Book Review

WIT by Margaret Edson

Rating: 4.5 / 5

The Reading Women Reading Challenge had a prompt for a play this year and that is the one prompt that really threw me the most. Finding a play written by a woman and available through one of my local libraries proved more difficult than expected! Finally I was able to identify WIT by Margaret Edson and put it on hold. It came through just in time for the recent Reading Rush readathon to fulfill the prompt to read a whole book in one location. It was short and easily read in a morning sitting out on my patio.

WIT focuses on Vivian Bearing, a successful English professor who has spent her life and her career studying the poetry of John Donne. She has been diagnosed with stage four ovarian cancer and is undergoing experimental treatment in a research hospital. Speaking to the audience at the beginning of the play, Vivian indicates that she has been given only a couple hours to live.

The play offers flashbacks to Vivian’s first diagnosis and even further back to the beginnings of her desire to study English. We get glimpses of her time in the classroom with her students and she was not a warm and fuzzy type of individual. She called students on their errors and demanded nothing short of excellence.

Now that she is reduced to being a patient, reliant on doctors and nurses for everything, Vivian is reexamining her life and her choices. She doesn’t have friends and family surrounding her in her final hours, just her memories of teaching and poetry. Instead she is a teaching moment for students in a research hospital.

While reading plays isn’t really something I do often, this one worked well in print. It had a limited cast and was very reliant on speech to convey the actions. It was meant to be portrayed on a pretty limited set, mostly all taking place in a single hospital room. The text indicates that lighting effects and such are to be used to portray the different medical tests she undergoes.

This was beautifully written and sadly touching. It brings with it the wit for which it was named, bringing lighter moments into a very dark subject. I can certainly understand why it has been so heavily praised (it was the winner of the Pulitzer Prize and many others).

This is certainly not something I would have discovered if not for the reading challenge prompt, so I am very glad that I read WIT.

4 thoughts on “WIT by Margaret Edson”

  1. I’m not a fan of plays, but this one seems like it reads like a novel. It also seems to be a poignant tale of a woman on the brink of death, reflecting on her life’s choices. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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