The Stepford Wives

The Stepford Wives

by Ira Levin

Paperback(1st Perennial Edition)

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Overview

The internationally bestselling novel by the author of A Kiss Before Dying, The Boys from Brazil, and Rosemary's Baby

With an Introduction by Peter Straub

For Joanna, her husband, Walter, and their children, the move to beautiful Stepford seems almost too good to be true. It is. For behind the town's idyllic facade lies a terrible secret — a secret so shattering that no one who encounters it will ever be the same.

At once a masterpiece of psychological suspense and a savage commentary on a media-driven society that values the pursuit of youth and beauty at all costs, The Stepford Wives is a novel so frightening in its final implications that the title itself has earned a place in the American lexicon.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060080846
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 07/23/2002
Series: Harper Perennial
Edition description: 1st Perennial Edition
Pages: 144
Sales rank: 110,641
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.32(d)
Age Range: 3 Years

About the Author

Novelist and playwright Ira Levin (1929-2007) was a native New Yorker whose books include A Kiss Before Dying, Rosemary's Baby, This Perfect Day, The Stepford Wives, The Boys from Brazil, Sliver, and Son of Rosemary. His plays include No Time for Sergeants, Critic's Choice, and the longest-running thriller in Broadway history, Deathtrap. An alumnus of New York University, Levin also wrote the lyrics of the Barbra Streisand classic "He Touched Me," and was the recipient of three Edgar Allan Poe Awards from the Mystery Writers of America (including 2003's 'Grand Master'), as well as the Horror Writers Association's Bram Stoker Award for lifetime achievement.

Read an Excerpt

The Stepford Wives

Chapter One

The Welcome Wagon lady, sixty if she was a day but working at youth and vivacity (ginger hair, red lips, a sunshine-yellow dress), twinkled her eyes and teeth at Joanna and said, "You're really going to like it here! It's a nice town with nice people! You couldn't have made a better choice!" Her brown leather shoulderbag was enormous, old and scuffed; from it she dealt Joanna packets of powdered breakfast drink and soup mix, a toy-size box of non-polluting detergent, a booklet of discount slips good at twenty-two local shops, two cakes of soap, a folder of deodorant pads --

"Enough, enough," Joanna said, standing in the doorway with both hands full. "Hold. Halt. Thank you."

The Welcome Wagon lady put a vial of cologne on top of the other things, and then searched in her bag -- "No, really," Joanna said -- and brought out pink-framed eyeglasses and a small embroidered notebook. "I do the 'Notes on Newcomers,'" she said, smiling and putting on the glasses. "For the Chronicle." She dug at the bag's bottom and came up with a pen, clicking its top with a red-nailed thumb.

Joanna told her where she and Walter had moved from; what Walter did and with which firm; Pete's and Kim's names and ages; what she had done before they were born; and which colleges she and Walter had gone to. She shifted impatiently as she spoke, standing there at the front door with both hands full and Pete and Kim out of earshot.

"Do you have any hobbies or special interests?"

She was about to say a time-saving no, but hesitated: a full answer, printed in the local paper, might serve as a signpost to women like herself, potential friends. The women she had met in the past few days, the ones in the nearby houses, were pleasant and helpful enough, but they seemed completely absorbed in their household duties. Maybe when she got to know them better she would find they had farther-reaching thoughts and concerns, yet it might be wise to put up that signpost. So, "Yes, several," she said. "I play tennis whenever I get the chance, and I'm a semi-professional photographer -- "

"Oh?" the Welcome Wagon lady said, writing.

Joanna smiled. "That means an agency handles three of my pictures," she said. "And I'm interested in politics and in the Women's Liberation movement. Very much so in that. And so is my husband."

"He is?" The Welcome Wagon lady looked at her.

"Yes," Joanna said. "Lots of men are." She didn't go into the benefits-for-both-sexes explanation; instead she leaned her head back into the entrance hall and listened: a TV audience laughed in the family room, and Pete and Kim argued but below intervention level. She smiled at the Welcome Wagon lady "He's interested in boating and football too," she said, "and he collects Early American legal documents." Walter's half of the signpost.

The Welcome Wagon lady wrote, and closed her notebook, clicked her pen. "That's just fine, Mrs. Eberhart," she said, smiling and taking her glasses off. "I know you're going to love it here," she said, "and I want to wish you a sincere and hearty 'Welcome to Stepford.' If there's any information I can give you about local shops and services, please feel free to call me; the number's right there on the front of the discount book."

