Maxine Mei-Fung Chung is a psychoanalytic psychotherapist, clinical supervisor and writer with over fifteen years of clinical experience. What Women Want is her first work of nonfiction. After thirty years of research, Sigmund Freud still felt the great unanswered question was: ‘What does a woman want?’ Fifteen years into her practice as a psychotherapist, Chung believes her collaboration with her patients holds the answers. Through the unique and moving stories of seven of Chung’s female patients, Chung sheds light on female desire and longing. From a young bride-to-be struggling to grapple with her sexuality to a woman learning to heal after years of trauma, What Women Want is a tender and wise examination of who we are and what we want so that we can better understand each other and ourselves.
What Women Want is a fascinating book. Each woman’s journey is gripping and interesting, but Marianna’s story is one that felt particularly important. Marianna, we learn, has been having struggles in her relationship. Her partner has had an affair but she is desperate to start a family, believing that her biological clock is ticking. What was so great about Marianna’s story was seeing the transition of her desire. Marianna goes from feeling the need to stay in her unhappy relationship in order to have a family to realising that she can still have a family and be fulfilled as a single mother with a donor for a father. Marianna’s newfound realisation inverts what we conventionally think of as a woman’s desire and the way society believes a complete family unit is required for a woman and family to feel fulfilled. It was great to see here how Marianna takes her desire into her own hands and goes on to fulfil her own desires without relying on anyone else. This feeds into the overall message of the book and how Chung urges women to own their desires instead of repressing them and believing them to be shameful.
Furthermore, the way that What Women Want is written and narrated is incredibly enjoyable. Here, Chung takes on the role of storyteller as opposed to clinician. She does not just simply recount her patients’ sessions, she tells their stories with great emotions and tenderness, offering up the most minute of details from their tone to body language. Chung’s writing style transports you into a therapy session, making you feel as if you are sitting right there next to the patient. It was also interesting to read about Chung’s analysis of her patients and the psychological theories she uses to explain their mindsets and emotions. The theories are explained in a way that is easily understandable, and will have you sitting back and wondering how to apply the theories to your own life. In this sense, What Women Want not only helps us to better understand women collectively, but ourselves too.
All in all, What Women Want is a wonderful book that illuminates the intricacies of female longing and desire. What Women Want by Maxine Mei-Fung Chung will be available to purchase from 9th February.