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Hardcover Playing house Book

ISBN: 003007746X

ISBN13: 9780030077463

Playing house

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Book Overview

A probing descent into madness, Playing House is the shocking story of one woman's struggle with the lasting effects of a childhood sexual relationship with her brother. A literary tour de force with... This description may be from another edition of this product.

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Fiction Literature & Fiction

Customer Reviews

2 ratings

Difficult Subject Beautifully Written -- Perfect Discussion Book

My English Literature 101 professor once explained that "happy ending" novels rarely qualify as literature because after the story's conclusion there is little to discuss. Think about it for a moment. Would readers still ponder Gone with the Wind if Scarlett had bagged her man? Would To Kill a Mockingbird be as powerful if Boo Radley had received a fair trial? Would The Great Gatsby be a "Great American Novel" if Gatsby had spent his golden years with Daisy? With some exceptions I believe my professor's point was well taken. By this measure, Playing House by Frederica Wagman is great literature. When I finished this novel I was dying to talk about it with someone: the symbolism; the characters; the repetitious writing style; and the subject matter. Playing House's subject matter - sibling incest - shatters cultural taboos and is not for readers with certain sensibilities. The unnamed narrator is both a victim and a willing participant in the incestuous relationship that thrived in her dysfunctional family unit. As she admits, "I never had a brother, I had a lover. I never knew what the word `brother' could mean, what the word `sister' could mean, what the word `mother' could mean - it was all meaningless to me, all except what it felt like being with him, that was the only meaning." On a stylistic level Playing House is highly symbolic: the Swan that the narrator clings to; the color yellow which is used to describe everything from light, to grass, to hair, and dress; and the smoke that destroys the narrator's sister and threatens to claim the narrator. A typical illustrative passage is this one: "A yellow-white aloneness hung around the glass birds and the dancing swans in crystal cages behind the gilt lattice doors, there was no conversation except my mother talking to herself about how no one was good enough for us except each other, her poison, her inbred murder, her disaster, while she grinned and posed and wet her lips and saw herself reflected, poor soul, poor little mother, poor wreck in a yellow satin dressing gown with threadbare cuffs and elbows, with yellow eyes that didn't see, that could only stop where the noise was coming from." Playing House is the perfect novel for thoughtful discussions!


Playing House by Fredrica Wagman synopsis: A probing descent into madness that will fascinate the same audience that appreciated I Never Promised You a Rose Garden." This nationally bestselling story of one woman's struggle with the lasting effects of a childhood sexual relationship with her brother shocked American readers; it remains a literary work of enduring quality and value. In his foreword Philip Roth writes, "The traumatized child; the institutionalized wife; the haunting desire; the ghastly business of getting through the day - what is striking about Wagman's treatment of these contemporary motifs is the voice of longing in which the heroine shamelessly confesses to the incestuous need that is at once her undoing and her only hope." I was very nervous that I agreed to review this book, and it sat around for awhile before I picked it up and started reading it. And it hit me right from the beginning, testing my comfort level. The unnamed narrator frankly recreates the events of her childhood. Her brother was cruel, he would torture animals and hurt his sister, But still she loved him and the sexual relationship became consensual, one that she craved even after he left, into her adulthood and through her marriage and life. But I was moved by this book, fascinated, though repulsed at times. The writing is very powerful, as the narrator recalls events from the past, woven among present realities. It is not a lengthy novel, 160 pages, but involves such a myriad of emotions, that I felt drained when I finished it. Wagman was able to create a powerful story about a taboo subject that in another person's hand may have seemed to have been done only for its shock value. This is a novel worth reading, one that will definitely create discussion and discomfort, but that one will never forget.
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