- Paperback: 368 pages
- Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; Reprint edition (Jan. 1 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0312315732
- ISBN-13: 978-0312315733
- Product Dimensions: 14 x 2.5 x 21 cm
- Shipping Weight: 204 g
- Average Customer Review: 52 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #244,366 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Little Children: A Novel Paperback – Jan 12 2005
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“Little Children offers a generous serving of laugh-out-loud moments... Perrotta is an astute student of 21st-century suburban life. He skewers--with a light touch--everything from book clubs to personal ads to mothers worried about getting their 4-year-olds into Harvard. At the same time he locates the humanity in even the most repugnant characters. Perrotta knows the white-picket fence dream is just that. Life is disappointing, sure, but a little bit of breezily sardonic humor goes a long way to ease the pain.” ―USA Today
“The voice is so key to what's so good about the book...Little Children is certainly Perrotta's most ambitious book...it marks a leap for Perrotta, a suggestion that there may be bigger books inside him. It is also that rarity, a book that understands the mature wisdom of compromise without denying any of the accompanying melancholy.” ―Charlie Taylor, salon.com
“Perrotta isn't breaking new ground when he reveals that American suburbs are petri dishes of ennui and alienation. But the he shows admirable zeal in prosecuting the case, and he comes as close as anybody to answering a not unimportant question: If the suburbs are the perfect community, the incarnation in grass and sunlight of American affluence, then how come life there is such hell?” ―Time Magazine
“In this satirical suburban novel...Perrotta's unsparing eye registers sullen teenage skateboarders, a vicious amateur football league and a women's book group discussing Madame Bovary over goat cheese and Chardonnay...readers will await the inevitable crash with horrified glee.” ―Newsweek Magazine
“The eponymous children in this satirical novel are actually adults who, chafing at the burdens of parenthood, try to re-create their unencumbered youth...The humor is sometimes cruel, but Perrotta never betrays the complexity of his characters.” ―The New Yorker
“Like the author's Election, this book tackles serious topics--like adultery and even pedophilia--with a surprisingly light tone.” ―US Weekly Magazine
“Big Important Book of the Month...Perrotta wisely refuses to condescend to the world he satirizes, and his masterful perspective provides the reader with a breezy omniscience over the character's failures in life. The book is disarmingly funny but rueful...the book's screenplay speed makes it infinitely readable. Little Children is a brave novel...engrossing, compassionate.” ―Esquire Magazine
“What a wicked joy it is to welcome Little Children, Tom Perrotta's extraordinary novel...a sterling comic contribution...raises the question of how a writer can be so entertainingly vicious and yet so full of fellow feeling. Bracingly tender moments stud Perrotta's satire...at once suspenseful, ruefully funny and ultimately generous...What is Tom Perrotta but an American Chekov whose characters even at their most ridiculous seem blessed and enobled by a luminous human aura?” ―Will Blythe, New York Times Book Review
“Little Children will be Mr. Perrotta's breakthough popular hit...poignantly funny...What distinguishes it from run-of-the-mill suburban satire is its knowing blend of slyness and compassion.” ―Janet Maslin, New York Times Review
“The cast is so real that book groups will have a blast comparing people they know to the ones in the book. Perrotta is that rare writer equally gifted at drawing people's emotional maps...and creating sidesplitting scenes. Suburban comedies don't come any sharper.” ―People Magazine
“Tom Perrotta's Little Children made me laugh so hard I had to put it down...an effervescent new work...a gentle, sparkling satire.” ―Entertainment Weekly
“With Little Children Perrotta has moved into the suburbs with a wrecking ball. He has cooked up recipes of depravity that would curl Betty Crocker's hair. If good satire can generate a corrective jolt, this may be a deadly shock.” ―Christian Science Monitor
“Darkly comic, with a mischievous eye for absurd and intimate detail...a virtuoso set.” ―Washington Post Review
“With this, his fifth book, Tom Perrotta has to be considered one of our true genius satirists. Little Children is a great book. Hilarious (I haven't laughed out loud so much over a book in years) but also deeply compassionate and, at times, terrifying. It's both an indictment of, and an elegy to, that odd sociological construct known as suburban America. I was enthralled by every page, and damn if I didn't find myself wishing I'd written it.” ―Dennis Lehane, author of Mystic River
About the Author
Tom Perrotta is the author of Bad Haircut, The Wishbones, Election, and Joe College. He lives in Belmont, Massachusetts.
