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The Witches of Eastwick: A Novel by John…

The Witches of Eastwick: A Novel (original 1984; edition 2012)

by John Updike (Author)

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2,574353,477 (3.3)1 / 174
Title:The Witches of Eastwick: A Novel
Authors:John Updike (Author)
Info:Random House (2012), Edition: Reissue, 196 pages
Collections:Your library, Read but unowned

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The Witches of Eastwick by John Updike (1984)



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English (32)  French (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (34)
Showing 1-5 of 32 (next | show all)
A lovely book, very different from the film. The film is frothy and silly and very Touchstone 1980s (whether they made it or not, I can't remember--but it's that kind of mood). The book is much more serious, although (given that it's about three women inadvertently summoning the devil) it's also a bit of a hoot.

Updike is well-known to be a terrific writer, and there's almost nothing I enjoy more than a good fantasy from a great writer. Not my all-time favourite book, so no 5 stars, but I have nothing to complain of here.

Just don't read it expecting the film in print. The film kept the central premise and the characters, but the tone is entirely changed. ( )
  ashleytylerjohn | Sep 19, 2018 |
When Updike opens his novel The Witches of Eastwick, the three women at the center of it (Alexandra, Jane, and Sukie) are already witches. A widow and two divorcees in a small town in the early 1960s, they are outside the conservative social order and each others' only real friends. They aren't especially nice people: they frequently behave spitefully, none of them are at all involved in their children's lives, and are all sleeping with married men. When Daryl Van Horn, the devil hisownself, arrives in town, he doesn't imbue them with power as much as heighten their ambition (and start having orgies with them, of course, because that's apparently what the devil does). While all of the women have romantic designs on Daryl on some level, they share him relatively peacefully until a younger woman, Jenny, joins their group and eventually succeeds in becoming Mrs. Van Horn. The witches are jealous and band together to use their magic to kill her. Van Horn then skips town with Jenny's younger brother and the women each, eventually, conjure up a good man and themselves depart Eastwick.

It's a lot of pretty heavy material without much to lighten it up. The women have some small moments of sympathy, but are largely negative people that aren't very enjoyable to read about. You would think that the literal devil would be a compelling character, at least. He's supposed to be interesting, right? Not as Updike writes him. Daryl is never written as even particularly physically attractive, much less the charismatic wily schemer you would expect the Prince of Darkness to be. There was no one to care about, much less identify with or root for. Updike's writing is good (if you're into the flowery-language-and-run-on-sentences kind of writing, which I tend to be), but the story falls completely flat.

Because I didn't like the book, I spent much less time thinking about it and its plot as a story and more time wondering if I thought this was, as it is usually considered, a feminist work. On the one hand, you have women who are close friends, who have discovered and own their power, who have the sex lives they want to have, who are not defined by their motherhood, and who are unapologetic for any of this. While we're often presented with narratives about men who behave in an antisocial manner and asked to consider them the heroes of the story, The Witches of Eastwick is a rare example of this phenomenon for female characters. On the other hand, they aren't given many redeeming features, either: they aren't funny or really all that interesting, they're petty, and they're driven to a murderous jealous rage over...a man. Their "happy endings" only come when they've each found themselves...a man. I think on the balance, it's more feminist than not, but I will qualify that by saying that Updike writes terribly about the experience of being a woman. When he writes about sex or menses, it's cringeworthy. And even if it's mostly feminist, that doesn't mean I have to like it. I didn't, and I wouldn't recommend it. It's just not fun to read. ( )
  500books | May 22, 2018 |
Enjoyable Updike writing. ( )
  brakketh | May 2, 2018 |
This took me a long time to read and I kept mentally contrasting it to the movie (very difficult, as they are hardly the same at all). But, I really liked the end ... almost enough to make me consider picking up The Widows of Eastwick. ( )
  SMBrick | Feb 25, 2018 |
This book centres around three women – Alexandra, Sukie and Jane – who live in the fictional Rhode Island town of Eastwick in the early 1970s. They are all divorced and/or widowed, and they all just happen to be witches. Their close friendship is threatened by the arrival in town of the base, bawdy, but hugely charismatic Darryl Van Horne. And…that’s about it. More does happen, but the storyline here is really pretty slow, centering more on the interactions between the main characters.

