Title: Domestic Violets
Author: Matthew Norman
Publisher: Harper Perennial (Harper Collins)
Pub. Date: August 9, 2011
The reviews that I'd read up until I recommended this to my husband glowed with enthusiasm. I'd also heard it was featured at this year's Book Expo America. It's potential for comedic relatability (even so far as the dog with acute anxiety, yes we have one of those) seemed like something my husband might really enjoy so I recommended it to him. And since I just happened to have a review copy, he began reading it right away. He started laughing within seconds of starting it and continuously for the rest of his reading experience. It was one of those where we'd both be sitting on the couch and I'd look over at him like "really?... let me turn down the volume on my show so it doesn't interfere with your laughing"... hehe. But really, he enjoyed it from the very beginning. So it wasn't long before I picked it up as well in between his readings, and we both ended up finishing it the same day (which just so happens to be the same day I started reading it).
Tom Violet is the lead character. He has the anxious dog, a wife with whom he is trying unsuccessfully to conceive a second child (makes for a funny opening scene), and a father who has overshadowed him in the biggest way - by winning the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Tom, meanwhile, is wasting away in corporate dullness and hopes for his secretly written manuscript to one day be published. Tom's life seems to be quickly spiraling downward when he unexpectedly takes back control in a spur-of-the moment way we all wish we could. But really Domestic Violets isn't about that one thing. It's about that mid-life drama that makes you question everything about your life. But it was done in a fun, witty way.
Now, I will say I found this book to be fairly standard "guy-lit" but it was solid and incredibly engaging. After all, I read it in a day. But I'm finding that some people think that label minimizes it, so maybe it's just that all the "guy-lit" I've read has been really good. I found this book surprisingly hopeful. Although it deals with parental issues, trying to live up to the outrageous success of one parent, issues with adultery, what we're meant to do in life, and the drudgery of the daily lives we often end up in, Domestic Violets was still fun and, ultimately, uplifting. I sort of got from it that things happen and we can't necessarily predict it all. We have to more go with the flow and let things play out. And not take things too seriously.
I think other big readers will enjoy the focus on the literary world. Tom's dad, Curtis Violet, wins the Pulitzer Prize and is a celebrity. I wonder if that's how it is in real life, where everywhere the author goes people recognize him. Maybe I'm just in an area with few readers because I have trouble seeing that happen here, but maybe it does, and it was fun to read about anyway. Overall, the characters felt truly genuine, as did the flaws Norman painted onto each character.
Domestic Violets was a thoroughly enjoyable read and one that both my husband and I (with our varying tastes) read quickly and have shared good conversation about already. I had a smile on my face as I read and that's always a good sign!