"Thank you, I will," Joanna said. "And thanks for all this."

"Try them, they're good products!" the Welcome Wagon lady said. She turned away "Good-by now!"

Joanna said good-by to her and watched her go down the curving walk toward her battered red Volkswagen. Dogs suddenly filled its windows, a black and brown excitement of spaniels, jumping and barking, paws pressing glass. Moving whiteness beyond the Volkswagen caught Joanna's eye: across the sapling-lined street, in one of the Clay brooks' upstairs windows, whiteness moved again, leaving one pane and filling the next; the window was being washed. Joanna smiled, in case Donna Claybrook was looking at her. The whiteness moved to a lower pane, and then to the pane beside it.

With a surprising roar the Volkswagen lunged from the curb, and Joanna backed into the entrance hall and hipped the door closed.

---

Pete and Kim were arguing louder. "B.M.! Diarrhea!" "Ow! Stop it!" "Cut it out!" Joanna called, dumping the double handful of samples onto the kitchen table.

"She's kicking me!" Pete shouted, and Kim shouted, "I'm not! You diarrhea!"

"Now stop it," Joanna said, going to the port and looking through. Pete lay on the floor too close to the TV set, and Kim stood beside him, red-faced, keeping from kicking him. Both were still in their pajamas. "She kicked me twice," Pete said, and Kim shouted, "You changed the channel! He changed the channel!" "I did not!" "I was watching Felix the Cat!"

"Quiet!" Joanna commanded. "Absolute silence! Utter -- complete-total-silence."

They looked at her, Kim with Walter's wide blue eyes, Pete with her own grave dark ones. "Race 'em to a flying finish!" the TV set cried. "No electricity!"

"A, you're too close to the set," Joanna said. "B, turn it off; and C, get dressed, both of you. That green stuff outside is grass, and the yellow stuff coming down on it is sunshine." Pete scrambled to his feet and powed the TVs control panel, blanking its screen to a dying dot of light. Kim began crying.

Joanna groaned and went around into the family room.

Crouching, she hugged Kim to her shoulder and rubbed her pajamaed back, kissed her silk-soft ringlets. "Ah, come on now," she said. "Don't you want to play with that nice Allison again? Maybe you'll see another chipmunk."

Pete came over and lifted a strand of her hair. She looked up at him and said, "Don't change channels on her."

"Oh, all right," he said, winding a finger in the dark strand.

"And don't kick," she told Kim. She rubbed her back and tried to get kisses in at her squirming-away cheek.

The Stepford Wives. Copyright © by Ira Levin. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

What People are Saying About This

Stephen King

“[Ira Levin] is the Swiss watchmaker of the suspense novel.”

