Review: The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin
Published July 23rd 2002 by Perennial
Read on Scribd
Unlike most of my reviews, this review contains hints towards the final revelation in The Stepford Wives. It’s safe to read if you know what the story is about, or if you have ever seen one of the movie adaptations.
A few years ago I wrote an essay about the movie of The Stepford Wives (2004) and how it fit in with the Pygmalion myth. To give a quick recap – Pygmalion is a character from Greek mythology who sculpted a woman and fell in love with the statue. Aphrodite, sucker as she is for a love story, turns the statue into a woman of flesh in blood. What’s most interesting about the myth is how Pygmalion has no interest in ordinary women. Only the woman he has shaped himself can he love.
Just like in the movie, the Pygmalion myth is evident in The Stepford Wives, maybe even more so. The book is more subtle than the 2004 movie, and because of that, also more uncomfortable. Even though what’s happening in Stepford isn’t all that scary in horror terms, it freaked me out.
The Stepford Wives is actually more like a longish novella rather than a full novel. The tension is well spread through the story, and I loved how everything when from creepy, to bad, to worse. Unfortunately, Levin never attended the writing class where pupils are taught “show, don’t tell”. Entire paragraphs are just summations of what the main character Joanna does; things like “she picked up the kids, made them dinner. Kate still had a cold, but hopefully tomorrow she would get better. At night, she made love to her husband, and fell asleep.” I get that these passages have some meaning. They show how time passes, how Joanna is caught up in the normalcy of her life, but dear god, who wants to read these dry pieces of day to day life like that? I sure didn’t.
Even though The Stepford Wives was written over forty years ago, its message hasn’t lost an ounce of its strength. Highly recommended for people who would like to read about a feminist’s worst nightmare.
For Joanna, her husband, Walter, and their children, the move to beautiful Stepford seems almost too good to be true. It is. For behind the town’s idyllic facade lies a terrible secret — a secret so shattering that no one who encounters it will ever be the same.
At once a masterpiece of psychological suspense and a savage commentary on a media-driven society that values the pursuit of youth and beauty at all costs, The Stepford Wives is a novel so frightening in its final implications that the title itself has earned a place in the American lexicon.
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