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The Witches of Eastwick by John Updike

The Witches of Eastwick (original 1984; edition 1984)

by John Updike (Author)

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2,732363,588 (3.3)1 / 179
Based in the fictional Rhode Island town of Eastwick in the late '60s, this novel follows the witches Alexandra Spofford, Jane Smart, and Sukie Rougemont who acquire their powers after leaving or being left by their husbands.
Title:The Witches of Eastwick
Authors:John Updike (Author)
Info:Alfred A. Knopf (1984), Edition: 1st Trade Ed, 307 pages
Collections:Your library

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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)
I tried, I really did. I loved this movie and for me the movie was much better than this book. It was over-written (is that a thing?) because that's how it felt to me. I just wanted to read about these three women who are witches living in Eastwick. Instead Updike spends so much time on a lot of minutiae that I just didn't care to finish this.

I have talked to three other people and one had a reaction similar to mine (though she finished, and is still mad she didn't just put it away) one who was meh to the book and the third person who loved it and kept screeching they couldn't believe that I didn't like this since I am such a big reader. Yeah I like to read, not torture myself, this book was feeling mighty painful til I threw up the white flag of surrender.

Besides knowing that the three women are called Alexandra, Jane, and Sukie. I had some True Blood flashbacks cause of the name (same pronunciation, different spelling) and that's about it.

Updike spends so much time overly describing these three women and how their marriages ended (or didn't end, I still don't know) that my eyes started to glaze. I think one of them is a mat? I refuse to go back and read this book again. One of my friends told me that Updike was writing symbolically and that the one husband wasn't turned into anything and my response was I refuse to care about this and they started laughing. So there's that at least.

And I don't even know what to call this writing, purple prose on acid maybe. Cause everything was just too much. I at one point was all can you just get to the point?! The point!

There are just huge blocks of text staring at you because Updike doesn't seem to know how to end thoughts/paragraphs. And then you will have characters having three to five different inner thoughts and you want to scream because once again you just want to say get to the point.

I have never read an Updike before this one and I doubt that I will read any in the future. ( )
  ObsidianBlue | Jul 1, 2020 |
Originally, I told myself I'd give this book to the 10% mark to grab me, and then I'd DNF it. I did make it to 40%! But as I reflected on it this weekend, I realized I still couldn't say I was actually enjoying it at all on pretty much any level. Time to cut my losses.

Turn-Offs, in order of irritation:
- a male author writing female characters rhapsodizing about their newfound embrace of womanhood as they got older, got divorced, became witches. Bold move, Cotton. WORSE, there were 2 different places in which a female character muses on that natural healing nature/instinct of women... sexual healing, natch. The more a guy is a depressed, useless, schlubby, unattractive loser, the more they just want to open their bodies to him to provide him that sexual healing. Of course. That screams male wish-fulfillment waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay more than it does female sexual empowerment!

At least 2/3 of the women are sleeping with married men (not their first time doing that, either...) with no compunctions about it, but neither do they seem especially happy or fulfilled by it. And then they all sort of compete for/share in the "affections" of the newcomer to the town, who is this abrasive, overbearing, mansplaining dick.

- hard to catch any of the historicity of the setting. Peak sexual revolution and social upheaval, and none of it more than barely mentioned in passing a couple times. What's the point?

- sentences for days. I don't think of myself as the kind of person typically bothered by superfluous details in books (I like all the food descriptions in ASoIaF!), but damn, those were a lot of words to say not a lot about nothing very important, over and over. So many semicolons.

- it was hard to get a grip on how said magic existed. I'm willing to give some leeway on this, but this is an otherwise real-life historical ("Vietnam era") setting with otherwise normal life crap going on, but their magic is definitely real, apparently. It's just taken for granted that they found this outlet, which... if this is an integral part to their new identities... And I mean, I'm cool with unexplained magic, and authors/creators often go wrong in trying to justify or explain the inexplicable. But this is not set up necessarily as "the world is magic, deal with it," so it's just this odd choice that's not even the point of anything, so why...? ( )
  elam11 | May 30, 2020 |
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 |
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.

» Add other authors (12 possible)

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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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141188979, 0141045604

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