Welcome, Virtual Book Clubbers! Last month, we invited you to join us in reading Meg Wolitzer’s The Uncoupling, and now it’s time to tell us what you thought! Check out our resident bookworm Molly Donovan’s take on the book, then leave your thoughts and feedback in the comments section below!
After reading Meg Wolitzer’s The Uncoupling, it strikes me how much I can relate to her characters. Like the women who undergo the anti-sex “spell” that serves as the main trope of the story, I feel slightly chilled. Like the husbands and boyfriends who fall equal victim to the spell, I also feel a bit confused.
Wolitzer’s novel, based more-than-loosely on Aristophane’s famed comedy Lysistrata, centers on the community of teachers, students, and parents at Eleanor Roosevelt High School in a small, unassuming New Jersey town. The novel’s central spell coincides with the arrival of a quirky new drama teacher, who—in a spurt of questionable decision-making—decides to produce Lysistrata as the school’s winter play.
The women of the original play make an informed decision, a rational choice, to withhold sex from their husbands in order to put an end to the Peloponnesian War. The power and humor that these ancient characters display make the play one of the earliest instances of literary feminism. Yet the characters in Wolitzer’s novel succumb to their own sex strike completely passively—the spell happens to them, and not for a reason as noble as bringing peace to a war-torn nation, nor even for the purpose of uplifting the women.
The Uncoupling has such potential. Wolitzer writes beautifully, crisply, succinctly—her chapters follows various female characters’ sexual exploits (or lack thereof) with a humor and an insight that kept me interested throughout the course of the text. More than a novel, The Uncoupling is a series of interwoven vignettes, individual portraits of women of various ages and sensibilities who struggle with a full gamut of relationship issues.
And yet I find the characters somewhat underdeveloped. I particularly think of the young girl just experiencing the thrills of first (physical and emotional) love, the overweight woman who feels nothing but disdain from her husband, and the happily married couple who, because of the spell, suddenly stop having what was once intimate, caring sex.
Wolitzer has so many opportunities for depth that she misses. The novel could have been a political commentary on the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan, or on the condition of young girls who, sped along by social media and peer pressure, grow up too quickly, or on the plight of the working mother who feels too tired and too underappreciated. The sex strike could have had a purpose to empower women, and yet, it happens to them, and it ends just as quickly and mysteriously (and anti-climactically) as it began.
Am I alone in wanting something more from The Uncoupling? Did you anticipate much from Wolitzer’s well-crafted prose, but feel that the story itself fell somewhat flat? Or did you have a different take? Weigh in below and share what you thought about the book!
Molly is The Daily Muse’s resident bookworm. She currently works in communications and is begrudgingly learning to be a grownup. She likes coffee shops and (the bakery aisle of) grocery stores, reading about other places but not necessarily traveling to them, keeping things clean, and stalking the Harvard Opportunes, her beloved college a cappella group.More from this Author