The Widows of Eastwick

by John Updike

Hardcover, 2008





Knopf, (2008)


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.

User reviews

LibraryThing member iammbb
Um, not so much.

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.
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LibraryThing member savageknight
Firstly, I must admit that I've never had an author pass on while I was reading their last book. That alone was bizarre. However, that aside, I wish this book would have been worth the trouble of reading 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)
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LibraryThing member hammockqueen
didn't seem to go anywhere. 3 witch widows...doing what? achieving what? besides getting old and boring.
LibraryThing member krissa
First of all let me say, I never read the first book, although I did see the movie. This book is nothing like the movie, but then again, I have heard the first book is nothing like the movie either. In my mind, I kept seeing the actresses (Cher, Susan Sarandon, and Michelle Pfeiffer.) As much as I enjoyed the writing, it took a while to get into, as it sometimes had long sentences, and even longer paragraphs. Once I picked up the flow, it wasn’t too bad. I found it to be well researched, but sometimes the details bogged down the story, and I found them distracting without adding much (the history, science, and even the romance novel at the end…) I thought sometimes these felt like filler. And in the end, it just seemed to stop. I never felt much wrap up, or conclusion. Maybe he was leaving it open for more, but I’m not sure how much room there is to continue the story, as I believe the ladies to be in their 80’s. And without spoiling anything, I felt the ending should have been all or nothing, and it was half way (you’ll have to read the book to understand that, or if you have, tell me if you agree.)

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
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LibraryThing member Bitter_Grace
In the interests of writing a fair review, I tried to read this book without skimming. I got to page 75, all the while feeling like I was overhearing a particularly boring conversation on the bus. It seemed to me like there was no real story to grab a hold of, and the descriptions and observations did not hold my interest in place of one.

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.
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LibraryThing member mojomomma
A silly, stupid book about over-sexed widows who suddenly feel guilty about their promiscuous past.
LibraryThing member szferris
i am a BIG fan of Updike....and i was very excited to read this...i the hell can you actually top witches of eastwick.....the book was was a hard pill to swallow....these women now in the 70's...and weaker....i am glad i read it....and if you are fan....then....sure.....but if not.....i am not sure i would say this is a must read!!… (more)
LibraryThing member lakingston
I have a confession to make. Before The Widows of Eastwick, I had never read anything by John Updike (although, I did see the movie version of The Witches of Eastwick, which is sort of a prequel to this one. I'm not sure how faithful the movie was to the book. Given Hollywood's track record in this regard, I imagine the book and the movie were fairly different).

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.
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LibraryThing member passionknitly
In their prime, fully in tune & blessed by Nature, the three young & sexually vibrant witches explored their powers freely. But not even these witches could halt the passage and effects of time.
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?
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LibraryThing member NorthernStar
I had never read the Witches of Eastwick, just seen the movie years ago, so I got it out of the library to read before I started Widows. I'm glad I did, as I think there are many parts in this sequel that you would miss the significance of without reading the earlier book. I found both books hard to get into, although there are some lovely descriptive passages. The women, although described sometimes as evil or malicious, seem petty, there is no good reason shown for their cruelty in the earlier book, or the halfhearted attempt to make amends in the sequel. They didn't seem to enjoy or even care very much about many of the things they did. I found it hard to connect with them for this reason. I didn't hate this book, but neither did I love it. The language and some of the descriptive passages where what I liked best about it.… (more)
LibraryThing member AshRyan
This sequel to The Witches of Eastwick explores many of the same themes as much of Updike's later work, such as looking back at one's life during old age, and traveling abroad. The latter feels a bit forced, and takes up the first half of the novel---Alexandra visits the Canadian Rockies, then Alexandra and Jane go to Egypt together, then Sukie joins them for a trip to China. Unfortunately, Updike's fictional forays into foreign travel don't live up to the American tradition of Mark Twain or, say, Sinclair Lewis in Dodsworth.

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.
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LibraryThing member robinamelia
Having read the Witches of Eastwick back when it came out, my memory of the previous events was a bit dim as I read this book. Nonetheless, I found the struggle to deal with the reality of aging, which no magic, apparently, can quell, fascinating and perhaps, more truly horrifying than any of the supernatural events previously enacted. One can sense Updike's own impending death stirring through the meditations on change and time and what legacy one leaves.… (more)
LibraryThing member turtlesleap
Throughout this book, Updike appears to be confronting his own mortality. It is, in fact, more than anything else, a meditation on aging and the ending of life and it is interesting that Updike chose to revisit his "witches" and provide readers with a woman's perspective of this poignant, and sometimes bitter, closure.

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.
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LibraryThing member ari.joki
I had read the Witches in translation; this sequel was in the original English. The way Updike uses the language is like an artist using a colour palette and selection of brushes. Tasty!

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.… (more)
LibraryThing member purelush
A wonderful final novel from a legend.
LibraryThing member Renzomalo
John Updike’s “Widows of Eastwick” was a less than fulfilling sequel to his spectacular “Witches of Eastwick.” This is largely due to the deleterious effects of “famous writer’s syndrome,” a condition typified by editors lacking the hutzpah to cut the literary fat and gristle from the afflicted author’s manuscript.
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.
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LibraryThing member ValerieAndBooks
It took me a while to get through this book. I had read "The Witches of Eastwick" some time back but didn't do a LibraryThing review of that book. I liked it just okay and, sorry to say, certainly liked "The Widows of Eastwick" less.

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.
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LibraryThing member ChristineEllei
I read this because of the movie version of the WITCHES OF EASTWICK. At first I found it difficult to put the aging ladies together with what I remember of the movie. This book has made it to a few "must read" lists. Depsite that, I cannot rave about the story, because I felt the first third of the book read somewhat like a travelogue. However, I did enjoy the relationship between these three best friends some 30 years down the road, when they reunite and revisit Eastwick.
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LibraryThing member Birdo82
Its prose hypnotic, as it harkens back to John Updike's poetic roots, "The Widows of Eastwick" is a bewitching and satisfactory follow-up to the 1984 classic.
LibraryThing member dancingbacon
Maybe I'm too young to be able to appreciate this yet, but it wasn't my favourite thing to read. The story seemed almost... slow, and the type was too small to keep me interested. I guess I'll try again when I'm 30.


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