Friday, September 27, 2019

Short Fiction Friday: The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin

I should start a series of lost reviews. Books I read in the final months of pregnancy and the first months of new parenthood that I never got around to writing up because my brain was too much mush!

Ira Levin's classic sci fi tale falls into that category. In fact, probably one of the only reasons I got through the whole book was because it's actually a novella! A peek at my books read from the early months of 2019 reveals a penchant for graphic novels and easily digestible reads. If you go further back, you'll see that between Halloween and the end of last year, I only managed to finish seven books. Understandable, I think :)

But I also didn't review any of those books. I am endeavoring to do so now.

I'm not sure I need to write my usual synopsis for this one. It seems like one so many people are familiar with already. But maybe that's not true. Maybe there's a whole slew of readers who aren't familiar with Levin. I personally hadn't read him until this one, though I have been quite familiar with his work for some time. I fear we're coming to a time when younger generations won't even know what a Stepford Wife is!

Here's the gist: Joanna and her husband are the newest neighbors in the charming and close-knit Stepford community. But the longer they live there, the more the neighborhood rubs Joanna the wrong way. What was once idyllic is now insular. And what was once welcoming, to the point of being obnoxious, is now off-putting. But Joanna is only just beginning to realize the truth about her new home...

I choose to believe my delay in coming to Levin's work, particularly The Stepford Wives and Rosemary's Baby (which admittedly I've only watched the adaptation of and haven't yet read), is timely. I watched Rosemary's Baby for the first time while I was pregnant. I'll read it as a mother. And I read The Stepford Wives before my son was two months old. Like I said, timely.

Of course the book is a statement on a lot of things, most particularly the drive to stay young and appealing. For me, at least for much of this first year of motherhood, I haven't really cared! But the people in this book would be aghast at the thought! If I lived in Stepford, well...let's just say the expectation if I'd just moved there would be that I'd be working to get back into shape. That I'd have supper on the table every night for my hardworking husband. That my house certainly wouldn't be the mess it's been for over a year now. And I'd do all of this with a smile on my fresh and rested face while parenting our son with nary a complaint or thought about myself!

And while most women would rally behind me in my messy house and sweatpants glory, the women in Levin's story would not.

I loved The Stepford Wives. Nothing it reveals about the world is new (and it wasn't when it was released in the 70s) but that's not the point. Throwing the ridiculousness of society's, and even men's, expectations in your face is what it's about. And it's fun. What's more, though the book is almost fifty years old now, it's aged magnificently well!

1 comment:

Jan M. Flynn said...

The whole concept of "Stepford" still holds up after 50 years — this is one of those books that shone a light on the ridiculous, numbing and impossible expectations placed on women in a patriarchal culture, and it's still doing its work. Yay for Ira Levin!