I must confess that this was not what I expected it to be at all. Having recently watched the film again for the first time in years, I expected the book to be of much the same tone – quirky, funny and colourful. It wasn’t, and while it did eventually draw me in somewhat, quite often I found myself looking for something else to do rather than pick up the book, and certain parts did feel really tedious.

I didn’t find any of the characters believable, although to an extent maybe they weren’t meant to be. Indeed out of the three women, the only vaguely likeable one was Alexandra (until it was revealed that she had used a spell to kill a puppy out of sheer spite; that takes some getting past). The prose was undoubtedly eloquent in places, but I always felt that Updike was inserting descriptions where they weren’t required, and was forever flying off at tangents.

The fact that the three women were witches – and were not the only witches in Eastwick – was not treated as particularly surprising to other members of the community, although it was repulsive to some of them, and some of the things that happened because of their spells (such as unusual items coming out of people’s mouths while they were talking). There was not an awful lot of humour in the story, but a lot of simmering malice. In short, for me this book was something of a let-down. I can sort of see why some people would love it, and there were flashes of great enjoyment sandwiched between the weirdness, but as it turned out I was just relieved to get to the end of this one. ( )
  Ruth72 | Jun 21, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 32 (next | show all)
Mr. Updike takes ''sisterhood is powerful'' at its word and imagines it literally. What if sisterhood really is powerful? What will the sisters use their ''powers'' for? And what - given human nature, of which Mr. Updike takes not too bright a view - what then? Luckily these witches are only interested in the ''personal,'' rather than the ''political''; otherwise they might have done something unfrivolous, like inventing the hydrogen bomb.... ''The Witches of Eastwick'' is an excursion rather than a destination. Like its characters, it indulges in metamorphoses, reading at one moment like Kierkegaard, at the next like Swift's ''Modest Proposal,'' and at the next like Archie comics, with some John Keats thrown in. This quirkiness is part of its charm, for, despite everything, charming it is. As for the witches themselves, there's a strong suggestion that they are products of Eastwick's - read America's - own fantasy life.

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Updike, Johnprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Brisk, DavidTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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He was a meikle blak roch man, werie cold.
—Isobel Gowdie, in 1662
Now efter that the deuell had endit his admonitions, he cam down out of the pulpit, and caused all the company to com and kiss his ers, quihilk they said was cauld lyk yce; his body was hard lyk yrn, as they thocht that handled him.
—Agnes Sampson, in 1590

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"And oh yes," Jane Smart said in her hasty yet purposeful way; each s seemed the black tip of a just-extinguished match held in a playful hurt, as children do, against the skin. "Sukie said a man has bought the Lenox mansion."
For the last time...the exact blue of such a July day falls into my eyes. My lids lift, my corneas admit the light, my lenses focus it, my retinas and optic nerve report it to the brain. Tomorrow the Earth's poles will tilt a day more toward August and autumn, and a slightly different tincture of light and vapor will be distilled.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0449912108, Paperback)

Toward the end of the Vietnam era, in a snug little Rhode Island seacoast town, wonderful powers have descended upon Alexandra, Jane, and Sukie, bewitching divorcées with sudden access to all that is female, fecund, and mysterious. Alexandra, a sculptor, summons thunderstorms; Jane, a cellist, floats on the air; and Sukie, the local gossip columnist, turns milk into cream. Their happy little coven takes on new, malignant life when a dark and moneyed stranger, Darryl Van Horne, refurbishes the long-derelict Lenox mansion and invites them in to play. Thenceforth scandal flits through the darkening, crooked streets of Eastwick—and through the even darker fantasies of the town’s collective psyche.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:02 -0400)

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In a small New England town in the late 1960s, there lived three witches Alexandra Spoffard, sculptress, could create thunderstorms. Jane Smart, a cellist, could fly. The local gossip columnist, Sukie Rougemont, could turn milk into cream. Divorced but hardly celibate, content but always ripe for adventure, our three wonderful witches one day found themselves quite under the spell of the new man in town, Darryl Van Horne, whose hot tub was the scene of some rather bewitching delights. To tell you any more, dear reader, would be to spoil the marvelous joy of reading this hexy, sexy novel by the incomparable John Updike. --Publisher description.… (more)

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Average: (3.3)
0.5 4
1 19
1.5 1
2 45
2.5 11
3 157
3.5 34
4 129
4.5 15
5 33

Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141188979, 0141045604

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