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Daughters of Eve: Feminism gone amok?

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Lois Duncan has been around for a long time.  She started publishing short works as a teenager, and her first novel was published in 1959. Daughters of Eve was published in 1979, but I really thought it was older.  First, I aged out of YA books in the early 80’s, and secondly, the attitudes presented in the novel seemed a bit outdated to me, even for the late 70’s.  Many of the moms in this novel married young, and an Epilogue reveals that many of the female teenagers in the novel were married around age 18. But even in 2019 I know of families who think it’s normal for the woman to do most of the housework, even if she works…and in a few cases, where the husband is the “stay at home parent”! So I guess this book is not “out of touch”, for then or now. 

Certainly other issues are still relevant. Women still earn a fraction of what men do, more men are in senior positions, including in schools, and there are probably still girls who are expected to help with household chores when their brothers are not. Sadly, there is still teenage pregnancy and spousal abuse.

The novel is about a high-school sorority like service club called Daughters of Eve.  As an adolescent, I did NOT get the connotations of the group name. I knew who Eve was, of course, but I did not think about several facts: that all people are supposed to be the daughters of Eve, that Eve was supposedly created to be “helpmate” to Adam, and finally, that Eve is most famous for deceiving Adam and “cursing” all of humankind.  Interesting and I’m sure deliberate choice on Duncan’s part. I’m just saying. 

What struck me then about this book, and still makes me think, is that the only character who is adversely affected by the actions of the teacher/club advisor, who clearly has a problem, is that no one seems to be affected by any of their actions, whether positive or negative.  I don’t want to give away the end, but even in that case, it could be argued that the incident was waiting to happen, regardless of the teacher’s twisted influence.

But what does happen in this novel is that the club members’ various families have some serious talks about issues as they come up.  In some cases, where there is an imbalance, changes occur, and in others, the validity of different choices and preferences are made clear. Not all women want the same things.  Not all people want the same things. 

Unlike many Young Adult books, the adults in Eve are round characters with positive and negative traits, and the reader is given the material to understand the adults’ choices.  Adolescents do have a tendency to see the world in black and white, but they are smart enough to understand subtleties as well.  In Eve, parents usually talk to the teenagers like the young adults that they are. When a pregnant character has a conversation with her father about her options, his response is good enough to get that man a parenting award in 2019, in my opinion. 

Lois Duncan is a star for using an underrated genre, the horror story, to get teenagers to open her books, and then she honors them by treating them like reasoning adults.

This one is a good quick read for an adult, and I would certainly be interested in giving it to a group of teenagers to see what they make of it 40 years after publication.  Rightfully, it is still in print.


I found this lovely photo, along with several others, on Wikipedia. I wish there were a full biography of Lois Duncan!

 


This is the literal cover art for the version I owned. If you’ve read the book, you can tell exactly who each character is, except possibly the one sitting on the left. No holds barred here…the enemy is clear.

This is the current cover. At first I didn’t get it because the apple with the books made me think about “an apple for the teacher”. Then I thought about Eve. The Bible doesn’t actually say that Eve gave Adam an apple, as commonly thought, but it does say that the “fruit” was from the Tree of Knowledge. And if nothing else, Irene Stark, the twisted teacher, delivers that. I also love the tagline…the group of girls is back from the version below.

 


This is the cover of the version I checked out from my library. I really don’t like it. The model is depicted alone in a book about a club? The tagline sounds kind of vulgar too. And who is she? Did anyone read the book?