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The Witches of Eastwick: A Novel Paperback – Aug 27 1996
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“John Updike is the great genial sorcerer of American letters [and] The Witches of Eastwick [one of his] most ambitious works. . . . [A] comedy of the blackest sort.”—The New York Times Book Review
“A great deal of fun to read . . . fresh, constantly entertaining . . . John Updike [is] a wizard of language and observation.”—The Philadelphia Inquirer
“Vintage Updike, which is to say among the best fiction we have.”—Newsday
From the Inside Flap
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.
Top Customer Reviews
One flaw I saw with the novel was the fact that very little happened with any consequence. The witches have affairs all over the place, people die, and magic is thrown around a good deal, but it seems more for the sake of getting a vague 'impression' of what's going on, rather than pushing the non-existant plot forward. Much of the consequences in this novel usually result in something being gossiped about, and then it's back to the sex and hyper-focused detail and narrative meanderings, and then more sex.
In short, it'll be hard to sit on the fence about this one- it's not a likable book, but it'll be entertaining and thoughtful if you want it to be.
The women are Alexandra Spofford, a sculptress, Jane Smart, a cellist, and Sukie Rougemont, the local gossip columnist. They drink a lot, neglect their kids, have sex with married men, and cast spells to torment their enemies, who are usually their lovers' wives; they have the traditional witchlike manners of being vindictive, temperamental, and spiteful. They've never desired a man in common until they meet a vaguely devilish fellow named Darryl Van Horne who has bought an old mansion on the outskirts of town. Van Horne is quite mysterious: He's a Manhattanite, a pianist, a collector of tacky nouveau art, and a renegade scientist, trying to discover impossibly efficient methods of generating electricity. He takes an interest in Alexandra's crude little sculptures, accompanies Jane in some sonatas, and encourages Sukie to write novels. He invites them to play tennis (where their magic lends itself to some creative cheating) and partake of the orgiastic pleasures of his hot tub.
The witches' auras induce strange and tragic effects on the lives of their lovers. Ed Parsley, the Unitarian minister, runs off to join the anti-war movement, leaving his churlish wife Brenda to take over the pulpit. Clyde Gabriel, the editor of Sukie's newspaper, is stuck with a gabby wife who gets her satisfaction from finding fault with everything.Read more ›
But that aside, let's discuss the book as it is. The three witches are not particularly likeable. They are spiteful and vindictive. I guess I was dismayed at how much they talked about treasuring life, and then how quickly they would just kill someone or thing. I felt like Mr. Updike was trying to make some sweeping comment about humanity in general, but I never quite "got" it. It was almost as if, we had three different women, who just happened to be witches and we were given a look into how they would react if they really could make someone's life a living hell. As a character study, it was interesting. Jane seemed to be the most vindictive and hateful. Alexandra seemed the most caring, but even she had a vindictive streak that she usually felt sorry for after the fact. She managed to kill one day, and one squirrel just because they were irritating. Sukie struck me as the flaky one.
I feel that the novel was supposed to be an allegory, but I still found it a bit disturbing that the three witches were portrayed as quite so promiscuous. I just can't believe that in a small town, there could be three women that were having affairs with just about every married man in town and no one seemed to notice. It also seemed to be common knowledge that the three were witches and no one seemed to think that unusual.
In spite of the characters that aren't particularly likeable and the unbelievably of a lot of the novel, it still seems to draw you into the story and I found myself continuing to read, just to see how it all would end.
Most recent customer reviews
I had seen the movie a few times and as almost always, the book is different. It was an interesting read, but I would say it is darker than the movie.Published on Feb. 14 2013 by Pat J.
When I finally got around to reading the novel the movie *CLAIMS* to be based on I was at first confused and then utterly delighted. Read morePublished on July 12 2004 by J.K.
I thought that this was a delightful comic novel by Updike set, (as usual?) in a small East Coast community, and (again, as usual? Read morePublished on Oct. 23 2002 by MR G. Rodgers
This extremely rich novel is an outstanding sample of American society (in New England)in the late 60's*, also because the main characters are mostly centered on women. Read morePublished on Feb. 6 2002 by ana teresa de castro
Updike's novel is totally overworded with unnecessary details that fail to move the story on. Did we really need to know about Sukie contemplating the area between her legs while... Read morePublished on Aug. 9 2001
There's a scene in "The Witches of Eastwick" when one of the witches raises a thunderstorm on a beach. Read morePublished on Aug. 15 2000 by George R. Galuschak
I won't go into what I dislike about John Updike's writing. I'll try to stick to this one book, the only one of his novels I managed to finish, thus the two stars instead of one. Read morePublished on July 26 2000
I found this a very entertaining read and finished it on a coast-to-coast return plane trip. There were several parts where I laughed out loud. Read morePublished on April 25 2000