54 of 58 people found the following review helpful
Since there are already 64 reviews here, I won't spend a lot of time synopsizing the book. Tom Violet is a smart-a$$ writer who works in a soul-crushing copywriting job and has just finished his novel. He can't get it up and wants to get it on with a too-young co-worker. His father, famous and about-to-be-Pulitzer-Prize-winnning writer Curtis Violet gets it up with every woman he's ever met. Tom's beautiful wife Anna is about to get it on with a banker who lusted after her at the gym. And Tom and Anna's daughter Allie is smart and cute and funny and draws lopsided pictures that go up on the refrigerator.
Story-wise, that's about all you need to know to get started. BTW... my copy was an uncorrected proof, filled to the bursting point with homonym challenges, so hopefully they caught those before the "real" copy came out. Otherwise you'll be shaking your head.
All that being said, here are the Top Ten Things That are Great About "Domestic Violets"
10. It's funny. Not generally laugh-out-loud funny, but amusing. Tom doesn't take life too seriously. He's glib. He's got a smart mouth. It amused this glib smart-mouth reader a lot.
9. It makes my soul happy to know that you can slave away at your novel for 5 years and you can finish it. There's hope. It also makes my soul happy to think that there's a novelist who is not only great but is recognized in public like a celebrity. Ah, fiction... how I love you.
8. English Lit majors of the world unite. At one point, Tom and Anna (both English Lit majors) are in the kitchen and Tom mentions how his friend is worried. "Is it about the... economy?" Anna asks. The book goes on: Anna is as helpless as I am when it comes to exactly what it is that's put the world in its current state. At least one of us should have majored in something legitimate.
7. It's nice reading about a family where everyone is literate and smart, even if they don't always act it. It's more amusing than reading about dolts.
6. A nice father-son tale within a father-and-son tale. Story-wise, these elements weave together well.
5. Three Men and a Baby. At one point, Tom, his father, and his step-father, all of whom are in a state of domestic disharmony, are all living at Tom's house, making sure that Allie is fed and driven to school and cared for. And while 5 year old Allie is probably the most sensible of the bunch, their efforts show a lot of tenderness for her and for each other... without getting soppy.
4. A great sex scene and several great near-sex scenes and a pretty good non-sex scene.
3. Characters you wouldn't necessarily want to know, but who amuse you from a nice distance. Everyone needs a best friend doctor who plays a rotten game of gold and has a drawer full of Viagra... or a step father who will take out a billboard to proclaim his undying love.
2. A barroom brawl between a Pulitzer Prize winning novelist and the fiction editor of new Yorker magazine.
1. A happy ending. I needed one of those. You might, too. Come and get it.
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
Tom's father (Curtis Violet) is an aging womanizer who just won the Pulitzer for a short story collection. Tom's mother (Maryanne) ended her own writing career years earlier, despite publishing an acclaimed book of stories that didn't sell, because she believed there couldn't be two writers in a family. Maryanne is taking a break from Gary, her second husband, having realized that she only married him because he wasn't Curtis. Tom has just finished writing a novel of his own, which his family members lack the time or desire to read.
Tom hates his copywriting job (he doesn't integrate well with coworkers who use words like "leverage" and "facilitate") and seems dead set against career advancement. His domestic life is no more satisfying than his work life. He's plagued by ED and he's "a little bit in love" with a beautiful young coworker named Katie. Although Tom nervously but politely snubs Katie when he runs into her while having dinner with his family at Johnny Rockets, neither his wife (Anna) nor his father believe his assurance that "there's nothing going on," and the snubbing doesn't endear him to Katie. Just as troubling is Tom's growing concern that Anna is involved with another man. In short, Tom feels inadequate: as a husband, as a son, as a father, and as a writer. Tom is unhappy ... until he does something at work that's either daring or stupid (or both) but in any event wickedly funny, an act of defiance that changes the course of his life.
These events probably don't sound terribly amusing, but domestic turmoil has nourished comedy at least since Shakespeare. Much of the humor in Domestic Violets could be faulted for being too obvious -- it's the routine stuff of comedy club monologues -- but I laugh at old jokes if they're well told, and this novel kept me grinning. A running joke that will appeal to readers is Curtis' rivalry with another acclaimed writer named Zuckerman -- "the most boring writer in America," according to Curtis. More literary laughter, this time bordering on slapstick, involves a brawl between Curtis and the fiction editor for The New Yorker.
