Book Review / Green Girl
Kate Zambreno

The green girl of Kate Zambreno’s novel is Ruth, a twenty-something Chicagoan frighteningly adrift in London. A God-like figure is the narrator here, both nurturing of and sickened by the delicate girl she claims to have made. We follow both creator and creation through the novel’s poetic vignettes—to call them chapters would be a disservice to Zambreno’s wonderfully fluid stream of consciousness—as the lethargic Ruth changes jobs, makes friends, takes lovers, and begins to despise them all. Her deep depression and hatred of the femininity she is unable to part with will, of course, bring up comparisons to The Bell Jar. There’s no denying the similarities—Plath’s Esther and Zambreno’s Ruth are inwardly tortured, deflating rapidly in cities where most people find themselves revived (Zambreno’s choice of city may be another nod to her literary heritage, as it’s reminiscent of Mrs. Dalloway’s exhilarating and oppressing London). Both Ruth and Esther disdain their femininity and the attention they get from the world when they participate in it, but Green Girl still feels fresh. We can thank the author’s unique voice for this, but it is also due in part to the present day setting, which puts forth an interesting question: what happens to women after they’ve been supposedly liberated? Will they make a fresh start and redefine what it means to be a woman or will they cling to what is familiar, no matter how much it hurts them? Zambreno’s answer is heartbreaking, but as Ruth whines about her coworkers, obsesses over fashion, and finds comfort in “Friends” reruns, you’ll find yourself oddly amused by this poignant and thoughtful read.

Labell, Molly. "Green Girl." BUST Magazine