Hood – Emma Donoghue (Book Review)


Title – Hood

Author – Emma Donoghue

Source – Scottsdale Library (Ebook)

Summary –

The title Hood refers to the sheath of flesh which enfolds a woman’s clitoris and like the body part it references, this novel is as intimate and mysterious in the feelings it protects and evokes as the tender sheath it is named after. A stunning portrayal in the psyche of a modern lesbian woman. In love and in grief.

“…I recoil. “I was only saying…’
“Everybody’s always been only saying,” she snarls. “Pitying me for my “broken home”, assuming all my problems can be attributed to my being a motherless waif.” Slowing down, she adds, “One guy at college asked could that be why I turned out, ahem, the way I did…”

Penelope is waiting for her long term lover Cara to return from a vacation trip with friends when she receives the news. There has been an accident and Cara is dead. What follows is an unraveling of Penelope’s life in the span of the week after the death of Cara.

Penelope’s whole being has been wrapped around the life of the younger and exciting Cara. Now with Cara gone, Penelope is left to confront the truth of herself and the woman she loved. Penelope has never been honest with anyone about her sexuality. She has hidden it at work and from her family. Only Cara and their small group knew. But now with Cara gone, Penelope must confront it at last on her own. But it not only the truth about herself that she must face but the truth about Cara as well.

“…Sometimes,” she says, “I walk around college and pretend I’m free.”
“Free?”, I ask.
“Of you.”
I press my wet face back into my knees before she can see it.
“Ah would you stop wincing at everything I say. You know not to take me seriously when I’m in a low.”
“Yes,” I say hoarsely, “but telling me not to take you seriously might be just part of the low. Where does the mood end and the you begin? How do I know which Caras are real…”

The truths about Cara’s infidelities. Her constant string of lovers and running away. Her immaturity and desire to try so many new adventures that often did not include Penelope.

And Penelope’s truth. The truth that when she found out she could love another woman it was not Cara. It was the desire she felt for Cara’s older sister Kate. Kate who left for America and was now coming back to help bury her younger sister. Kate who knows nothing of Penelope and her feelings. Kate who Penelope dreams of with Cara gone less than a week.

“…But the Kate looking into my head was not unaware of anything. She began what she was doing again, moving faster, pushing me farther. I tried to convert the image into Cara, but couldn’t visualize the face clearly; all I could do was add a tangled sheet of red hair, and you could still see the dark roots under it. She shook it back and looked at me, then her breath was against my ear, murmuring honeyed insults. You who I am, she whispered. I was the first, a year before my little sister. I was the very first to make you wet…”

In the short week of Cara’s death, Penelope must learn to re-discover who she really is.

Review –

This is a very well written and intense novel of the pain and suffering one goes through when they lose the person they love. Compounded by the fact that no one knows that you shared this love. Not because they wouldn’t accept you, but more so because you couldn’t accept yourself.

The grief Penelope goes through she does in secret. A friend of the family to all but a small group. Slowly she begins to claim her place but then also must face the painful truth that perhaps the love she felt for Cara was not felt for her.

Donoghue is brutally honest in her assessment of both women. In doing so she has created a uniquely powerful tale of self discovery and the every so important act of learning to love yourself.

This is the journey Penelope goes on during this heart breaking week. A journey she has avoided her entire life.

A very good read.


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