Review of “Domestic Violets” by Matthew Norman

Tom Violet is closing in on 35, and he has a number of problems. He cannot achieve the physical state necessary to have sex with his beautiful wife. His daughter Allie has drawn a picture of his mom’s new male “friend” to put on the refrigerator. His Pulitzer-prize winning and notoriously philandering father is not only distant, but has cast a huge shadow over Tom’s life. Tom works at a fatuous sell-out job writing corporate blurbs instead of writing a novel like he wants to do. And Katie, his young nubile assistant at work, is looking better to him every day.

This is not a sad sack Walter Mitty type of tale; rather, it is a very clever and funny story that ends on a much more upbeat note than did James Thurber’s story. Some of it will make you laugh out loud, and some of the more wistful parts can engender a few tears.

Tom is intelligent, good-looking, witty, self-deprecating and self-destructive – a more or less faithful image of his famous father, Curtis. Curtis suspects Tom will make the same mistakes he did, and curiously begins to get involved in his son’s life. But it is separation from his father that Tom really needs to live a life that is all his own, instead of an imitation of the hero whose attention he could never quite hold.

Evaluation: There’s not much more to the book except good writing, a lot of cleverness – maybe too much for real people to have – and a genuinely fun story to read. But what’s wrong with that?!! I have to say I like the similar Jonathan Tropper and Shalom Auslander better, but only because they add a bit of ethnic piquancy to an already satisfying meal.

Rating: 4/5

Published by Harper Perennial, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2011

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22 Responses

  1. For some reason, I enjoy watching men go through these mid-life issues. It isn’t near as common as with women, and I find it funny. Tropper was hilarious, but poignant too, but there was really more to that story than just balls on fire and job problems. Seems the universe has all loved this one.

  2. I had wondered whether I would like this book or not, but I surely do like your description of E.D. Very funny, Jill. Now I wonder why we women enjoy men’s midlife crises so much. I remember my father’s – conservative to the core until then, he went out and bought a bright red Carmen Ghia (I’ve probably spelled it wrong) to commute to NYC from Conn. Didn’t even mention it to my mother until he brought it home and she was so shocked! It was hilarious.

  3. I really loved this book for its irreverence, but it had some surprisingly poignant moments in it too, which I felt balanced the story out nicely. I am glad that you enjoyed it, and now I am thinking that based on Sandy’s comments and yours, that I need to read the Tropper book as well. Great review today. It was a very funny book!

  4. I liked that the story was told by a man. I really liked Tom and that he was funny but a good guy, too. I thought the last “stick it to the man” bit was a bit much but I was cheering nonetheless.

  5. I thought this book was extremely clever. Your comparing it to Tropper makes me anxious to try his work. Tropper will actually be in my area next week and I won’t be able to make the event – I have 2 other places I have to be at the same time. :(

  6. Just from your description I’m feeling sorry for the guy. I haven’t read this book yet but I’d like to give it a try. I know we usually think that women have all the mid-life drama but I’m seeing more and more about manopause. Could be something to it.

  7. I have this one on my Kindle..now just to make time for it. I feel pretty confident that I’m going to enjoy it!

  8. Great review! I haven’t read the other books to compare!

  9. I like my characters witty and self-deprecating, so this might be something up my alley. The problem is that I usually end-up not caring that much about them. Is Tom “lovable”?

  10. I so loved this book! It was so funny and witty.

  11. I’ve heard of this one but never really knew what it was about. It sounds good. My wishlist doesn’t need any more additions but oh well.

  12. I’ve heard such great things about this book from bloggers I like, but the trials and tribulations of middled aged white guys just doesn’t grab me. Still, I got this book in case I’m a bad judger and need to be more open minded — your review is another nod in that column! ;)

  13. I’ve only read one Jonathan Tropper book but I agree this was similar and I loved them both!

  14. I recently read and reivewed this (yet haven’t published my review yet) and I’m with you on this. I likened him to Tropper too … glad I wasn’t the only one to see it! It was a fun read… and, like you said, what is wrong with that?

  15. I didn’t miss my chance to have a mid-life crisis did I? I hoping to read this one if for no other reason than to feel better about my own life :)

  16. Since you compared the writing to Shalom Auslander, I’m very interested now. :-)

  17. Glad to finally read your review! :) I’d post a link to my review here in case others are interested: http://mentalfoodie.blogspot.com/2011/10/book-review-domestic-violets-by-matthew.html

  18. I love how delicately you word his physical lacking. LOL! This book made me laugh over and over. I agree that Tom was a little too clever, but I didn’t really care. Unlike his wife, he kept me happy on my cruise. ;)

  19. Your review is spot-on – I loved this book.

  20. It’s so funny that you mention Jonathan Tropper at the end of this review, because as I read it, I started to think how this book sounds an awful lot like something Tropper would (did?) write. If you’ll recall, I didn’t care for This Is Where I Leave You as much as everyone else did, but I’d still be willing to give this one a try. I’m always hoping I’ll find a new author who will make me laugh!

  21. [...] is a book I picked up thanks to so many great reviews, including those from Booking Mama, Rhapsody in Books, and Literate [...]

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