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Stepford Wives 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 58 reviews.
songcatchers More than 1 year ago
At the heart of this novel is a mockery of conformity and a satire of "the oppressors and their desires". After Joanna and her family move to Stepford, she sees that something about the women isn't quite right. All they do is smile and clean their houses. They are pleasant but very distant. They are all the same. Except for two other women who are also recent arrivals in the too perfect town of Stepford. Those two other women eventually conform to the domesticity of the Stepford women. Joanna is left to wonder at the conversion her two friends go through. Did they conform by choice or is there something in the water that changes the women of this town or worse? Is it something the men are doing to their women to make them especially beautiful and diligent in their housework? The Stepford Wives is highly readable, witty and clever. To quote Peter Straub in the introduction of this book, "Like everything else he [Ira Levin] has written, this book resembles a bird in flight, a haiku, a Chinese calligrapher's brushstroke. With no wasted motion, it gets precisely where it wants to go."
Guest More than 1 year ago
I've read a few reviews that say, this book isn't good because it isn't like the movie. You can't blame the book for not being like the movie. The book came first and, therefore, it is the movie that twisted and augmented the meaning of the novel. Having said that, it was definitely a good read - a very dark and interestingly creepy plot. I would recommend this book not the 2004 remake of the film, though. I haven't seen the older version, so I don't know if it does the book justice, but if it did, it would definitely be a good watch. For now, however, this book is definitely a good read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I couldnt put this book down! it's a classic must- read and reminds me of the area around my country house in Plandome, Long Island, New York. It's a great lesson to all of those suburbanites about repression and the darkness of soccer moms.
Bookworm1951 More than 1 year ago
I read The Steppford Wives when it was first published in 1972. It was a shocker then and just as thrilling now. Remembering that this was written 44 years ago, the story takes us to a place where technology of that time alters lives, values and humanity. Very fast paced due to Ira Levin’s superior writing style. Only 95 pages but each word has an impact to the overall story. No unnecessary fluff just to make the book longer. I read this in one sitting. Would highly recommend this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was a bit doubtful at first, seeing that the book was only 92 pages - I wasn't sure it would be able to tell a thorough story or fully build the characters. I was wrong. This book was a great read. The suspense builds with each page, and by the end you are dying to find out what happens to the main character, Joanna. I will be reading other Ira Levin stories soon.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book a year or so after it was published and AFTER I'd made my first trip to DisneyWorld. The impact was tremendous. I remember not being able to put the book down and having a little shiver go down my spine. Folks who read the book now, especially anyone who saw the remake of the movie, won't get the full impact of the story. I think you had to read it in the proper timeframe of it's initial release to get the full effect. Still, it's a chilling thriller that packs a wallop.
twig_tea on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I like the idea, and the execution was vaguely creepy, but the ending made it very blah.
lesleydawn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Much better than the movie.
the_hag on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Loved this book. I¿ve seen both versions of the movie¿but the book was GREAT! Clean writing, accessible and thought provoking while still being thoroughly entertaining!! A+, I¿m certainly glad I finally took the time to read this. My only grip¿I hate movie tie in covers.
ConnieJo on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It was pretty short and to the point. The end was pretty hard to swallow, even after so many years have passed since it was written. I had to laugh when the pieces started to fit together, because there's just no way.I did like the slow progression of things, though, and I liked how the alliances held between the three women at the beginning started dropping off one by one. The constant cleaning endeavors of the other housewives was pretty funny, too, and I wasn't entirely sure if it was supposed to be.I read it in a couple hours, and I liked it all right, but it's not something that I'd give to all my friends, nor will it stay with me for very long. It is an odd little story, though.
gwendolyndawson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In Stepford, the wives are perfect robots. An interesting idea, but poorly executed. Clunky prose and dialog.
ryvre on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Stepford Wives manages to be both simple and complex. Even if you know the ending (and I think everybody does by now), there are still surprises and twists.
john257hopper on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A very short but tightly crafted novel. I found this suspenseful and shocking even though I knew the plot and finale from the classic film version (not the absurd 2004 remake). Of course, there are plot holes and surely at least one husband would have objected to the plan, and/or at least one wife would have managed to escape and tell all to, if not the disbelieving authorities then at least the sensation-hungry newspapers. But this does not really matter: the story is a superb creepy suspense story.
Bramwolf on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was extremely pleased with this book, it was so concise and meticulously well timed. Though it was fairly short, you didn't feel as though you were missing something. Nothing was left out, no fluff was added, it was about as precise as a novel could get. It was written during a time when tensions were highly felt between men and women. Women's lib was going full swing and there was a bit of a two edged sword with a lot of women who were married and simultaneously feeling a great resentment and suspicion towards many men.Along with that, the book touched on racial tensions as well. In one scene it described how pleased she was with a photo she'd managed to take before leaving the city of a black male venomously glaring at a empty on-duty Taxi cab as it sped pass, noting to herself that racial pictures were popular right then and she'd probably be able to sell it. It goes into further detail about it when a black family moves into Stepford, though the citizens of Stepford are too serene to be 'bothered' by it. Over all everything is brought out in very subtle ways and you aren't beat over the head or preached to about anything. Even the climaxes are subdued, a gently rising that builds in plateaus towards the final thrust. Over all, in the words of Peter Straub, this was a deceptively 'easy' read with many underlying layers, wit, and commentary.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
