Review: The Uncoupling by Meg Wolitzer

05 Apr

The entire time I was reading The Uncoupling, I had no idea what I thought of it. Now I’m done, I still don’t really know.

I can say that I was always eager to pick it up again when I had to set it down, and I was thinking about it even when I wasn’t reading.

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.

Trivia: This is the first time that I learned a new word (or at least a new meaning for a word) from a book blurb. I kept having trouble picturing “the elliptical new drama teacher”, so I went to look it up. I’ve got a decent vocabulary (even if I can’t spell any of it), so I’m curious if I’ve managed to miss knowing a common usage for elliptical, or if other people were trying to figure this one out.

The entire book is a odd– the characters are people, but they also each represent something or some group of people. The language is almost stilted at times, deliberately invoking the feel of someone telling a story.

The Uncoupling reminded me a little of Nick Hornby’s How to Be Good. Both books are trying to use a story to make a point about society. I found The Uncoupling to be much more successful, both in terms of the making its point and allowing me to enjoy its effort.

The Uncoupling was funny, in the word choices as well as the situations that were set up.

It was also the most frank discussion of sexuality that I’ve read in a novel. The book set up a variety of different couples with normal sex lives, up until the Lysistrata spell takes effect. I was never quite satisfied with the generalizations the narrator made, however.

The characters were interesting, even if somewhat two dimensional, seeming more like characters in a play (Lysistrata?) than real people. They were oversimplified to strengthen their representation of a group, but I wanted them to be a bit more than that.

I think The Uncoupling would be a great book to read with a book club that’s willing to talk about sex (Sex in the books.  Not sex in real life, although that would be an even more interesting meeting).  I don’t think everyone will love it, but I don’t think they will like and dislike the same aspects, and it could be a good discussion.


TLC Book ToursI read The Uncoupling as part of a tour with TLC Book Tours.  They arranged for the publisher to provide me with a copy to review.

If you’d like to see other opinions on this book, check out the other tour stops:


Posted by on April 5, 2011 in books, reviews, tour


Tags: , , , , ,

2 responses to “Review: The Uncoupling by Meg Wolitzer

  1. Misti

    April 5, 2011 at 9:55 pm

    I saw this book in the People Magazine reviews & thought it sounded interesting. Maybe I’ll give it a try. BTW – I just found your blog & am really enjoying it. 😉 I’m doing my very first “linky party” on my blog called “What I’ve Read” & would be honored if you’d consider joining in. Thanks!


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