Jill's Reviews > Domestic Violets

Domestic Violets by Matthew Norman
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Sep 03, 11

Read from August 31 to September 03, 2011

Somewhere between the hilarious and light-hearted moments – and there are many in this marvelous debut by Matthew Norman – it dawned on me: there’s something downright tender and redemptive about this book.

Domestic Violets brings to mind other enjoyable authors – Jonathan Tropper, Steve Hely (How I Became A Famous Novelist) and Joshua Ferris (And Then We Came to An End). The author might cringe at these comparisons, since one of the key themes is finding one’s own voice. So let me reassure: although there are hints of these other authors, the voice is clearly Matthew Norman’s.

Tom Violet, the first-person narrator of Domestic Violets, is having a heck of a time. His famous and philandering father, Curtis Violet, has just nabbed the Pulitzer in literature, the latest of a string of prestigious awards. His wife, Anna, may be having an affair, possibly due to his battle with erectile dysfunction. And Tom is languishing as a copywriter at a company he calls the “Death Star”, which he also calls a “daycare for adults”, where too many people “dress more formally than necessary and sit in a constant state of alert, waiting or an opportunity to use a word like “leverage” or “facilitate.” He agrees, “Sure, we may be able to buy iPhones, but we’re handling over our souls and our happiness in the process.”

Pushed to the brink by a life that’s becoming rapidly untenable, Tom Violet sets a chain of events into motion that shake up his life and his beliefs of where he belongs in it. At the end of the day, he will need to evaluate his key roles as husband, son, father, friend, and mentor, and will come to some poignant conclusions.

All this could be very formulaic and “pat” in a lesser writer’s hands. But these are two-dimensional characters and the issues explored in Domestic Violets are very real. Among the themes explored are: “How does one live authentically? What happens when the ‘men upstairs’ – perhaps known as the muses – desert you? What price does one pay to fit into a stullifying corporate culture? Does one ever outgrow the heartaches of parents’ early divorce? And how does one find peace with oneself – and others – in an imperfect world?”

I came into this book skeptically (“another Jonathan Tropper copycat?”) and emerged a believer. I fell in love with this book, which takes the reader on an unexpected journey and doesn’t fall back on easy answers or expected solutions. Oh, and the title? The author writes, at one point that “…domestic violets are nice, too. The Greeks believed they symbolized fertility and potency…” And indeed, the potency is all here!

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Reading Progress

08/31/2011 "OK, I need something lighter for Labor Day and this one fits the bill. Sort of Tropper-ish."

Comments (showing 1-6)




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message 6: by Will (new) - added it

Will Byrnes Purple prose, indeed. Rising to the occasion, as usual.


message 5: by Jeanette (new)

Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist" Well, I don't know about the book, but your review made me laugh. Excellent! Funny, I keep checking to see if my library has this on order, and whenever I enter the title I get books on domestic violence. :-0


Jill It's free on Vine. As an ex-agency copywriter, this guy has the scenario down pat. I howled with laughter. A friend recommended it and I'm so glad I indulged. It was JUST the thing for Labor Day!


message 3: by Jeanette (new)

Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist" I know, I saw it on Vine, but...well...so many choices, I ran out of picks. :( Maybe next month.


Jill Well, I always pick up books like this during the "targeted" mailing -- when we can go back to the mass mailing and snatch them up! That is, unless you really want kiddie lit or hallelujah stuff...LOL!


message 1: by Jeanette (new)

Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist" Jill wrote: "That is, unless you really want...hallelujah stuff....."

Hee! When I look at the descriptions for these I puzzle over why they're not in the "fantasy" category. :D


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