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I loved the realness of the characters- the cattiness & bitchiness of the "park moms," the way Sarah felt towards her husband, the way Todd felt about his life.... All of it, all of the details and the conflicts (both, between different people and the internal conflicts of certain characters) seemed entirely plausible and real. I even loved the ending, although it's not what I was rooting for (as I'm sure most people feel about it).
I would definitely recommend this book- it's a fairly quick read and great for a rainy night, curled up by the fire! (A little too 'dark' for a beach-read, in my opinion.)
After gobbling this book up in two days, I'm afraid it doesn't really explore that strange transition; it really doesn't explore anything at all. It skims over the surface of too many characters and too many events, and uses that oldest of devices - an extramarital affair - to sustain interest, without arousing interest in much else. When reading Perrotta's excellent description of a football game, I think I understood why: Perrotta writes like a movie. His smooth, readable prose translates easily into images, the plots dovetail in a contrived and predictable way, and the entire plot of the book is split up into short scenes just like film narratives. This book would be incredibly easy to convert into a screenplay, and I'm sure someone's doing just that.
Like many writers whose first exposure to storytelling was through television and the movies, Perrotta seems to write more for the screen than the page. The problem with this is that he doesn't use the resources of the page, the most important of which is giving the characters a real interior life. Everyone in Little Children, from the people having the affair, to the spouses, to the child molester and his mother, is given a thumbnail personality, and a sketch of their personal history, but no one feels particularly alive; I didn't feel like I knew a single one of them. Which meant I didn't much care what happened to them.
Good actors, and a sharp screenplay, could make this material feel more vibrant than it is. Election, already made from one of Perrotta's books, had incredible vitality, partially because it was more clearly satirical than Little Children, which walks the line between satire and realism, and ends up doing neither effectively. The little humorous touches are what work best: for example, the line about JFK Jr. being the patron saint of people who have failed the bar exam, since the fact that he failed twice is sympathetically mentioned to Todd every time his inability to pass is brought up.
Other than these funny bits, the writing is good without ever being great. The big problem, I think, is that none of the characters have the power to surprise us. Todd and Sarah's affair proceeds in quite an ordinary way, the characters think thoughts that are always commonplace, and Perrotta ends with Todd's decidedly unrevelatory realization that his affair is exciting only because he is married. The thrill comes from the break in routine, not from the relationship with Sarah; the second Sarah replaces his wife as his primary relationship, he'll feel restless again. Well, obviously.
If an author wants to startle us, he either has to force us to identify with his characters, or at least understand how they think (for example, with the child molester), or depict the social forces that create these dreary people. Or, finally, make the book so funny or entertaining that we don't care about how predictable the characters are. Perrotta throws in some outlandish plot developments, like Sarah's husband being obsessed with an Internet pornography site, and then going off to see the woman who runs it, but someone the husband still felt like the same boring old guy; I wouldn't have cared if he'd ended up being the porn queen's long lost brother. Now, if Perrotta's point is that these people just aren't that special, then I don't see why I should bother reading a book about them.
The most interesting part of the book probably illustrates this. It comes in the book club that Sarah joins that is discussing Madame Bovary, the umbrella from under which all this infidelity-as-response-to-boredom literature emerged. Sarah says that Madame Bovary's problem wasn't that she was unfaithful, or excessively romantic, but that she committed adultery with losers, and never found anyone worthy of her heroic passion. Now, it isn't fair to compare every novel with old masterpieces, but Perrotta might have considered his own character's statement, and thought about whether anyone in his book either had, or was worthy of, that sort of passion. And, if not, why write about them?
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