‘Pink Horror: The Violent Feminine in Nicola Maye Goldberg’s “Other Women”’, by Mikaella Clements
We know tragic women. The well-loved trope of doomed women, fictional or historical, is both overused and comforting in literature; immediately recognisable, somehow soothing. In Nicola Maye Goldberg’s debut novel Other Women the unnamed narrator nods to the “pantheon of dead girls: Ophelia, Sylvia Plath, Emma Bovary, Laura Palmer, Joan of Arc, Marie Antoinette.” The girls lost to men and violence and history. A long line of women who deserved better. A group of bitter ghosts.
Initially it seems Other Women’s fraught, depressed narrator might join them, but instead, “Sometime shortly after I dropped out,” she explains, “I gave up on being a Sad Girl and got used to being a Sick Girl instead.”PULL QUOTE: Goldberg’s conception of the ‘Sick Girl’ is one of the most triumphant fuck-yous to the Sad Girl trope I’ve read in years.
Goldberg’s conception of the ‘Sick Girl’ is one of the most triumphant fuck-yous to the Sad Girl trope I’ve read in years: Fuck you, I’m not sad like a beautiful accessory; Fuck you, it’s not just in my head; Fuck you, it is in my head and that’s a medical issue. Goldberg’s Sick Girl is depressed, anxious, unwell. She practices self-harm. She fantasises about suicide. She goes to see a useless psychiatrist and returns home to practice new forms of self-destruction. Her sickness is undeniably a medical issue, fitting for a heroine interested in anatomy and biology; one interested, particularly, in blood. It wells up again and again, usually as a surprise to the reader but always, in hindsight, obvious, as though blood and its spectre are thrumming along under the narrative.