While Matthew Norman bases the first two (of four) parts of Domestic Violets on humor, he tries to build emotional intensity in part three as Tom and Anna confront their fears and desires and, finally, each other. Their story isn't deep but it's utterly genuine. Part four increases the intensity and even becomes a little vicious. Characters are definitely not playing well together in the novel's last act, although the worst offenders are minor characters (perhaps too predictably, none of the likable characters become unlikable). Part four sacrifices laughs for drama, leading to a conclusion that, while not unsatisfying, is a little too cute. In fact, Tom seems to lead such a charmed life it was difficult for me to sustain belief in the story.
Those criticisms aside, there are reasons to recommend Domestic Violets. The novel has one of the best sex scenes (or "almost sex" scenes) I've encountered: it's passionate and absurd and tender, just like the real thing. There's a melancholy sweetness to this story that, combined with its hopefulness, serves as a reminder that we can all find our better natures if we make the effort -- and that when our better natures surface as the result of chance rather than intent, we should recognize and embrace them. Whether you do the right thing by accident or design, Tom comes to understand, what matters is that you do the right thing.
Neither Norman's serviceable prose style nor his unchallenging plot will win him a Pulitzer, but Domestic Violets is likely to earn Norman a fair number of satisfied readers. For me, the humor was more effective than the soapy drama, but the novel delivered enough laughs to earn my recommendation.
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Tom Violet, the narrator and main character in Matthew Norman's first novel, "Domestic Violets", is a troubled man going through some troubled times. It's the fall of 2008 and the novel's backdrop is, of course, the shaky economic times in the US and the election of Barack Obama to the presidency. Tom Violet is the son of Curtis Violet, a Norman Mailer-like literary lion. And like Mailer, Curtis Violet has had a series of wives, each younger than the last, and who maintains a high-living life-style. Tom, his only child, lives life in a much more circumspect manner.
At 35, Tom has a wife he loves but with whom he has a distant relationship. Tom and Anna have moved away from each other and both are fighting, in their own ways, to save their marriage. They have a young daughter, Allie, who is the light of their lives. Tom also has a job-in-a-cog. He's a copywriter for a Washington DC multi-national company and has realised he finds absolutely no satisfaction in his job, other than heckling a fellow employee and having the opportunity to have a crush on a young woman who works for him in a cubicle. And then his father, the famous novelist Curtis Violet is both awarded the Pulitzer Prize and moves out of his house and into Tom and Anna's.
So, okay, here's the thing. Tom Violet can't seem to make heads or tails of his life. Nothing is going right - marriage, fatherhood, son-hood (is that a word?), his work, or his relationships either of his parents or his friends. And things just keep getting worse for Tom. But Tom Violet has a secret; he has written his own novel. He's just beginning to show it to friends and family. Tom's novel plays an important place in author Matthew Norman's novel.
If I've made the plot to "Domestic Violets" sound complicated and the characters difficult and unlikable, I didn't mean to. Most of the characters are fully-drawn, and nuanced in that way that true people are. Everything that happens in "Domestic Violets" is plausible and the ending, while you can see it coming from across the cornfield, is quite satisfying.
"Domestic Violets" is my latest must-read book that I'll be touting to all my friends and family. I was really pleased with the depth of writing Matthew Norman displays in his first book and I'm looking forward to more from him.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Contemporary novels depicting the tribulations of women are often referred to as 'Chick Lit.' If there is an opposite, I believe Domestic Violets by Matthew Norman has introduced an authentic 'Dude Lit' novel into the fictional world. This self-depreciating tale explores life's pit falls with a humorous edge and provides relatable circumstances that are complicated, but not entirely isolated because many adults face similar situations at some point in the work place, marriage and in familiar relationships. The male perspective is refreshing and I image it will be well-received by both women and men giving Dude Lit an advantage over Chick lit (read primarily by females).
