My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I've watched both movie versions of The Stepford Wives and have always found the concept both intriguing and horrifying. So I thought it was about time I read the novella they were based on.
And I absolutely LOVED it! I read it in one day, spread out in several sittings while doing the housework. Just kidding. :)
Seriously, this might be considered an old book but--unfortunately--a lot of the issues are still relevant. It seems to me like the gender issues/problems will never be solved because of assholes like the men in this book. You know the type, the ones who only see women as trophies and don't want them to have a voice or any interests.
Anyway, about the story:
Joanna Eberhart, her husband Walter, and their two kids have recently moved from the city to live in the suburbs. Stepford seems like a nice place to live. A nice place to raise children. But when Joanna starts meeting the women in Stepford, she realises that they're all pretty, are plentiful in the breast department, and spend their whole lives cleaning. They basically act like their husbands are their masters.
This isn't appealing, because Joanna doesn't like housework. She's a photographer and likes to socialise, especially with other women. It's not until she meets Bobbie and Charmaine that she's happy to call them friends and hang out. Joanna and Bobbie hate the way the women act, and are convinced there's something in the water.
But when even Bobbie is infected with the cleaning bug, Joanna knows that if she doesn't get out, she'll be next...
OMFG. This novella is truly brilliant. There are some very hilarious bits, but mostly it's downright scary because the underlining malice slowly creeps up on you. That the reader goes through this awful ordeal with Joanna and watches her happy marriage and life eventually being destroyed by a bunch of sexist wankers, is quite the awful experience.
The paranoia that eventually grips Joanna leaps off the page. It's terrible to watch Walter--a man who respects his wife as an equal--gradually being seduced by the evil ambitions of the Men's Association (of dickheads). It's heartbreaking. And what happens to Bobbie and Charmaine--two very strong-willed women--is so sad. I felt bad for Joanna. Not just because she lost her friends, but because she figures out exactly what's going on and that it will eventually happen to her.
Yes, this is a very clever story that I think some may not understand properly. I've heard many times that this is a parody of the 1950s housewife caricature, but I disagree. This is taking the piss out of stupid men who want to do whatever it takes to keep women docile and under their control. That these Stepford wankers choose to pretty much recreate their wives in order to do so, while seducing otherwise smart men to their side, is truly shocking.
Like every other story that seeks to destroy, control and silence women, I consider this a true horror story. But a very smart, well-written classic told by a man who truly understood what was happening when women were starting to take control of their own lives. And the men who feared this change.
Obviously, I have a LOT of thoughts, opinions and random things to say about such a powerful story.