Books Read in 2014 – 43. The Witches of Eastwick by John Updike

imagesGenre: supernatural, magic realism

Narrative Style: Third person, chronological

Rating: 4/5

Published: 1984

Format: Hardback

Synopsis: In a quiet Rhode Island town, three divorcees join forces to create a powerful magical force. When Darryl Van Horne arrives in their town, the balance between them is disturbed and all hell breaks loose.

I was surprised to enjoy this quite so much. I wasn’t a big fan of the film although it was a long time ago that I saw it. But I recently inherited a lot of John Updike books and I thought a familiar storyline was a good place to start. Having said that, the story really didn’t ring any bells which might be because I can’t remember it or it may be that the film is completely different.

The story starts with a description of the three witches and their various talents and powers. It is true that their power does seem to rest with their sexuality or with nature – typically feminine forms of power. This was a bit of an irritant but I found that Updike’s rich prose and stunning description kept me reading regardless of any issues I may have had with stereotypical representations of women.

The arrival of Darryl Van Horne in Eastwick has a profound effect on all three of the women and he nurtures their talents as well as inviting them to his house for long sexy baths. He may have been conjured up by their collective longing or he may be the devil come to check on their powers. Either way, he upsets the balance of power between the women and in the town in general and things start to take a darker turn. What is also certain is that his powers are really no match for theirs and when he fails to gain what he wants, he dematerializes as suddenly as he came.

This is a fabulously, abundantly written book with almost too much to take in one every page. Updike never misses an opportunity to satirize small town life and the small ways people try to gain power for themselves. The details are nothing if not convincing even in amongst the supernatural happenings. I will certainly be reading more Updike and I wish I had not waited so long to read my first one.

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