The story-line is predictable. Often, it is obvious where things are going and will end just as expected or anticipated. No surprises here. Men get a freer pass, a bit self-righteous in places, and the female characters are left to burden fault mixed with guilt due to the omission of truth and full disclosure. A plot twist seems opportunistic and given the father's ego, which is addressed the entire novel, I can't reconcile that he'd accept the offer presented by Tommy Violet. I understand why the author took this route, but I personally didn't like it. It was a convenient tie up of a loose end and an easy revelation. It was the path of least resistant and will give readers the over-all impression of a happy ending. The everyone wins, sort of, approach.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on November 8, 2011
The Violet family are like any other family - they're somewhat dysfunctional. At the head of the Violet family, there's Tom. Tom has what you would think is the perfect life - a job, a lovely wife, a beautiful daughter, an anxious dog - but somewhere along the way, Tom's life became something else. It became mundane. He had dreams, when he was younger. Dreams to be a writer. The only problem is, if Tom Violet ever did publish a novel, he'd have to put up with the stigma of being Curtis Violet's son. Curtis Violet, the great American novelist, who has just won the Pulitzer Prize for his latest book. So it's somewhat understandable that Tom isn't performing in any way, shape or form. But when the going gets tough, can the Violets pull their way out of it, or is Tom destined to live a mundane life forever?
The premise of Matthew Norman's debut novel Domestic Violets is an interesting one. It's one that's been done a few times before, sure, but there's a little added something to it that makes it stand out. Male Chick Lit novels are rare - in fact, you can count on two hands and still have fingers left with how many male Chick Lit writers there are - but it isn't just because Matthew Norman and Tom Violet are both men that make the novel unique (although, admittedly, it helps and it does indeed make a nice change to hear from the men in a marriage for a change!), it's the fact that the book doesn't beat around the bush. Fact is, women spend a lot of time thinking. Or, over-thinking, as the case may be, and so some Chick Lit novels spend a lot of time simply pondering. Which is cool, don't get me wrong; but y'know, it's nice to just get to the point once in a while and Domestic Violets does that. It gets to the point. Maybe it is a man thing, then...
Tom Violet does spend lots of time thinking and his inner monologue is awesome (particularly the HR comments), but there's a sense that Tom Violet gets things done. Maybe not in a roundabout sense (ie. things need to happen to him first to get him to react) but they get done. Things happen, and the novel just flies by. The characters help that massively. Tom's inner monologue, speeds the process up no end because he's witty and self-deprecating, but the book isn't just about Tom. It's about the whole, entire Violet family. His wife, Anna, for instance. His dad, the ever-present Curtis Violet. His step-dad, Gary. Heck, even the dog adds to the novel! I can't necessarily explain why I loved the book so much, but it was just like there was some kind of spark there, that kept me hooked, kept me wanting to see just what Tom or Curtis or even Anna would do next. To wonder what Tom was going to do about Katie (oh, Katie! I loved Katie), to see if Tom could somehow get his life back on track even though there wasn't a clear point, a clear reason as to how it had gotten off track in the first place (like I said, his life was seemingly perfect).
It wasn't the kind of novel where there's all kinds of crazy things that occur, I mean, crazy things did occur, but just because Tom felt his marriage was in trouble, he didn't immediately put an end to it, he didn't immediately push the self-destruct button. Y'know? It was a different kind of novel. Domestic Violets was just awesome. I mean, it's hard to explain. Truly, it is. I feel like I haven't really explained it well at all, but (thankfully) I do know what I'm trying to say (I know, at least one of us does, right?)... It had a brilliant, well-rounded feel to it. I found Tom fascinating, loved those all around him, and the best part was, I was never entirely sure what Tom would do next, never entirely sure what was going to be of the Violet family come the final page. I just let myself enjoy it and enjoy it I did. I admit, when I started the book I wasn't sure what it was going to be like, but it hooked me somehow (I wasn't even going to read it; I just wanted to see the first page, but I got hooked, which by the way, is an awesome thing to happen) and I'm glad I read it. It was massively enjoyable and, who knows? Maybe we'll visit the Violet family again in a future Norman novel and, if not, that's OK, too. This is a novel you should read, I mean the cover may not scream Chick Lit (but it's still brilliant, the bright blue is just... wow, so eyecatching) and you may shield your eyes from a man writing Chick Lit (the horror!), but Domestic Violets is well worth your time and money.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on February 22, 2012
"Domestic Violets" was written by Matthew Norman. Mr. Norman, a native from Nebraska, attended the University of Nebraska where he studied advertising and English. He earned an MFA in fiction writing at George Mason University and has published a number of short stories in various literary magazines. Matthew Norman lives with his wife and daughter in the Baltimore, Maryland area where he is employed a copywriter. "Domestic Violets" is his first novel.
