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The Uncoupling

2.86 of 5 stars 2.86  ·  rating details  ·  4,616 ratings  ·  865 reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, Uncorrected proof edition, 271 pages
Published 2011
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Amanda I actually have to disagree. Maybe because "The Uncoupling" is the first Meg Wolitzer book I've read (tried to read "The Interestings", but ironically…moreI actually have to disagree. Maybe because "The Uncoupling" is the first Meg Wolitzer book I've read (tried to read "The Interestings", but ironically stopped halfway through... not interesting enough). This plot does come dangerously close to corniness, and in the hands of a less capable author it would be unreadable. I think you cannot read this expecting a traditional "novel"; it's really a modern fable. Once I pegged it as a fable, I understood it and enjoyed it much more. I found it charming and character-driven. The plot device itself is weak, I definitely agree with that. If you can overlook that, however, you'll find really interesting perspectives from women in all stages of life and relationships, all facing the same issue of a sudden disinterest in sex. In the end it reveals the dichotomy of sex: how this socially taboo subject is at the same time monumentally important in defining our romantic relationships and our sense of ourselves as human beings. It's a good read if you like reading more about characters facing a common crisis than a strong, tight plot :)

But I do agree, the ending was lame. I'll try reading "Sleepwalking" soon...
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Meg Wolitzer's writing skirts the line between literary fiction and beach read. On one hand, she has a clever eye for human thought and folly that makes me look forward to her books. On the other hand, her plots are often novel and neatly wrapped up in a way that undermines whatever effort she puts into character building.

The same praise and criticism applies to The Uncoupling. However, it does have a truly terrible climax (appropriate for a book with a lot of fail sex) that is so cheesy it bel
I am so over Meg Wolitzer. My three novel study, read in under two weeks, rendered me in turn unable to stay awake during the day, unable to sleep at night, unable to digest my food, and generally irritable all over. She is simply a bad writer and I cannot fathom how she gets even one good review, though she gets many.

What she does do well is capture and relate the thoughts women have privately as well as the commonplace emotions of women. It is true that we only share those thoughts and feeling
I liked the details Wolitzer used to describe her characters (I perked up whenever the picky and prickly Abby Means, she of the thrift store skirts and pornography-filled phone, showed up), but their lack of depth and, for the most part, drive, made this book a real drag to get through. The fairy-tale-ish, wishy-washy tone, coupled with the one-dimensional characters, was frustrating to me, because the book didn't seem grounded in reality. I don't mind magical realism at all, and in fact enjoy i ...more
The Uncoupling is a good book that could have been a great book.

It has some perceptive and provocative insights into the nature of desire itself: what is desire, anyway? How does it change between the heady times of first love and the more mundane times of adulthood? Can a relationship sustain itself when desire flees?

The book unfolds around the classic and comic play Lysistrata, written by Aristophanes – a tale of women of Greece who determined to withhold sex as a way to end the lengthy Pelopo
Meg Wolitzer has a way of packing intelligence and humor into every sentence. I have to admit, I'm a longtime fan. Follow the citizens of the suburban town of Stellar Plains, New Jersey, as they stumble through the "dilemma" of their uncoupling. The pace is relentless. Wolitzer dives into her subject by writing full, deep characters. I felt like they were all my new best friends. You'll laugh, think, and notice -- through her laser sharp eye -- the absurd details of modern life, as if you were w ...more
This novel was readable, but the author's humorous, somewhat cynical distance from her characters kept me at a distance too. But there is some good writing there. The scenes of teenage Willa and her first boyfriend were poignant and evocative of my own teen insecurities. Bev's hurt at her husband's callous statement about her weight was also well done. Unfortunately, the main characters, Dory (?) and Rob, rang the least true. They had almost no personalities except to be nice, if somewhat judgme ...more
Gayla Bassham
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switterbug (Betsey)
Once upon a time... On a dark and stormy night…wait--there was no storm. Long ago and far away…but, it was only a few years ago, and not far if you live in suburban New Jersey. So, one dark and December night in the safe and tidy suburb of Stellar Plains, New Jersey, an arctic chill seeped under doors, a frigid blast blew through windows, and a glacial nipping swirled between the sheets of spouses and lovers. And, just as suddenly, the woman turned from their men, and stopped having sex.

