Domestic Violets by Matthew Norman is surprisingly touchy-feely. Not in the abusive sense suggested by the title, but certainly in an uncomfortable sense. It begins in the bedroom, where Tom’s wife wants to be touchy, but he has no feely. The pressure of conceiving a second child is affecting his ability to perform. Tom is having a mid-life crisis at the age of 35. He aspires to be an author, like his Pulitzer Prize-winning father, but he is stuck in a corporate copywriter job. Even though he has finished his novel he can’t bear to show it to anyone. The pressure of being Curtis Violet’s heir apparent is too stifling. He is impotent in every way.

Tom is not the only Violet facing a domestic disturbance, however. His father may be a supremely successful writer, but his latest marriage to an overly dramatic supermodel is failing. Tom’s mom is pondering leaving her overtly normal husband.  His wife is covertly finding validation in the attentions of another man at her gym, while Tom covets a younger woman at work. In the midst of this upheaval Tom takes a stand, refusing a promotion in order to promote his novel. Tom tells his wife:

“The day you take on a real job with real responsibilities, that’s the day you’re done writing. You become some poser with five chapters of some shitty novel in your bottom drawer that you’re never going to be able to finish because you’ve got screaming kids downstairs and some bullshit presentation to give about some useless buzzword.”

Nailed it, like biting down on a piece of tinfoil. I’ve never worked as a copywriter, but swap that with book buyer and this story touches on some exposed nerve endings. I was drawn to read this book for that very reason, but it was an uncomfortable feeling. It’s an entertaining read with many cultural references and it races along like Curtis’s Porsche, but the abrupt touchy-feely ending left me a bit queasy.


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