Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Widows of Eastwick.

Title/Author: The Widows of Eastwick by John Updike.

Read by: Kate Reading.

Genre: Fiction.

Publisher: Random House Audio.

Source: Library.

Favorite character: None.

Favorite quote:

All in all: Beautifully written, but slow.

Synopsis: More than three decades have passed since the events described in John Updike’s The Witches of Eastwick. The three divorcĂ©es—Alexandra, Jane, and Sukie—have left town, remarried, and become widows. They cope with their grief and solitude as widows do: they travel the world, to such foreign lands as Canada, Egypt, and China, and renew old acquaintance. Why not, Sukie and Jane ask Alexandra, go back to Eastwick for the summer? The old Rhode Island seaside town, where they indulged in wicked mischief under the influence of the diabolical Darryl Van Horne, is still magical for them. Now Darryl is gone, and their lovers of the time have aged or died, but enchantment remains in the familiar streets and scenery of the village, where they enjoyed their lusty primes as free and empowered women. And, among the local citizenry, there are still those who remember them, and wish them ill. How they cope with the lingering traces of their evil deeds, the shocks of a mysterious counterspell, and the advancing inroads of old age, form the burden on Updike’s delightful, ominous sequel.

My Thoughts:
The first thing that struck me about this audio book was the narrator. What a beautiful voice. Her words slid through the air like snow falling, consonants delicate taps on the air. Her portrayal suited all the characters and it was as if she became each character. Kate Reading is a truly wonderful performer.

The second thing that struck me is that there seems to be a lot in the first book that I didn’t know about. I saw the movie version The Witches of Eastwick with Cher, but I realized the first book is a lot different and I think I want to read it now.

I was expecting spooky and witchy and supernatural, but really there was not a lot of it. The book takes place when the three women are in their 70s, after they’ve all lost their husbands and they are taking stock and looking back. They reconnect with each other but they can never seem to get back what they once had, with each other or themselves.

The first part of the book is Alexandra dealing with the recent loss of her second husband, Jim and chronicles her travels and reflections of life. Then she reconnects with Jane and they go to Egypt. Then they connect with Suki and they all go to China. Again, beautiful descriptions and smart writing and perhaps it was to let the reader know the characters and how they’ve changed and give a plateau of what they are searching for. They are all dreading the idea that they are reaching the end of their lives and they really hate the elderly bodies they now find themselves in. They obviously long for their youth and don’t seem comfortable in their own skin.

However, it’s when the three of them decide to go back to Eastwick, RI for the summer that I feel the real story starts. They feel they want to put right some wrongs, and they kind of flounder in determining whether the events of that time were truly witchcraft or not.

It’s very literary, not a ton of action, some drama. A lot of it, I felt, is an ode to feminism, reflections on their life, how their sex life defined them or perhaps rather how they defined their sex life. There also seemed to be a lot of commentary on how society and culture has changed and while I do acknowledge this is important, I’d rather discuss it in a class or a conversation. In this book, I felt there was just too much.

I do have to say, I wasn’t totally bored and for the most part The Widows of Eastwick kept my interest. The writing is exquisite and it is clear that Updike is extremely astute. Although I wouldn’t say this book is a must read, I do want to go back and read The Witches of Eastwick.


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