A spell
Dec 24, 2012 Emily rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Emily by: People Magazine
I really want to like this book. I read it in just 3 days, so I guess that says something. But I didn't love it. I didn't find any of the characters compelling or particularly likeable (not that that's a problem for me: on the contrary, I love unlikeable characters. Case in point: The Descendants). Willa? Eh. The Dorys? Annoying. Bev? She's fat. Waah. Leanne? Wow she sleeps around what a whore. Nothing new here. The only character I liked a little bit was Ruth Winik, the ex-lesbian of sorts. But ...more
While I have at least 2 more Meg Wolitzer books sitting on my bookshelves, Uncoupling is the first I've read by her. Wow! I don't quite know why I haven't read any Wolitzer sooner - if her other books are anything like this one. I like the writing style of the book. It's descriptive without being flowery. It's explanatory without preaching. In short, it's smart. I was trying to compare the style of this book to others, and I kept coming up a bit short. She's sort of like Judy Blume - but not rea ...more
The Uncoupling didn't seem much more than a trite, generic tale of suburbia and all of the caricatures existing therein. The prose was dull, the theme oversimplified. While I liked the eerie, Something Wicked This Way Comes vibe of a "spell" overtaking the women of Stellar Plains, NJ, Woliter's approach and delivery did little to convey anything meaningful about desire, the male/female dynamic, or the effects of a loss of desire on a relationship. The concept - a performance of Lysistrata affect ...more
This novel is an odd exploration of female desire and the changes in relationships through time. In a generic town in New Jersey, the production of the high school play Lysistrata, coincides with the enchantment of the women of the town with a spell that saps their desire. The narration is done by an omniscient narrator that is rather foreboding and irritating. The questions posed by the stories about passion and relationships are resonant and disturbing. And yet with that much emotional chaos a ...more
(This really deserves 3, 3.5 - I will explain).
The Talmud speaks about a time when, because temptation was so strong, leaders prayed that the stirrings of desire would be taken away and allow people to live freely and purely. However, upon the vanishing of the more basic components of the human experience, life as we know it - animal, plant - shriveled up as well. This lesson resonated then, and was called to mind upon reading this work which, like Wolitzer's others, presents an interesting if s
When a famous feminist author came to Reed College in the late 1970s, the men of Reed College learned that among her teachings was the notion that "hetero-sex is violence", and it was clear that some of our dreams for our sophomore year were not going to come true. Texts matter, and when, in Meg Wolitzer's "The Uncoupling", a high school drama teacher decides to stage Aristophane's Lysistrata, in which women of ancient Greece stage a sex strike to end the Peloponnesian war, we are once again in ...more
I kept Ms. Wolitzer's name on my mental backburner for several months now...not necessarily because of the recent release of her The Interestings (which three of my Goodreads friends have already read and favorably reviewed) but because of her jacket blurb endorsement on the back of Nicholson Baker's "Book of Raunch" (aka House of Holes...and I'm all like "yeah! she loves bad porn! Gotta read her pronto!" Unless sales go through the roof, it's doubtful my little library's gonna get The Interesti ...more
When I first started reading The Uncoupling, I was hooked. Wolitzer has a way of painting such vivid scenes just by using the choicest of words or phrases, and she seemed to also be creating such complex characters. I was immediately emotionally vested in Dory and Robby and their marriage, and continued to be pulled in by the rather vast cast of characters. Unfortunately, things then began to fall apart. My biggest disappointment was that, what started out strong went out with a whimper. The boo ...more
I'm not sure why I read this book, as I wasn't particularly fond of the 'Ten Year Nap'. Her characters are all kind of irritating and a stretch to relate to; the concept of the book (what happens when a town goes without sex for a few month) was kind of interesting to me and I thought that the possibilities would be better explored. It would have been better if the spell hit everyone at once; also, the incredible selfishness of the drama teacher was a little tough to swallow at the end - the fac ...more
Christina (Reading Thru The Night)
The Short of It

When the mood does not strike!

The Long of It

Set in the midst of a small town, the wind seems to blow in more than just a new drama teacher. Fran Heller, drama teacher extraordinaire chooses the Greek play Lysistrata for her debut. Lysistrata tells the story of women protesting war by withholding sex. Very few question the appropriateness of the play since Heller promises to tone down anything terribly inappropriate. Unfortunately, the play seems to have a ghost like charm on the t
A rushed review-actually, the reason I read this is because I was rushing through the library, saw the author's name, vaguely remembered liking The Ten Year Nap, and grabbing it without reading the inside cover to see what it was about. Basically, couples in a town stop having sex with each other. The women suddenly decide that they're done, leaving their husbands/boyfriends bewildered, and in some cases, a little angry. While parts of it were actually quite funny and well-written (one man prett ...more
Shannon Alexander
Three stars is even a little generous- this book is SUCH a dip in quality from her previous books. The plot is heavy handed -I get it, people stop having sex because the high school is putting on Lysistrata! Every description of the book says so there is no reason to even mention it more than once, and certainly not OVER AND OVER in the book. It's like she forgot who she was writing for, her previous books seemed not to assume the reader was a total idiot. She still writes characters well overal ...more
Stephanie Driscoll
I read this book pretty quickly...not because it was so good, but because I couldn't believe that this was really all there was.
Here's a book about women who have a spell cast over them, that forces them to not want to have sex with their husbands, or their boyfriends, and the author simply refuses to delve any deeper then that. She absolutely skims the surface of relationships without sex, and this was an annoyingly quick read because there was nothing to it. This should have been insightful an
The story is told in a third-person narrative and divided into three parts. The first part focuses on the events leading up to the introduction of the play Lysistrata by the school's new drama teacher. The second part goes into detail about all of the different couples affected by the spell that the play casts over the town. The third part tells what happens in the night of the actual high-school production of the play and afterwards.
The spell of Lysistrata resembled a cold wind and only affecte
I think Wolitzer had a really hard time reining herself in. I'm working off the assumption that the blunt-eccentric-but-weirdly-wise (also, callous b!tch, but that's another problem) magical drama teacher, Fran Heller, is the author-avatar here. But even taking that as a given, it's difficult to peel back the layers of pretentious metaphors and pseudo-wise musings to figure out what point Heller/Wolitzer wants the reader to walk away with.

