herein lies a fund of knowledge beautifully conveyed, as well as questions that have yet to be answered. Women should rejoice—and so should men. (First serial to the New York Times Magazine; second serial to Self; Book-of-the-Month Club/Quality Paperback Book Club selection)

Pub Date: April 6th, 1999
ISBN: 0-395-69130-3
Page count: 416pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1999


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