"That's what they all were, the Stepford wives: actresses in commercials, pleased with detergents and floor wax, with cleansers, shampoos and deodorants. Pretty actresses, big in the bosom but small in the talent, playing housewives unconvincingly, too nicey-nice to be real."
The Stepford Wives is surely one of those things that's broken out so far beyond the pages of its original form that no one bothers to read the book anymore. A Stepford wife is a term you'd use to describe someone who's REALLY into housework and whatnot (a loser, in other words) and is, not to put too fine a point on it, sort of acting like a robot. HOW WEIRD.
So, we all know how the story ends, right? (If you didn't, I guess you do now! Sorry...) And the thing is, when you know how a story ends, it's kind of difficult to work up the energy to actually read it because, you know, what's the point? Thankfully, The Stepford Wives is reaaaaally short, and I paid hardly any money for it (3 Ira Levin books for £5, thanks The Book People!) AND I was falling behind on RIP reads, so reading this in one day it was!
So, The Stepford Wives. I think we all know the story, but quick summary- family moves to a new town (Stepford, natch) where the men have their little 'Men's Club' where they hang out and smoke and talk about manly things (no, I don't know either) and the women stay at home and clean and cook and do 'womanly things'. Not just some of the time, but ALL of the time. As in, there is nothing else. Ever. Joanna is the matriarch of this new family in Stepford, and this shit FREAKS HER OUT. She makes a couple of new female friends, who are also new in town (how weird that they're not freaky lady robots...) and when they start acting strange (kind of like... robots) she REALLY freaks out and then things culminate in that ending we all know about.
While I was reading it, I couldn't help but think about what it would have been like reading this in 1972, knowing nothing about it and being SO SHOCKED by the ending. I don't think I'm wrong in thinking that it would have been AWESOME, but there is something to be said for knowing what's going on the whole time. I'm not sure it's a book I'd be that bothered about re-reading (mainly because this sort of was like a re-read, in itself) but I took in and was impressed by little gems like this:
"'I'm doing Marge McCormick's wash. She's got a bug of some kind and can barely move today.'"Bug... Can barely move... Think about how easily that would just fly over your head if you didn't know the real score, and now appreciate how clever that is. I love it.
Mainly, I didn't mind knowing the end because it meant I could think about important matters of feminism and whatnot.
And really, for once, I really want to know what motivates the men. (I know!) Are they really so threatened by their wives having interests outside the home and possibly even having *gasp* jobs of their own that they'd want to replace them with subservient, boring wives with bigger boobs and a 1950s sensibility? Do they hate doing the tiny bit of housework and child-rearing that they're asked to do (and from Joanna's point of view, it really isn't that much) that they'd trade in their human women for something much more sinister? Clearly, the answer is yes, but I still want to know why. The Stepford Wives lets you make up your own mind about that.
So. This is a really good suspense tale, but there's really not too much to the book- what it really has going for it, though, is the way it makes you think about things for a lot longer than can possibly be healthy. It raises a lot of questions, and then leaves you to answer them for yourself, which can be frustrating, but is ultimately something I really appreciate from books. If you don't mind answering some questions for yourself too, then I wholeheartedly recommend this.