This novel would be classified in the Melodrama genre; a human interest story. The writing is variously complex, expressing wit, sentimentality with a bare look at our human weaknesses and peculiarities. The prose achieves a kind of familiarity derived from thoughts expressed; rarely experienced in fiction novels with as much success as Norman maintains in this one. The tale is narrated in the first person by the main character with other character dialog interspersed throughout.
"Domestic Violets" is a soap opera, not exactly in the same realm as "Days of Our Lives" but soapy just the same. It centers on the life of one Thomas Violet, his wife Anna and little girl Allie - oh, also the family dog Hank, who doesn't contribute anything to the story but makes himself feel necessary. From this point on, we get introduced to all the rest of Tom's wacky family members; his famous father Curtis Violet, a philanderer, but also a successful fiction writer on course to receive a Pulitzer, and Tom's mother(Maryanne), step mother (Ashley) and step father (Gary). Tom's mother, Maryanne, is separated from his stepfather, Gary, and Gary is trying desperately to get back with her; Tom's father is separated from Ashley and Ashley desperately wants to get back together with Curtis. Curtis, in the meantime, is trying to cultivate a relationship with Sonya his literary agent. As the story opens, we find Tom working for a company as a copywriter, where he has an awkward relationship with one of his female coworkers and a palatable dislike for one of the copy editors; all of which eventually leads to a dramatic change in Tom's life.
You just have to like this novel. I didn't think that I would but I couldn't put it down. The writing was just terrific. Some of the "smart-ass" dialog was funny and engaging. Tom Violet has a sassy personality that comes across as smoothly as you can imagine. There's more to the story though. There is some real emotional human drama played out between Tom and his father, Curtis, and between Tom and his wife Anna. This emotional drama makes the composition and characters feel real and provide some serious contemplation of our relationships and what they mean.
I highly recommend this work be added to your reading list. I rate this novel "Memorable".
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on August 18, 2011
I finished reading this book last night before bed, and since then I have been looking forward to writing this review. Can I just say how much I adored reading this book? I said earlier that this was the best book I have read so far this year, and I meant it. I loved every little thing about it. As soon as this book hits the stores, I am going to go buy a copy for my personal library.
Domestic Violets opens a little bit strangely, with its main character Tom having a little problem with erectile dysfunction. Therefore, I was a little bit worried about how the book would play out. It turns out though, that I shouldn't have worried. The story was strange, funny, quirky, pathetic, and absolutely a joy to read. As a reader and reviewer, when a book is great you just know it. This will be a story that just resonates with its readers like it did me. I am physically sad that it is over.
Let's talk about the characters for a second, because they are what push the story over the edge into fabulous territory. There's Tom Violet, who is so likeable and flawed at the same time that it makes him feel like a real person and not just a character. Tom hates his job in corporate America, he loves his wife Anna, but the passion has gone out of their relationship. Tom develops a crush on the other copywriter at work. This makes his marriage even worse, because he keeps comparing his relationship with Anna to his relationship with Katie. Then there is the fact that his father is a famous, award winning writer. Tom idolizes his father, but is afraid his marriage will end up failed just like all of the relationships Curtis has had. Tom is also writing a book, but has been afraid to show it to anyone but Katie, because he is afraid that they will hate it.
Aside from all those story elements, there is a quirky cast of characters who all feel like they could have existed in the world that I personally inhabit. This is a book for readers, writers, and lovers of books. It's a story about normal people in an insane everyday world, dealing with real life problems. The things that happen in this novel could easily happen to you and me. And that's what makes it so great.
