Sunday, July 6, 2008

Book Review: Stepford Wives

After thoroughly enjoying the Stepford Wives movie, I was really excited to read the book. Yet at a flimsy 123 pages with generous gutters and double spacing, I'm not sure wether to consider it a book or short story.

The movie was set in modern times; complete with automated appliances and reality television. The story is set in the time period when it was written - the early 70s.

This casts a much more serious tone to the book than the movie. The movie was replete with scenes of gorgeous bimbos exercising, discussing books and having loud afternoon sex. In dull contrast the women in the book never left their homes but to grocery shop. They didn't lunch, join clubs, visit for coffee - nothing.

When a black family moves into town the wife assumes their coldness is a racial thing; further darkenning the mood. In fact about 3/4s of the way into the story the emphasis falls off the inanity of being a Stepford wife and begins preaching racial tolerance. The main character even suggests to her husband they have the family babysit one afternoon as "I'd like the kids to know a black family."

Its as if the writer were glorifying the 70s wife by juxtaposing it with a 50s model then halfway through decided "hey black people are cool too!" The 50s aren't real to me. Stepford wives are a myth to me. Racism is not. Having something I take seriously tossed in so casually bothered me.

Luckily it swings back to the Stepford life and the black family is forgotten(?). The main character has become convinced the men of the town are killing off their wives and replacing them with robots. As she attempts to run away, she is caught by men intent on persuading her otherwise. She agrees that if a Stepford were to bleed she'd accept they are still women.

Unfortunately the book ends in a cliff hanger. One of the wives has agreed to cut herself and is poised over the kitchen sink with a butcher knife while music blares upstairs.

Next thing we know the main character is efficiently shopping in that deliberate Stepford way.

Has she been robotted? Is it a mind altering drug? Hypnotism?