By Meg Wolitzer
Genre: General Fiction
Published April 2011, Riverhead Books
Hardback, 271 pages
From the New York Times-bestselling author of The Ten-Year Nap, a funny, provocative, revealing novel about female desire.The story is told in a third-person narrative and divided into three parts. The first part focuses on the events leading up to the introduction of the play Lysistrata by the school's new drama teacher. The second part goes into detail about all of the different couples affected by the spell that the play casts over the town. The third part tells what happens in the night of the actual high-school production of the play and afterwards.
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.
As she did to such acclaim with the New York Times bestseller The Ten-Year Nap, Wolitzer tackles an issue that has deep ramifications for women's lives, in a way that makes it funny, riveting, and totally fresh-allowing us to see our own lives through her insightful lens.
The spell of Lysistrata resembled a cold wind and only affected "women who were in some way connected sexually to men." No woman in the book was strong enough to resist the power of this mysterious wind, not even the ones newly in love and lust. Every woman affected imagined her own reasons for abstaining, and though all of the different reasons had a logical ring to them, only other women could relate. The men were simply left in the dark to react however he felt could change his twist in circumstances.
Early on, I felt that this book was a bit like a study of sex and the affects of sex -- or lack thereof -- on individuals and relationships. Even though the play Lysistrata was meant to be a catalyst for all of these private events, the high-school reenactment seemed to take a minor background role. The spell seemed to empower the women, though they did not act any happier with their new freedom and individuality. Many were just as baffled or depressed with the chastity as the men, but no couple was able to converse with each other about it, which I found strange and attributed to the effects of the spell. Ironically, because the issues of sex are such a private matter, very few couples shared their problems with anyone else in town, and so no one truly recognized the correlation between the abstinence of the females in town and the play Lysistrata. This irritated me to no end throughout the book.
On the night of the play, the spell is magically lifted by, quite appropriately, a warm wind when the men in the audience begin to protest the essence of the play itself and use that to try and win their women back. Throughout the whole book, the reader is lead to believe that this spell has no designer, that it has simply attached itself to the performance of the play from Lysistrata's origins in 411 B.C. Though I at first was suspicious of a certain person as casting the spell, I was also lulled into changing my mind about this. Without giving away the ending, I was quite surprised at the truth behind the spell's beginnings. There is much I could say about the thoughts that raced through my head while reading the last few pages and the conclusions that I drew from the revelation, but I will resist. I will say that the book is worth every page for its startling culmination.
The Cover: The cover image looks like a model of a suburban neighborhood, which is perfect for the focus of the book.
First Line: "People like to warn you that by the time you reach the middle of your life, passion will begin to feel like a meal eaten long ago, which you remember with great tenderness."
I always like a good metaphor, and this one has me contemplating how this applies to the plot of the book.
Favorite Quote: "Sex wasn't everything, but it was something. It was something to them."
Read For: Off The Shelf, Twenty-Eleven Challenge
*I received this book free of charge from the publisher for review purposes.*