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.
Meg Wolitzer's gift for fleshing out the nuances of a character comes once again to light in this undeniably realistic look at relationships that have been touched by just the faintest hint of tragic magic. Wolitzer, daughter of novelist Hilma Wolitzer, has been turning out a critically acclaimed new novel every three or four years since the mid-eighties. Two of those seven books have been adapted for the screen, once for Nora Ephron and once for television, and her eighth novel, The Uncoupling, seems ripe for similar treatment.
The story, in part, is about the power of theater to change our lives, so naturally an actor would narrate most sympathetically. Angela Brazil, voice instructor at Clark University and longtime member of the Trinity Reparatory Company, serves nicely for offering proper perspective on the lives of the ladies of Stellar Plains High School. A wave of disinterested prudery is sweeping the town, somehow in conjunction with the arrival of the new drama teacher, who bucks convention by staging Aristophanes' Lysistrata for the school play a comedy about women who stop having sex with men to put an end to the war. Brazil inflects each woman's thoughts differently, but doesn't overact them. The author's deep descriptions draw in the listener without any added embellishment.
The narrator simply burrows into the core of each woman: a teacher whose years of happy marriage suddenly evaporate into a cold but civil peace; the teacher's daughter who lovingly loses her virginity only to find she's lost all feeling for the boy she gave it to; and the school guidance counselor juggling several beaus that she abruptly drops all at once. Wolitzer's story is both ancient and timely, and Brazil does a magnificent job of conveying how these subtleties of frustration eventually reach a boiling point. The relationships at stake are three-dimensional and familiar, and listeners will find themselves rooting for the spell to lift, for the benefit of their own love lives as much as for the ones depicted in the novel. Megan Volpert
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A Pleasant Surprise
Wonderful writing, interesting feminist slant
Probably only a female friend, and someone who liked literature.
I really enjoyed the story, and continue to turn the gender politics of it over in my mind. Great narrative, and strong narration. Wonderful book.
- Sarah Kate