The Uncoupling by Meg Wolitzer

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


The Uncoupling
For a long time, before the spell came over her and changed her too, Leanne Bannerjee, Ph.D., the school psychologist, led a social life that rivaled that of her students. They would have been impressed, had they known its complexity. They would have been awed by the fact that young Dr. Bannerjee was not monogamous, and had no desire to be.

It's been a long time since I read this one. I should have reviewed it soon after, but I was so caught up with reading that it didn't happen. I did put down my notes somewhere, but I no longer have them. So this is going to be neither a long nor a deep insight into my thoughts about this book. I do have a good recollection of my response, thank goodness this is one of those books that leave you thinking about it for a while.

A few months after the start of the new school year at Stellar Plains High School, women are strangely feeling disconnected from sex. They no longer want to take part in the act nor are they able to explain why they feel that way. Their male companions are completely baffled. They initially write it off to some stress or the other, but when even after days, the women do not reciprocate, they all react differently to bring some semblance of normalcy back. At the start of the semester, the new drama teacher had chosen Lysistrata for the school play. Although initially ridiculed by the other teachers, Lysistrata soon seems to be transforming the women in the town.

I wasn't initially pumped about reading this. Sex seemed to be a main character of this book, and I was happy to pass it off. But some reviews got me rethinking my decision. So eventually, I got it from the library and sat down to read. I finished it pretty quickly. Meg Wolitzer's writing was very engaging. Her beautiful prose is the main reason I could get through the book so fast. The special focus she gives to each character, however minor or major, is commendable. It didn't matter that I barely knew some of them, but they were still able to stand on their two feet and deliver soundly.

I didn't have any favorite character. Since the subject of the book was sex, that was the preoccupation of most of the characters. I find that in books like these, even if I enjoyed the writing or the way the story is told, I don't like the characters much. Preoccupation with one subject makes them feel one-dimensional. Not that they only thought about sex - they do get on with their lives, but most of the time, it's all about sex. And yet, for a book about sex, The Uncoupling isn't graphic. There's only mention of the act and individual opinions about it, but nothing vivid otherwise.

There's been much talk about the ending, and I do agree with most of them that I thought it really lame. I guess after the mostly suspenseful and engrossing first three-fourths of the book, the author's attempt to tie up the story nicely at the end fell flat on me. Or maybe it's the magical realism element of the book that didn't win me over. Eventually, it was just an average read for me. Apart from the really wonderful writing, the other aspects of the book weren't very impressive.

I borrowed this book from my library.

12 comments:

Mummazappa said...

It's a real shame when great writing just isn't enough to pull a story together. The premise of this sounds interesting, maybe I'll check it out if I see it around.

Alex (The Sleepless Reader) said...

I saw on some other blog a review of Lysustrata and I confess I was more curious about that one, but now I want to know the ending of The Uncoupling :P

Misha said...

Unlikable characters and a lame ending makes me even more doubtful about whether I want to read the book. I haven't read anything by the author before, so I guess I will start with some other book of hers.

bermudaonion (Kathy) said...

The reviews for this one do seem to be mixed.  I've read just enough good reviews that I'd still like to give it a try.

occasionallyzen said...

I have read a few glowing reviews, good to hear that your take on the ending. Sounds like you enjoyed the writing, though- I wonder about other books by the author.

Helen Murdoch said...

Wonderful writing isn't enough for me either, the characters have to be great too. And, you said the key phrase for me: magical realism. Just not my thing. You have left me a bit intrigued about the ending though...

zibilee said...

I have been wanting to read this one, and because it has a magical realism component, I think I am even more eager. It's funny, because magical realism can be wonderful when it's done well, but when it's not, it can totally ruin a book. I like to explore books that use this technique and see what separates the good from the bad. Loved your thoughts on this book, and I will have to let you know what I think of it once I am done with it!

Lena said...

I want to read it, you said sex right? haha...just kidding. The book cover made me instantly think of Mr. Roger's neighborhood, I don't know why, but it did. This seems like a complex book, I am interested in seeing how one could tie this book up into a nice little bow. I hadn't heard of this before, so thanks for putting it on my book radar.

Ti said...

Yeah, the ending really did it in for me. It seemed rushed and on the brink of being silly.

softdrink said...

I enjoyed it while I was reading it, but yeah...it hasn't really stuck with me.

Meghan said...

It's a shame that this was just average! I remember it hitting the book blogosphere a while ago but it looks like it was a good choice to forget about it.

Judith said...

A good thing you got it from the library and didn't spend money on it. I still may want to try it, sounds interesting in a way.