Review: The Uncoupling

Review: The UncouplingThe Uncoupling by Meg Wolitzer
Published by Riverhead on April 5, 2011
Genres: Contemporary, Magical Realism, Romance
Pages: 271
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library

From the New York Times-bestselling author of The Ten-Year Nap, a funny, provocative, revealing novel about female desire. 

When the elliptical new drama teacher at Stellar Plains High School chooses for the school play Lysistrata-the comedy by Aristophanes in which women stop having sex with men in order to end a war-a strange spell seems to be cast over the school. Or, at least, over the women. One by one throughout the high school community, perfectly healthy, normal women and teenage girls turn away from their husbands and boyfriends in the bedroom, for reasons they don't really understand. As the women worry over their loss of passion, and the men become by turns unhappy, offended, and above all, confused, both sides are forced to look at their shared history, and at their sexual selves in a new light.

As she did to such acclaim with the New York Times bestseller The Ten-Year Nap, Wolitzer tackles an issue that has deep ramifications for women's lives, in a way that makes it funny, riveting, and totally fresh-allowing us to see our own lives through her insightful lens.

Even though I have not yet read the Lysistrata, I have trouble resisting literature about literature, especially when the premise sounds so incredibly fascinating. The Uncoupling focuses primarily on the spell’s effects upon one family, Dory, Robby and Willa Lang. Dory and Robby, in their early forties, seem to have the perfect married relationship, still keeping their sex life going and pleasurable. That is until the day the spell strikes and Dory goes cold. This spell is entirely terrifying, as it is not a voluntary choice not to have sex, as in Lysistrata but a sudden complete lack of interest for the women.

The story was a treat: well-written, simple and clever. The Uncoupling follows the narrative arc of a comedic play, quite fittingly. The cast of assembled characters go about their days, unaware of the larger scope of things until the dramatic climax (the performance of the play). Then follows the dénouement, in which we see the lives of those leftover in the happy (?) ending.

I also greatly enjoyed the magical realism aspect of the story, the fact that the spell, as it is called, was magic of a sort but also very natural. Unsurprisingly, I also adored the fact that the magic stemmed from literature. Great books can come alive in people’s lives, even if it’s not necessarily as overt as it was in the case of this little town. I will definitely be adding more Meg Wolitzer to my reading list!

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