i want this book so much becuse i have only seen the movies !
lyssrose on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Wow. Just...wow. I'm amazed at how well this book was able to maintain it's atmosphere of creepyness and unease. I was on the edge of my seat, dying to know whether Joanna would realize what was going on, and if she did, would she be able to escape? The final pages of the book wrap up the story, without really providing any sort of explaination; I think leaving those details to the reader's imagination works in this case, and serves to make this a better, more chilling tale.
tschnitzler More than 1 year ago
I totally enjoyed this book--up until the last chapter. The story just ENDS. What? I need resolution when I finish a book, and this left things way too wide open. What is the mystery here? What is happening to these women? If I am missing something, someone please tell me! Besides that, the book was a great, quick read. The characters are believable and portrayed well.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I first heard of this title and saw it as a movie when I was a little girl. It was great as a movie. It is great as a book. There is even modern movie version. I am so glad the movie versions stuck closely to the book version. Everyone should read the book version first. I must add that Ira Levin could have really took this book to another level had he written a sequel! Simone24
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
AreYouStillReading More than 1 year ago
“When had it begun, her distrust of him, the feeling of nothingness between them? Whose fault was it?” Looking for a better life, Joanna and Walter Eberhart move their family to the suburb of Stepford. Once there, feminist Joanna realizes that the wives of Stepford are not ordinary. When one of her friends becomes just like them, Joanna wonder if she can escape before it happens to her too? I was not expecting to like The Stepford Wives as much as I did. While I think it would have been more suspenseful if I had not known the basic plot, this book is still very disturbing and raises some very feminist feelings within me. However, I wish it was longer because it left a few things unfinished. Honestly, this book has not aged extremely well though. The idea that a woman should be submissive to her husband is even more archaic now than it was during the Women’s Liberation movement. On the other hand, a man wanting a wife that was nothing more than a beautiful doll is even more horrifying now then it was in the 70s. It would be really interesting to see what a modern writer would do with this plot since Joanna is a woman of her time. While Joanna was a freelance photographer, she still portrayed as a stay at home mother most of the time. A modern Joanna would probably have a full time job and have figured out that something was off about the wives of Stepford long before 1970s Joanna did. Overall, The Stepford Wives delivers a haunting tale of the extremes men will go to counteract changes in their lives. It shows how we really never know another person, even our significant other. It, also, reminders us just how far women have come since the 1970s and how different life could be for women in 2016 if there had not been a Women's Liberation movement. I know this book has scarred me in the best way possible and I will be thinking about it for a very long time to come.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
ryanseanoreilly More than 1 year ago
A chilling tale of horror that descends into madness one step at time. Ira Levin’s suspenseful tale of horror is both a commentary on society as well as a character study into the descent of sanity. His prose is sparse and vernacular with poignant ideas that are supported by masterful suspense. The female protagonist’s main struggle is that she fears being swallowed up by the banality of suburban life after leaving the rich and rewarding culture of her former urban home. A trite cultural tale of a young couple passing from one phase of life into another. Yet, herein lies one of Levin’s major strengths. He takes a rather common place cultural experience and slowly twists it until by the end its purple, atrophied and rather gangrenous. And even though we know the infected limb will eventually fall off, we can’t help but hope all the while that there may just be a way to save things. In a nutshell, the protagonist goes from general irritation toward the lack of progressive thinking in her new found suburban trappings to outright fear. He annoyance turns to distrust, outrage and terror. What is actually going on at the archaic men’s association in town, and how is it afflicting her friends and her very own husband? There is just the right amount of tension going on throughout this work. The pace is inevitable, yet it is not relentless or swift. I felt I knew where things were going early on (through my own cultural awareness of the work), however I still felt compelled on. Levin wonderfully pulls back each new development with surgical skill. He gives just enough information to put the pieces together without providing the whole puzzle. Some may find this frustrating, but I feel that if he went the other way and really went into detail with some big reveal at the end—the horror of the story would have been cheapened. The protagonist’s growth and emotional evolution is also very real. Her questioning and sleuthing out the mysteries connects her to the readers. Even her own self-doubts add to making the character more believable and support the more fantastical elements that exist in the shadows of the prose. Levin touches on issues of suburban isolationism, paranoia, cultism, apathy and of course, feminism. Though the protagonist invokes causes of social injustice as she beats her war drum for long overdue change, her struggles are also very personal and individual. The way Levin is able to tie in the societal problems and show how deeply rooted evil can penetrate into the micro levels of personhood is very powerful. This story is fiction, but the under currents feel believable. Levin takes seemingly normal people and shows how easily corruption and evil can leach darkness into those places of society that seem sunny and devoid of real problems. This, of course, is nothing new, but Levin’s take on things feels fresh and leaves a lasting impression. He drives home how inhumanity can lurk even in the everyday familiarity. What is really going on over there at that place where we can’t go? This novella is tight and sharp. An excellent, swift read that will leave an unsavory taste in your mouth. Podcast: If you enjoy my review (or this topic) this book and the movie based on it were further discussed/debated in a lively discussion on my podcast: "No Deodorant In Outer Space". The podcast is available on iTunes, YouTube or our website.
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