Alexandra, Jane, and Sukie return to the old Rhode Island seaside town where they indulged in wicked mischief under the influence of the diabolical Darryl Van Horne. 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 are at the heart of Updike's delightful, ominous sequel.--From publisher description.
Much more graphic sexually than the original, not as interesting and really just blah.
Updike's last novel and certainly not his best (although what do I know, having only read this one and the Witches of Eastwick?).
Every once in a while, his descriptions caught me up short but for the most part, I was reading for plot, in a hurry to get it over with and find out what happened to the three friends.
If not for the plane ride, I still wouldn't be done with it.
The first part felt more like a travelogue than anything else, and then it took forever to get anywhere. I'm sorry, but having to read almost 200 pages before anything really happens? That's just too slow a pace.
No, I never read Witches of Eastwick. All I remember is from the movie. Even so, it was extremely difficult seeing the Widows as those Witches from years gone by. Even understanding that these were women in their 70s and above didn't bring anything but fatigue in reading the book.
To sum up, it felt as though the whole point of the book was "Waiting to Die" while looking for Redemption (in some cases).
No, I couldn't recommend this to anyone. It's just not for me and not at all what I had expected or hoped for (magical mayhem and some laughs)
Now with that said, I really enjoyed the language of the piece. It was an amusing little story to follow along, and very much had the same feeling I expected (sense of humor, ect.) Though I could not necessarily relate to these women, it was an interesting journey to take with them, and there were enough side stories to keep me engrossed. And I feel the author did a good job, keeping me up with what was going on, despite the fact that I never read the first, I never felt lost. All in all, despite the little things that got under my skin (I know, my own personal pet peeves) I found this story a fairly pleasant way to spend my time. I may even have to go back and pick up the first one day. =D
So finally I did start skimming, and it turns out that later in the book we finally get down to some real witchiness, which I was hoping for more of in this book. Also, the widows' past catches up with them and they have to deal with the consequences of the self-seving uses of their power. Why did we need so many pages of travelogue to get there? I don't know.
The Widows of Eastwick, picks up some 30 years after The Witches. As the title suggests, the three witches find themselves widowed, reconnect with each other and (after doing some travelling together) return to the earlier scene of their crimes. The mansion in which they partied as younger women has been turned into condos and they decide to rent one for the summer.
None of these women is very likeable, nor did I find it easy to relate to any of them (not sure if this was in part because I am so much younger - although I have read and enjoyed books with much older protagonists before). I did very much enjoy the writing, although I found that the dialogue was more an opportunity for the women to pronounce on the world, as opposed to really engaging with each other:
Jane looked aged in the harsh desert light, shrunken. Blue veins writhed on the backs of her hands. "There's this stink to the past," she said, "of magic that stopped working. It never really did work, of course. Just gave the priests more power than was good for them."
"If they believed it worked, maybe it did. It made them less anxious. As I remember us in Eastwick, we used to believe that there was an old religion, before men came in and took it over just as they took over midwifing and haute couture. It was a nature religion that never died - women carried it on even when they were tortured and killed."
The book is less about what is happening in the present and more about looking back to the past. The women are motivated by a desire to make amends for their crimes (causing the death, through witchcraft of a rival and of some other people who appear to have been thorns in their sides) and to relive their wild and powerful youth. The whole thing feels more like a padded short story than a full length novel. Some interesting things do happen but I found it hard to feel too interested.
As I was reading this book, I learned that Updike had died. I feel a bit guilty that I can't write a more positive review. I am very confident that this, the last of his novels, was not his best work by any stretch of the imagination. And perhaps I would be feeling less critical if I had read and enjoyed The Witches before reading this one.
Updike must have been grappling with cancer as he wrote this book and there is lots of talk of cancer throughout. The women killed their rival by giving her ovarian cancer and Alexa (one of the witches - the one played by Cher in the movie, I think) is obsessed with cancer.
I didn't hate this book. I just didn't really like it. I was expecting so much more.
Any Updike fans out there? How does this book compare to his other works? I would love to know.
With conjured-up husbands they went on with their post Daryl Van Horne lives. Time/fate/Nature brings them together after the deaths of their husbands. Alexandra, Jane & Sukie head off on world travels and sight seeing – to forget or to remember? They can’t forget the deeds of their past and Alexandra especially is pricked by remorse over the death of Jenny Gabriel.
Though they decide to “return to the scene of our primes”, the Eastwick that they return to is not the Eastwick that they left – people have died, aged and left, children have grown and the townsfolk memories of the witches’ vengeful deeds has not faded. Instead, the women’s connection with Nature has diminished with the passage of time and they are no longer able to unite to summon the magic that their younger, sexual selves did.
These witches are not the impulsive, imaginative & carelessly vengeful ladies that we knew and readers who were expecting more of that joie-de-vivre will be disappointed – not in the writing, Updike’s prose and story-telling draws the reader in and compels you to finish the journey, but in the characters. And the question is raised – can making amends make amends?
Finally, the three women return to Eastwick for a summer. At this point, it looks like the novel might pick up, and maybe even have some sort of plot for once as it seems the witches may at last get their comeuppance for their evil deeds of thirty years ago. But no, this is avoided by means so ridiculous that I won't detail them here, not so much to avoid spoilers as because you wouldn't believe me anyway. Oh all right, let's just say it has to do with an elderly woman seducing a younger gay man. See? I told you you wouldn't believe it. Oh yes, and there's a sci-fi element that relies on a half-baked interpretation of quantum physics, which would have been better left out entirely.
As the book opens, all three of the witches have become widows. They are alone, each one uniquely confronting the fear and solitude of life's closing. During the early part of the book, they travel together, becoming reacquainted with one another. Updike's commentary on the frustrations and disappointments often associated with travel are sometimes entertaining but, frankly, often seem irrelevant. Ultimately, the witches return to Eastwick and find it, like all else in life, changed in a way that leaves them isolated, out of touch and largely ignored. Updike's writing is so very fine that it is easy to lose sight of the fact that this is far from his best work. Even so, it is, in my opinion, worth reading. He was a remarkable writer.
I am not completely sure of the motivation for this book. There is a nagging feeling of the author wanting to show how far he has come from the mindset of the Witches. And the resolution was a little icky. More classic would have been all or none, instead of this pruning.
His plot line was weak; his descriptions; verbose and self-aggrandizing; his conclusion; less than satisfying. It amounted to pages of boredom interrupted by paragraphs of spectacularly well-written pornography. A must read if you’re a fan of “The Witches of Eastwick” but otherwise it’s a stand-alone dud: a great use of language with nowhere to go, like driving a Ferrari on a quarter mile track.
One of Updike's last works, and possibly because he was facing aging himself, this novel depicts the witches (Jane, Sukie, and Alexandra) in an unflattering manner regarding women of a certain age -- such as when he describes their private parts as being "smelly". They have aged at the same pace as the earlier Eastwick novel, in that they're thirty-some years older and are now widows.
Additionally, this book veered from lengthy a travelogue-like section at the beginning in which each woman is visiting a different country. Then they reunite and some odd things happen that are just really odd. I skimmed over a too-long section regarding quantum physics (I think that it was about?) that I'm not sure how it was supposed to relate to witchcraft.
Great way with words, as is usual with Updike, but this book didn't gel together (at least for me), and seemed to wrap up quite abruptly.