Friday, July 29, 2011

The Uncoupling Review

When I posted the first paragraph from The Uncoupling by Meg Wolitzer last week, some commenters said they hesitated to read it because of the reviews. I hadn't read the reviews, so I continued on with the book.
The book is set in a small town in New Jersey where a new drama teacher comes to town. That, of course, is the most preposterous thing, as if in the economy we live in today, a school would splurge on a drama teacher. Anyway, the teacher decides to put on the play Lysistrata by Aristophanes about Greek women who go on a sex strike until the men end the Peloponnesian War. As play practice in this New Jersey school begins, all the women in town, adults and teens alike, stop having sex with their men, not to get them to stop the wars in Afghanistan or Iraq, but because a cold wind spell hits them that takes away their desire. In addition to sexuality, the book delves some into the economy and the ongoing U.S. war in Afghanistan.
It wasn't a book that I raced through, grabbing it between every class or outing. It was a long, slow unwinding. I enjoyed the characters and popped into their lives regularly. I could relate to the main characters, Dory and Robby Lang, who teach at the school, and their worries over their sophomore daughter Willa. The author's descriptions of the characters made me like them. Here's a passage near the beginning:
The Langs were young, but not too young; old, but not too old. Girls often exclaimed over Dory's boots, which dated back to her Brooklyn days and were the approximate color of caramel, narrowing to a subtle point -- not quite the boots of a snarling female rocker, but not the boots of a hiker with a bag of muesli swelling her pockets either. The girls also liked Robby's pale, much-laundered work shirts, which by third period he had invariably rolled up at the sleeves, revealing arms with a light spatter of goldenrod hair.

I haven't really sold you on this book, have I?
A lot of the scenes in the book had a heady, sexual undertone at the beginning, like this scene as the teachers discuss technology.
...but then they all added that of course they knew that civilization wasn't really ending; that in fact it was only beginning, it was in many ways thrilling, it was all cracking open, and in their lifetimes, which was so terrific. How wonderful to be there for the show. The problem, though, was that they themselves were getting outdated. They just couldn't remain as fluid as they needed to be in order to thrive and embrace the hulking, steaming heap of technology before them...She (Dory) hated to wait excessively for a burst of information, but she often had to wait and wait.

I didn't feel that sexuality build with longing as the women gave up sex and (spoiler alert) when the spell was broken, it didn't return in the hasty denoument of the book.
I enjoyed the novel but I think the ending let me down, so now it has flavored the entire experience of reading the book.
Let me just say that while I was on the journey of the book, I relaxed and floated along. At the end, I felt the ideas were a little predictable.


Lucia said...

I put the book on hold at the library but I think I will pass when it comes in. Thank you for your review. Have a great weekend!

Stephanie said...

Great review!

I just finished MAINE by J. Courtney Sullivan. Each chapter is written from the perspective of one of the four main characters of the book, and I found myself loving how the author portrayed each of them. I actually thought of you Paulita as I read the book because this author's writing style is similar to yours. Great read.

aguja said...

Oh no! This book sounded as if it was to be a promising read, but I hate endings that are predictable, or forced.

Great review though!

Linda said...

Sometimes that's the best you can ask of a book-to sort of float away out of the real world.

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