Denver Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Club

Stepford Wives 2004 movie cover

The Stepford Wives (1972)
A chilling satire

Harper Torch paperback 2004
movie tie-in cover
afterward by Peter Straub
195 pages (left)

Fawcett Crest Books 1973
first paperback printing
uncredited cover art
190 pages (right)

Stepford Wives 1973 cover

From the back cover of the 2004 paperback
       All the beautiful people live in the idyllic village of Stepford, Connecticut, an affluent suburban Eden populated with successful, satisfied hubbys and their beautiful, dutiful wives.  For Joanna Eberhart, a recent arrival with her husband and two children, it all seems too perfect to be true -- from the sweet accommodating Welcome Wagon lady to all those cheerful, friendly faces in the supermarket checkout lines.  But just beneath the town's flawless surface, something is sordid and wrong -- something abominable with roots in the local Men's Association.  And it may already be too late for Joanna to save herself from being devoured by Stepford's hideous perfection.

Read for group discussion on July 28, 2004

How we each rated this book
Dan - Amy 5 stack of books 10   Wow! Don't miss it
8-9  Highly recommended
7    Recommended
5-6  Mild recommendation
3-4  Take your chances
1-2  Below average; skip it
0    Get out the flamethrower!
U    Unfinishable or unreadable
-    Skipped or no rating given
Cheri 7 Barb -
Aaron 8 Cynthia -
Jackie 8 Ron 9
Christine 9 Deb 9
Mike 8 Stephanie 6.5
Gary 4    

Aaron's Commentary  Ira Levin - The Stepford Wives

This is a skillfully written thriller.  It moves at a good pace, yet includes enough mundane detail to build the tension slowly, as well as to make a point about how difficult it is to find satisfaction in everyday activities.  For most of the book, it is easy to believe that Joanna's feelings of discontent with her day-to-day life are causing her to imagine everything.  Unlike the film versions, the novel leaves this ambiguous right through the end.

More importantly, Levin uses the thriller plotline to frame some wonderful social commentary.  This includes not just the obvious issues of feminism, but also some less obvious points: Joanna's feelings of guilt about her career, and not being as devoted to her home and family as the other Stepford wives; the assertion that men who have more progressive ideas about women are in fact simply less honest; the danger that two-career marriages will inevitably prevent spouses from paying each other enough attention.  While our society has answered the central "women's lib" question of whether it's all right for women to have careers, these less obvious issues remain very relevant.

Today, for example, Joanna's guilt at not being a great homemaker can cut both ways.  Women who have successful careers are made to feel badly about not devoting more time to their families, while women who are great homemakers are made to feel guilty about not being ambitious career women.  And commonly, women themselves impose these unrealistic standards.  What the men did to their wives in The Stepford Wives, women now often do to themselves, right down to augmenting their breasts to conform to an absurd ideal of beauty.

The folks in Hollywood who did the recent uninspired remake of The Stepford Wives missed a great opportunity.  To update the story, it should be the wives in Stepford who, to their husbands' horror, willingly replace themselves with perfect robots.

What do you think? Your comments are welcome. Please send them to

Stepford Wives 1975 DVD cover The Stepford Wives (1975) - movie

115 minutes. Fadsin Cinema Associates/Columbia. Screenplay by William Goldman. Directed by Bryan Forbes.

Starring: Katharine Ross (Joanna Eberhart), Paula Prentiss (Bobbie Markowe), Peter Masterson (Walter Eberhart), Nanette Newman (Carol Van Sant), Tina Louise (Charmaine Wimperis)

In addition, there's made-for-TV movies: Revenge of the Stepford Wives (1980), The Stepford Children (1987), and The Stepford Husbands (1996)

Silver Anniversary Edition DVD cover (left)

The Stepford Wives (2004) - movie

93 minutes, Paramount Pictures. Screenplay by Paul Rudnick. Directed by Frank Oz.

Starring: Nicole Kidman (Joanna Eberhart), Matthew Broderick (Walter Kresby), Bette Midler (Bobbie Markowitz), Glen Close (Claire Wellington), Christopher Walken (Mike Wellington), Faith Hill (Sarah Sunderson)

Ira Levin (1929-2007) was a US playwright and novelist.  He wrote in the genres of horror, science fiction, and thrillers.  His work is widely familiar to the general public thanks to its many successful film adaptations.

Levin's first novel A Kiss Before Dying (1953), winner of the Edgar Award for Best First Mystery Novel, was filmed in 1956 and again in 1991.

Rosemary's Baby (1967), about a woman impregnated with the spawn of Satan, was filmed in 1968, creating quite a stir.  The belated sequel was Son of Rosemary (1997).

The Stepford Wives (1972), a satire about the importance to men of subservient wives, was filmed as a serious thriller in 1974 and tongue-in-cheek in 2004.

The Boys from Brazil (1976), filmed in 1978, follows an unlikely effort to recreate Adolf Hitler through cloning technology.

Sliver (1991), filmed in 1993, is an erotic thriller.

Levin's only novel not to draw Hollywood's attention is the science fiction dystopia This Perfect Day (1970), winner of the 1992 Prometheus Award for classic libertarian science fiction.

Ira Levin is also a successful playwright, with several hit productions to his credit, most notably Deathtrap (1979), one of the most successful thrillers in Broadway history, which was filmed in 1982.

Levin won a Bram Stoker Life Achievement Award in 1996 and the Mystery Writers of America Grand Master Award in 2003.

Thanks to Aaron for Ira Levin bibliography and the older book cover

Ira Levin - Wikipedia
rob's movie vault - the stepford wives (2004 movie)
AlterNet: MediaCulture: Stepford Wife: You've Come the Wrong Way, Baby (2004 movie)
KillerMovies: The Stepford Wives Movie Review

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