The Stepford Wives | Ira Levin
This belongs on your bookshelf like the Stepford wives belong in the kitchen.
Joanna, her husband and their two children move to Stepford. Right off the bat the couple is suspicious of the men's association, the most important political institution of the town. While Joanna's husband tries to change it from within Joanna tries to rally the other women in the neighbourhood. But they seem more interested in keeping their households clean and running.
Obviously something sinister is going on in this horror satire. But what's most surprising is the cleverness and nuance in its feminist critique. What the terrible film adaptations from 1975 and 2004 completely fail to capture is the novel's critique of an ideology rather than of individuals. Feminist fiction often boils down to getting rid of the one bad guy at the top and optionally replacing him with a woman. This is of course much too simple and takes focus from systems onto individuals.
That's why I was so elated to discover that the “evil” in this book was not contained in any particular person or group of people, but rather an ideology or thought pattern that was made almost as tangible and clear in this excellently woven narrative.
With the current popularity of the “tradwife” this novel is very much still worth reading. And even if you know or suspect the twist the execution makes it a worthwhile read.