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Review: ‘Domestic Violets’ by Matthew Norman

Review: ‘Domestic Violets’ by Matthew Norman post image

Title: Domestic Violets
Author: Matthew Norman
Genre: Fiction
Year: 2011
Acquired: During an author signing at BEA
Rating: ★★★★★

One Sentence Summary: Tom Violet’s life hasn’t quite lived up to his dreams, but that could all change if he can get his act together.

Two Sentence Review: This book is awesome. Read it.

Long Review: While I like to write my own book summaries, sometimes what’s on the back of the book is hard to beat. That’s case with Domestic Violets by Matthew Norman, a fabulous book from Harper Perennial:

Tom Violet always thought that by the time he turned thirty-five, he’d have everything going for him. Fame. Fortune. A beautiful wife. A satisfying career as a successful novelist. A happy dog to greet him at the end of the day.

The reality, though, is far different. He’s got a wife, but their problems are bigger than he can even imagine. And he’s written a novel, but the manuscript he’s slaved over for years is currently hidden in his desk drawer while his father, an actual famous writer, just won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. His career, such that it is, involves mind-numbing corporate buzzwords, his pretentious archnemesis Gregory, and a hopeless, completely inappropriate crush on his favorite coworker. Oh . . . and his dog, according to the vet, is suffering from acute anxiety.

Tom’s life is crushing his soul, but he’s decided to do something about it. (Really.) Domestic Violets is the brilliant and beguiling story of a man finally taking control of his own happiness—even if it means making a complete idiot of himself along the way.

There have been a lot of fantastic reviews if the book, and frankly, I’m not sure what else interesting I can add. I absolutely loved reading Domestic Violets — it’s sarcastic, warm, sweet, and engaging throughout, and a book I’ve recommended to a number of people since I finished it last month.

When I started the book, I was reminded quite a bit of Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris. Domestic Violets has the same really sarcastic look at the modern workplace that I find completely hilarious. Take, for instance, this observation from Tom, our lovable-yet-flawed-and-frustrating everyman, about his coworkers:

The color of his face is beginning to match his burgundy die. Greg is a tie guy, and I am a non-tie guy. This represents the rift among the males in our office — Business Casual vs. Business Formal — and I’m almost certain it will eventually lead to a choreographed dance fight in the employee lounge.

The different between the two books, in my experience, is that Domestic Violets is a much more affectionate book. Behind his sarcasm and critical eye, Tom is a loving and lovable guy, a friend, a person who wants to do more and do the right thing. I rooted for all of the characters in Domestic Violets.

In fact, that’s another great thing about this book. Although Tom is the main character, every person in the book has a moment to shine and moments where you see them grow as characters through some very real struggles. It’s much more of an ensemble cast book that I initially expected.

I do have some concerns about the books life-span. There are a lot of topical references to President Obama, the economic collapse, and other quite timely events that makes me wonder if the book will start to feel dated sooner than it might otherwise. But really, that’s just an observation made out of concern, because I thought this book was so excellent I want it to stick around for awhile.

Take the time to read Domestic Violets; I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Other Reviews: write, meg! | my books. my life. | S. Krishna’s Books |

If you have reviewed this book, please leave a link to the review in the comments and I will add your review to the main post. All I ask is for you to do the same to mine — thanks!

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Trisha September 9, 2011, 7:23 am

    That’s one serious recommendation! I have to admit I really have a soft spot for the more sarcastic, funny, yet highly intelligent and relevant stories like this. And hey, Christmas is coming up!

    • Kim September 11, 2011, 8:16 am

      I have a soft spot for them too. I thought this one hit the perfect spot between sarcastic and heartfelt for me.

  • Meg September 9, 2011, 7:41 am

    Oh, I’m so with you — this is easily one of my favorite reads this year. I agree regarding the book’s lifespan, too, but I think that — years from now — we’ll read it fondly as a time capsule from this turbulent era. It was interesting to me to read a truly contemporary work of contemporary fiction, and I didn’t want it to end.

    • Kim September 11, 2011, 8:17 am

      That’s a good point — this book felt absolutely contemporary for me, totally within this particular time, and I really liked that about it.

  • Kailana September 9, 2011, 8:46 am

    I am glad to see you enjoyed this, too! I was a bit surprised by how much I did. I am so glad I went out of my comfort zone a bit and requested a copy!

    • Kim September 11, 2011, 8:18 am

      I was a little surprised as well — sometimes when books have a lot of hype, I end up a little let down. That just wasn’t the case with this book.

  • Stephanie September 9, 2011, 10:56 am

    I can’t wait to read this one. I assumed it would be comparable to Then We Came to the End in some way, just because it seemed like that kind of style, so I am super excited now that you affirmed that.

    • Kim September 11, 2011, 8:19 am

      The biggest similarity for me was the really sarcastic take on the modern workplace, and the sorts of relationships we develop with our coworkers. I liked that connection, even if the books seem to have slightly different ideas about it.

  • bermudaonion (Kathy) September 9, 2011, 1:38 pm

    I loved this book too. Maybe 20 years from now those references will feel nostalgic instead of dated.

    • Kim September 11, 2011, 8:20 am

      I think that’s a definite possibility. In fact, I’m sure that’s what will happen, since the rest of the book is so excellent.

  • Andi September 9, 2011, 3:37 pm

    Sadly I could not get into this one, but given all the good reviews I’ve seen from bloggers I trust, I wonder if it was my mood? Methinks I may need to try harder. 🙂

    • Kim September 11, 2011, 8:20 am

      I hope you give it another try; I really liked this one!

  • Erin September 9, 2011, 7:43 pm

    Wow, when any blogger gets behind a book so strongly, it’s hard to ignore! I am making note of this one for next time I have some reading down time. It sounds excellent, and the quote you shared made me giggle…usually a good thing!

    • Kim September 11, 2011, 8:22 am

      I laughed out loud many times while reading this book, which I also really like! It’s very, very funny.

  • christa @ mental foodie September 10, 2011, 10:19 am

    So many good reviews on this one! Don’t think I had read any neg review yet!

    • Kim September 11, 2011, 8:22 am

      I don’t think I have either — that’s pretty awesome!

  • Amy October 2, 2011, 8:35 pm

    I’m with you 100% … this is DEFINITELY one of my favorite books of 2011!

    I hadn’t thought about the book’s life span piece that you mention … interesting & something to think about!

    • Kim October 6, 2011, 6:12 am

      I’ll be really curious to re-read the book in a few years to see how it holds up.