Wednesday, January 18, 2006

"Little Children" by Tom Perrotta

List Price: $13.95
Pages: 368
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 0312315732
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin


Curledup: Review Interview

Wikipedia: Biography of author


A satirical look at the suburbs and suburbia.


Living in the suburbs as I do, I was curious to read Tom Perrotta's "Little Children" set in a suburb somewhere in "Anytown", USA. Recently, these suburban neighborhoods with their pretty white picket fences, well-trimmed lawns, the fenced off pool etc., have come in for a lot of flack---with the main accusation being that the suburbs are no longer utopias where hard-working, educated people get to fulfill the "American Dream', but rather centres of mindless consumption and stifling social conformity. Films, newspaper articles and books allude to the not-so-nice-goings-on behind the shiny new doors and pristine lawns. I don't know about that but I do understand the accusation of social conformity. I have seen most Suburbanites live very conventional lives because they believe it is expected of them to do so.

"...most people just fell in line like obedient little children, doing exactly what society expected of them at any given moment, all the while pretending that they'd actually made some sort of choice..." pg. 9

Anyhow, welcome to a great cast of characters in "Little Children". You have the conventional suburbanites - the playground mom in a spandex work-out suit seen religiously pushing her toddler in its stroller to and from the playground, the mom who dreams of Harvard for her 4-year old, the stay-at-home dad who is lusted after by all the moms, the ladies of the local bookclub and so on, but you also have a couple of rebels that want to break away from the social pressures that bind and imprison them in Suburbia (remember the movie, 'The Truman Show"?). In other words, all Perrotta's characters are recognizable and believable, (although you might have to suspend disbelief occasionally at some of the things they do.) and because they are so recognizable , you are bound to either see yourself in them or someone you know.

The title "Little Children" can seem a little misleading at first, because really, this is not so much a book about children , as it is about parents and the stupefied boredom that envelopes them when their only job is to look after their toddlers. But as you read further, you realize that the author is probably referring to these bored adult suburbanites as 'little children'. The novel is also about the stress of having to maintain a happy facade even when your life is crumbling about you. Although the prose is just pedestrian, this is a well-constructed story and the author does a great job of examining suburbia, warts and all.

My favorite part in the book was when the bookclub ladies discussed "Madame Bovary". Infact, the book opens with a statement from the classic Flaubert novel, ..."I have a lover! I have a lover!" she kept repeating to herself, reveling in the thought as though she were beginning a second puberty... Madame Bovary has always been one of my favorite reads and these ladies, courtesy Tom Perrotta ofcourse, provide some wonderful insights to her character!

Finally, "Little Children" is being made into a film by New Line Cinema, starring Kate Winslet (in the lead role as Sarah) and Jennifer Connelly. It will be directed by Todd Field (In the Bedroom ) and both he and Tom Perrotta have co-written the screenplay.

Shooting has started already and the movie is slated for a summer release, so of course you will want to be seen with your copy on the subway before it's in the picturehouse!