Little Children – A Book Review

Tom Perrotta’s book Little Children is one of the most engaging books I’ve read since the Harry Potter series.  The author of Joe College and Election has proved once again that he is a master writer.

Sarah is a feminist.  A a former bi-sexual activist, with a man-ish figure, who has strong opinions on literature and used to avoid shaving her legs.  She was tricked into marriage to a middle aged man named Richard by the thought of being rescued from her miserable life alone as a Starbucks worker.  She has a daughter, Lucy, whom she resents, and feels like a prisoner in her house decorated by Pottery Barn, stuck in the suburbs.  Brad is an overly handsome stay-at-home dad, studying for the bar (which he’s already failed twice).  He knows he won’t pass again (he doesn’t even really want to be a lawyer), but to shut his extremely beautiful, and intelligent wife up, he feigns studying each night and will attempt to pass the test one final time. Being completely selfish, bored, and forced to spend copious amounts of time focusing solely on the entertainment of their children, the two fall into a lurid affair, cheating on their spouses and telling themselves that they make each other happy.

The plot is far more detailed than that, but this is the springboard from which the rest of the story starts.  The beauty of this book is Perrotta’s ability to create a believable, and extremely entertaining world.  It’s rare that a book entertains me more than film, but while I was reading Little Children, I found myself preferring to lay on my couch and follow Brad and Sarah, instead of going to the theater.

The subject matter will deter many.  The explicit love affair is gritty, and realistic.  Central acts focus on a pedophile sex-offender who may or may not have murdered a little girl, and keeps showing up at the town pool to ‘cool off.’  But the real ugliness of the story can be found in the main characters.  They’re not bad people, but they let themselves do bad things, convincing themselves that’s it’s romantic, and beautiful.  Sarah even pontificates on why Madame Bovary is no longer the pathetic character she seemed to be while Sarah was in grad school, but now sees her as a hero, a feminist, who fights for a better life.

While the film Little Children is one of my favorites, I’d have to say the book is better than the film.  Todd Field did a tremendous job of adapting the book, taking all the material down to the length of a feature length film, but Perrotta enjoyed the luxury of being able to add subtle touches to the character and the plot that just adds to the experience, making the characters real.  I’d recommend this book to anyone not easily offended by adult subject matter (not to the extent of porn, but a good solid ‘R’ rating).


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3 Responses to “Little Children – A Book Review”
  1. magicman says:

    You definitely can motivate someone to read or watch something. I am excited to read this gritty, sexual book. For the expression of art, that is…

  2. Jessica says:

    I agree that Tom Perotta can really set a scene. I listened to this book on tape and would recommend it in that form too. Also, I REALLY want to read Perotta’s latest, The Abstinence Teacher.

  3. Jen says:

    I agree with magicman–you’ve definitely piqued my interest. My book club read this (and liked it) but for whatever reason I didn’t get around to reading it. Plus I figured since I saw the movie I wasn’t that interested. (Thought the movie was pretty good and especially loved Kate Winslet in it.) Now I may just have to reconsider and pick it up on my next trip to the library.

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