There's something she's trying to say about war--I think.
In the small town of Stellar Plains life continues to move forward at a seemingly normal pace. That is, until the addition of a new drama teacher at the high school sets unseen things in motion. Her choice for the school play, Lysistrata has the teens blushing and the parents wondering exactly who it is they've hired. Why exactly? Because the play centers around the ancient story of a group of Greek women who denied their husbands sex in order to prevent the continuation of war, not exactly a to ...more
Christina (A Reader of Fictions)
Even though I have not yet read the Lysistrata, I have trouble resisting literature about literature, especially when the premise sounds so incredibly fascinating. The Uncoupling focuses primarily on the spell's effects upon one family, Dory, Robby and Willa Lang. Dory and Robby, in their early forties, seem to have the perfect married relationship, still keeping their sex life going and pleasurable. That is until the day the spell strikes and Dory goes cold. This spell is entirely terrifying, a ...more
I have written and deleted about five times now in my futile attempts to write a review for this book. I read The Position by the author when it first came out and enjoyed its unique spin on family drama; however, this particular book left something to be desired.

On a positive note, I thought Wolitzer's descriptions of suburban U.S.A were spot-on and candid along with her take on the high school atmosphere of the school in Suburban U.S.A. As a teacher and resident of a town that could be a neig
Ron Charles
As our 10-year-old wars in Afghanistan and Iraq bleed into a new conflict in Libya, maybe we could use something more creative than “the surge” to bring peace. For the weary women in Aristophanes’ ancient comedy “Lysistrata,” the answer was an anti-surge: a sex strike until the men lay down their arms. It worked 2,400 years ago — in the bawdy Greek play — but in the theatre of foreign policy, America has perfected a method of prosecuting foreign wars without inconveniencing most of its citizens. ...more
The author
Meg Wolitzer's novels include The Interestings; The Uncoupling; The Ten-Year Nap; The Position; and The Wife. She is also the author of a novel for young readers, The Fingertips of Duncan Dorfman. Wolitzer's short fiction has appeared in The Best American Short Stories and The Pushcart Prize. In September 2013, along with singer-songwriter Suzzy Roche, she will be a guest artist in the Princeton Atelier program at Princeton University. For more information visit
The Uncoupling -- by Meg Wolitzer

The new and eccentric drama teacher at Eleanor Roosevelt High School makes a radical choice and announces the school play will be Lysistrata, a Greek comedy by Aristophanes in which women withhold sex from men until war is over. As the play is rehearsed in preparation for the only performance, a spell is cast over the citizens of the small New Jersey town. The spell leaves no one's sex life untouched as women lose all interest, and not even the perfect couple, f
It wasn’t terrible but it wasn’t great. A mediocre story about a mysterious enchantment that takes place when the new drama teacher picks the classical Greek play “Lysistrata” (the one where all the women refuse to have sex with their husbands until they end the Peloponnesian War). Leading up to the high school students’ performance of the play, a mysterious and chilly cloud takes all the women of Stellar Plains, NJ into its midst. The spell makes them lose all sexual desire and leaves them cold ...more
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Meg Wolitzer is the author of The Ten-Year Nap and seven previous novels, including The Position and The Wife . Her short fiction has appeared in The Best American Short Stories and The Pushcart Prize.

Author photo copyright Deborah Copaken.
More about Meg Wolitzer...
The Interestings Belzhar The Ten-Year Nap The Wife The Position

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“The generation that had information, but no context. Butter, but no bread. Craving, but no longing.” 16 likes
“People like to warn you that by the time you reach the middle of your life, passion will begin to feel like a meal eaten long ago, which you remember with great tenderness.” 8 likes
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