Full of dry humor and a whole lot of love, Domestic Violets is a book that everyone should pick up. I would stand out on a street corner in the pouring rain and promote this book for free. That's how much I loved it. Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy. Highly recommended by me.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on August 16, 2011
The Good: I'm not sure the GoodReads summary accurately describes how amazing this book was. I was hooked from the very first line and fell in love with Matthew Norman's writing throughout the book. Tom, the main character is a funny guy. He's also so unbelievably human. Norman has managed to capture every literate, funny, doting and fantasizing man into one man. Tom isn't perfect, he has flaws and plenty of them but he's willing to admit that. He's also willing to admit some of his biggest fears about himself, desire and his entire life. What this book in a nutshell (and this isn't a spoiler) is about comes down to basic human nature... when someone we love is good at something..no, not just good, FANTASTIC at it...we sort of want to be amazing at it too. Tom is constantly in the shadow of his uber-famous writer Dad and struggles with the fact that he wants to be a writer too but the fear of being only half as good as his father scares him. I mean can you imagine being Stephen King's kid and trying to live up to every one's expectations if you started to write? It would be hard right? So it's not hard to imagine Tom's anxiety about it. His also has a few marriage problems and lets face it...so does half of America. What I LOVED about Tom and Norman's take on relationships and marriage is that things WORK out for them. They stumble through until the find the way to fix things. I love that. Because it's real. Norman included some pretty awesome wacky characters including a gay literary agent and I have to say... I wish he were real! He is so awesome! All of the characters are individually creative, well drawn out and quirky. I think one of my favorite things about this book are the zingy one-liners and some of the passages that literally made me laugh out loud like :
pg. 252 "I can't believe they took away my BlackBerry," says Brandon. "What the f*** do they think I'm gonna do with it? Make a bomb? Who am I, MacGyver? At least let me check my Facebook."
I don't know why, but this was so perfectly written and placed in the most awesome context that I laughed and laughed. This is just one example of the MANY hilarious passages in the novel.
Lastly the thing I was really impressed with was the fact that this was an unedited proof version of the novel, and there were hardly any errors. A few here and there, but I was in complete awe of how amazing it was for being a proof copy. This novel actually had a touching message weaving throughout it. Not only is it a identity seeking novel, but one of forgiveness and discovery. As if I needed any more reasons to love this book, lastly I loved this book because Tom reminds me so much of me and many of us bloggers. His character almost stands in for those of us who have wanted so badly to publish our manuscripts but let the fear of not being good enough stand in our way. Tom Violet is here to prove us wrong. It can happen. It really can.
The Bad: Really, I have nothing bad to say about this book. One of my new favorites. The minor errors found could have been taken care of in official print version so I can't even comment on those.
This book deserves an A because it was AWESOME and I LOVED IT! You should really check it out!
**I received this book free from the publisher through (...). I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on August 19, 2011
Tom Violet was such a likable, albeit messed up guy. Having grown up in the shadow of his famous father, Tom is hesitant to take the leap into the writing career he has always longed to have. This leaves him stuck in a day job that he can't stand, working with people who annoy the heck out of him and daydreaming about his lovely coworker. (I'm sure many can relate to at least one if not two of these things.)
The humor presented in many situations in Domestic Violets is unlike anything I've read before. There were several times while reading Domestic Violets that I would burst into fits of laughter. There were others that I found myself rolling my eyes at something that Tom had done or said. Each time Tom got himself into a situation, I couldn't wait to see how he'd get out of it.
All of the characters in Domestic Violets felt really well-developed to me. Norman provided just enough back story so that we understood them without adding a lot of bulk to the story. There were hints and clues as to the direction of the story, but it wasn't so much that you could predict the ending by the end of the first chapter. All in all, a great book. The characters were great, the plot flowed, the humor was appropriate. Really, how often do you get to take a glimpse inside of a man's head and see what he's really thinking about?
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Matthew Norman has written an excellent first novel and he's managed just the right mix of the heartfelt and the humorous. Tom Violet is a mid-thirties married father with a humdrum job, a famous writer for a dad, and a not-so-famous writer for a mom. Of course, Tom has written an unpublished novel himself and aspires to the greatness his father has already achieved. Mix that in with a little ED issue, tension with the spouse, a precocious daughter, a frustrating job, and a perhaps unwise attraction to a co-worker and you've got "Domestic Violets".
Norman has the knack that all my favorite writers who use humor have (especially Perrotta and Hornby). He doesn't overdo it and when he strikes, at can cause audible laughter. Tom Violet might make the mistakes the reader sees coming, but Norman keeps you rooting for him. His antics at work are amusing as are (in general) his interactions with family members. Yet somehow, there is a poignancy to the entire thing. A little sappy toward the end, but that's a minor complaint. I very much enjoyed this book and will certainly seek out whatever Norman publishes next. Note to Hollywood: This would be an easy book to make into an excellent movie.