The Uncoupling, By Meg Wolitzer
Greek ghosts haunt desperate housewives in a mid-life comedy
Saturday 09 June 2012
There aren't many writers who manage to handle bedroom scenes as blithely as comic novelist Meg Wolitzer. In The Position, she wrote about growing up with sexually experimental parents. In this latest satire of American middle-class life, she examines the waxing and waning of mid-life desire.
At the heart of the novel lies the enviably happy marriage of Robby and Dory Lang. Popular English teachers at a New Jersey high school, they regularly shuffle the "Teacher of the Year" award between them. Just watching the well-suited pair exchange a goodbye kiss can turn onlookers a little pink; and whatever life throws at them, this enviable couple are firmly of the opinion that "warmly, hotly, tirelessly" in their own bed they will stay.
But arriving to upset the apple cart is Fran Heller, the school's newly-appointed drama teacher. A witch of sorts, she selects Lysistrata – Aristophanes's drama about a female sex strike - as the end-of-term production. Eyebrows are raised, but the students are willing, and their parents relieved to see their offspring weaned away from their unknowable online lives.
As the excitement of rehearsals get under way, so does an "enchantment" of another kind. One evening a chill wind whooshes up the nightgowns and duvets of the womenfolk of Stella Plains, and overnight wives and girlfriends find themselves suddenly repelled by their partners' touch. They're not just on strike like Aristophanes's women; they are completely finished.
A fearless social anthropologist, Wolitzer examines the impact of this libido-sapping hex on the female staff of Eleanor Roosevelt High. The school's beddable psychologist, Leanne Bannerjee, drops all three of her men, while Fran Heller is suspected of shelving her "secret giant vibrator". Back at the Langs' home, in an attempt to rekindle some semblance of marital warmth, Robby sends off for a "Cumfy" - a two-person bathrobe designed for extra-snuggly television viewing.
The novel's supernatural element never takes away from her characters' strength as flesh-and blood creations. In a novel that tingles with playfulness and laugh-out-loud observation, she poses questions about long-term intimacy and the death of desire.
TV reviewBroadcasting House was preparing for a visit from Prince Charles spoiler alert
Glastonbury Michael Eavis reveals final headline act 'most likely' British pair
Film Ewan McGregor joins star-studded Beauty and the Beast cast as Lumiere
TVThe Island with Bear Grylls under fire after male contestants kill and eat rare crocodile
Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Migrant crisis: Greek soldier saved 20 people singlehandedly off Rhodes beach
- 2 Frank Lampard's face drops when Holly Willoughby introduces him as a 'Man City legend'
- 3 UK weather: Britain braced for snow as arctic air mass moves in
- 4 Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding
- 5 General Election 2015: Stephen Hawking says he will vote Labour
Fast & Furious 7 overtakes Frozen to become 5th highest grossing movie of all time
Poldark, series 1 finale, review: How a costume drama became a Sunday night swoon-fest
Avengers: Age of Ultron: Nearly 700 German cinemas refuse to show film
Al Pacino admits he was nearly fired from The Godfather and it's still his most 'difficult role'
Warner Music owner Len Blavatnik tops Sunday Times Rich List
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding
Andrew Lloyd Webber: Phantom of the Opera writer mocked after issuing a warning about Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon
General election 2015: Labour will toughen hate crimes legislation surrounding Islamophobia
HSBC review into moving headquarters from UK 'underway'