I’ve always had a soft spot for Ira Levin and saw this book on a list when I was looking for something to fill the terror in a small town square. I haven’t seen the film and came to it as unspoilt as is possible with such an iconic story.
The story follows Joanna, who’s just moved to Stepford with her husband, Walter, and two children. When she moves in she wants to make some friends in the community, but soon becomes aware that the women of Stepford aren’t interested in much other than housework.
A central focus is the men’s association which is a group for the men of Stepford to preside over community matters, although this is never clearly defined. Immediately Joanne is unhappy with this, being a big supporter of the women’s liberation movement. She tries, without much success, to start a women’s group in the community, but eventually finds out that something similar was in effect several years ago. She then begins to wonder why the women of Stepford have changed so dramatically, going from women who had their own group and were interested in feminism, to women who are apparently only interested in housework. She beings to uncover the secrets of Stepford slowly, with the help of her friend, Bobbie.
For such a short book it has a big impact and raises a lot of question, many that are still relevant now, like whether men actually appreciate women for themselves, or just what they represent in a home. Aside from the themes, I always enjoy the sparse writing style of Ira Levin as it makes space for more character-building. His books never meander, sticking very much to the point. Nothing he gives the reader is filler and always has a point.
There were quite a few questions left unanswered and as I’m not a proponent of ambiguous endings, that wasn’t my favourite aspect, but the power of the story made up for it in spades.