The September-October EDIWTB online book club pick was Domestic Violets, by Matthew Norman. I picked this book in part because of the stellar reviews I had read of Domestic Violets around the blogosphere by people I trust (such as this one and this one). The synopsis sounded good too: Tom Violet, a corporate copywriter in his mid-thirties, is fighting crises on many levels. His wife may be having an affiar, while he himself is having inappropriate thoughts about a young female co-worker. His father, a famous novelist, has just won a Pulitzer, while Tom, himself a novelist, has a manuscript that he has only shared with a few people. And he hates his job.
Domestic Violets is funny and insightful. Norman lampoons corporate life, especially within companies that don't actually produce anything, other than "management services". He also nicely captures a moment in time – the dark ages of the late Bush administration and the financial collapse. The Obama administration is around the corner, with the hope and optimism it promised, but those days aren't here yet and people are intensely feeling the desperation and fear of economic instability.
Norman also did a nice job with describing Tom's marriage to his wife Anna, and what childraising and years of domesticity have done to their relationship. I enjoyed his dialogue and the details with which he infuses the scenes that took place in the Violets' Georgetown home.
I found Norman's depiction of Tom's father, Curtis, and their complicated relationship, to be less successful. Curtis verged on caricature, and the chapters that focused on him weakened the book for me. I expected something a little weightier, overall, and the scenes where Curtis was totally over the top (like when he sent Tom to pick up his clothes) alienated me. Those parts reminded me that Domestic Violets was a book, rather than allowing me to lose myself in the story.
I also had an issue with the ending and what it says about artistic intergrity. It seemed very unrealistic, and also pretty out of character. For a book that was otherwise so grounded in real life, the Curtis-Tom subplot stuck out to me as being pretty inconsistent and a bit hasty.
I expected to enjoy Domestic Violets more than I did, based on the reviews I read. It was enjoyable, and certainly funny in places, but I think it fell short in the end. It could have been something more. I seem to be in the minority on this one, though.
OK, EDIWTB readers, what did you think of Domestic Violets? Did it fall short for you or were you big fans? I can't wait to read your comments. Please post below!
And a special thank you, again, to Harper Perennial for facilitating the September/October book club!