Review: The Refrigerator Monologues by Catherynne M. Valente
Published by Saga Press on June 6th 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Short Stories (single author)
Source: Publisher, Wunderkind
The lives of six female superheroes and the girlfriends of superheroes. A ferocious riff on women in superhero comics
From the New York Times bestselling author Catherynne Valente comes a series of linked stories from the points of view of the wives and girlfriends of superheroes, female heroes, and anyone who’s ever been “refrigerated”: comic book women who are killed, raped, brainwashed, driven mad, disabled, or had their powers taken so that a male superhero’s storyline will progress.
In an entirely new and original superhero universe, Valente subversively explores these ideas and themes in the superhero genre, treating them with the same love, gravity, and humor as her fairy tales. After all, superheroes are our new fairy tales and these six women have their own stories to share.
I love the concept of this book which gives voice to those sidelined females in comic books. It creates fleshed out characters that have motivations and thoughts and intriguing stories all their own. It shows they are something more than just a footnote in the story of a super hero.
And this book is all that, which is wonderful. However, this is going to be a hard one for me to review. When it comes down to it, while I love the concept and the general stories, the style itself is just not a style that works well for me. That does not mean it’s poorly executed by any means. This is a book where the type of humor just really fell flat for me. This is not an unusual struggle for me, it happens often enough I can recognize when I have issue due to the style rather than the writer’s ability to craft a story. I can also recognize the areas that this book fell flat for me may very well be what makes it a stand out in a very positive way for others.
The book covers 6 different protagonists, each one with a unique story and situation (often a familiar one, though all names have been changed). It is a fun concept. And the way all of these chapters are tied together is through the Hell Hath Club. It is a an afterlife hangout where all of these women can go and share there stories.
And when it comes down to it, the entire point of these stories is not to make people laugh, but to learn to appreciate how often women in the standard stories are there only to progress the male story line. They are merely dispensable stepping stones that are given little thought or depth, just a byline in the story of the male protagonist. Valente finally gives them a voice and the ability to stand up and be known. It makes a statement that and gives people something to think about the next time they come across a super hero story with women that could easily join the Hell Hath Club.