Joanna Eberhart and her husband Walter move to the apparently idyllic town of Stepford. Joanna, who is a keen supporter of the Womens Lib movement, and who is a strong minded independent woman, soon becomes frustrated with the docile and subservient attitudes of the housewives in Stepford, who all seem to have no interests beyond looking nice for their husbands and being domestic goddesses. She also finds the Mens Association (no women allowed) to be outdated and sexist, although Walter still joins it. Her sole friend is Bobbie Markowe, who feels the same way as Joanna, and who soon comes up with her own theory about what is happening. Joanna and Bobbie decide that it’s time to leave Stepford – but will they be able to get away in time?
I think most people know the ending of this story by now, but I’m not going to give anything away. However, I enjoyed the book although I knew how the story unfolded. It’s very short – just over 100 pages, and more of a fable than anything else. Of course the premise is somewhat ridiculous and the book seems dated (although I think allowances have to be made for this considering that it was written in the early 70s). I saw it as an allegorical tale about reactions to the feminist movement, but that is only one interpretation.
The book isn’t brilliantly written – there is virtually no characterisation (in the cases of the townswomen, this is of course probably deliberate – they are not [i]supposed[/i] to have much of a personality) but the main characters – Joanna, Walter and Bobbie are also lacking in distinctness. But this is a story which is driven forward by the plot, moreso than the characters. What it does achieve very well, is to tap into the reader’s imagination. Most of the horror is left to the reader’s imagination (a prime example being the penultimate scene in Bobbie Markowe’s kitchen – but I’m giving nothing further away about that).
This book probably had more impact when it was initially released. However, it’s a quick and easy read, which made me think.
I would probably read more by Ira Levin, based on this book.