Sibling incest is forbidden because “impressionable children” having “passionate unions so all-encompassing and exclusive” will cause “life after the age of twelve [to]…be a frenzy of nostalgia for those who have known the bliss of such transgression.” So says Phillip Roth in the Foreword of Playing House. Originally released in 1973, this tale of a woman’s insanity brought on by consensual incest as a child is both gripping and chilling. Written in the first person, the traumatized woman takes the reader on a trip through her disjointed mind and her less than ideal life.
The narrator in the story never names herself or the people in her life. Instead, she refers to everyone by either their relationship to her or what they represent in her life. The story begins with the narrator puzzling over her husband, “the Turtle,” and yearning for the incestual relationship she had with her brother as a child. Through the many depictions of the narrator’s mental instability it is revealed that life (and sex) has taken on a surreal quality since her last taboo encounter, all brought on by the normal and abnormal feelings she has for her brother. Her timelessness fugue state allows the reader to not just understand her insanity but to experience it.
In Playing House, Fredrica Wagman presents a mesmerizing account that is timeless enough to warrant its re-release 35 years after it first shocked and awed the nation. So compelling are the narrator’s desires that the reader finds his/herself almost hoping that she and her brother finally do achieve their “house by the sea.”
Erin fell in love with the written word as a small child and subsequently spent most of her life happily devouring literature. She works as a freelance news, marketing, and technical writer. Erin lives just outside of Cleveland, Ohio with her husband, children, and grandchildren.
This book was provided for review by FSB Media.