I suppose what fascinated me most about Exit West is its representation of the coexistence of femininity and sexuality. Especially in the parallel between Saeed’s mother and Nadia, we see this passionate drive for intimate physical connection. That drive is much more than we ever see in the parallel between Saeed and his father.
Because a large majority of literature or film depicts the male in a romantic relationship (granted that the relationship exists between a man and a woman) as the dominant sexual force, the one initiating contact, there is a very limited representation of female sexuality.
The lack of sexual expression granted to female characters prevents young adults and women from understanding who they are, what they need, and the validity of their experience as fully sentient beings. This poses a problem for a number of reasons, most obviously that these women are terminally unable to maintain an understanding of the existence of their sexuality. That’s why this book is so marvelous. There is an air of humanity and power held by the female characters in this story, the power of self-acceptance, and divine femininity, which is not seen in underdeveloped female characters. And this was accomplished without oversexualizing any of them; they became humans and lost no dignity in the process.