November 11, 2013

The Witches of Eastwick by John Updike (Review)

Title: The Witches of Eastwick
Author: John Updike
First published: 1984
Add it: Goodreads, The Book Depository
Rating: ★★★★★

This is one of those books you don't know how to start writing about. Not only has it layers upon layers of meaning, it is also so enchanting that you are afraid that the charm will be broken from your amateur jabber. But in spite of being intimidated and feeling totally unequal to the task, I'll try, because to pass over this book in silence would be very unfair.

The story takes place in a small rural town of Eastwick, where everybody know each other (and some of them has even slept with almost everybody they know) and where in the sleepy atmosphere of quiet contempt a coven of three witches is formed. They are all middle-aged women, divorced and not caring much for their children. What they care about is their womanliness, their self-actualization and their powers. Now this is tricky, because their powers are very subtle, like when they wish somebody to break their leg, sometime later they do. A "reasonable" person can find millions of plausible explanations why it's just an accident, but when these incidents repeat, nobody doubts that this is witchcraft. Sometimes they become very nasty, but they try to think they are only tools of some Nature's purpose.

All goes relatively well in the town and in their coven before a new menacing resident Darryl Van Horne appears in an old mansion on the shore. He lures all three of them to his house, joins in their Sabbaths and tries to challenge them to do something new and bigger with their lives. He manipulates them to think that each of them is special to him, and this diabolic influence destroys their fragile idyll. Horrible things start to happen in the town, and the witches' powers change.

Now I'm not sure I can judge the plausibility of the described feelings and thoughts of middle-aged women, because I'm too young for that, but I find them very believable, and I was wondering how a man could have written such a book. The other wonderful thing is the structure of the narrative, where everything has its meaning and fits in its place: the seasons, the holidays, the coming and leaving of characters - all is perfectly adjusted. And the writing is just mesmerizing.

In my book:
Not an easy book to read, but totally worth it. It is disturbing and scary at times, but not in the supernatural way. It's the horror of a woman's nature, so nothing to be done with this :)


  1. Still nursing my injury so I'm not commenting on blogs as much as I'd like. I should probably give this book a try. I thought the movie was silly, in spite of the caliber of actresses. I'll add it to my neverending-to-be-read-list. :)

    1. What put me on my guard about this movie is that all the actresses have perfect Hollywood figures, while it's so far from true in the book... Also, my mom liked it, which means they skipped all the controversial orgies in the plot, which kind of makes it a totally different story...

  2. Haha "amateur jabber" - that's how I feel almost every time I start writing about a book I liked.

    It does sound very unique and different kind of read, I will add it to my neverending-TBR list as well.

    1. Well, I feel like this when I feel there is tons of underlying meaning in the book, which I am probably getting all wrong... The more classics I try to read, the oftener I experience it :)


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