witches-of-eastwick

John Updike’s “The Witches of Eastwick” is a thoroughly enjoyable book that bleeds of trademark Updike snarky humour. A movie was made on the book and as a result, people think they know more of it than someone who would have read the book. The book follows a smarmy devil as he moves around town sexing up three frustrated and divorced witches. The title and the initial back flap reading would suggest that this is an amusing take on witchcraft lore, which it is, but much more on that as well. It is a well-written and quite truthful take on the baby-boomer liberalization of the seventies.

The three witches, Alexandra, Jane and Sukie are married and divorced witches who are taken by the charms of the new devil on the block, Darryl Van Horne.  Though the initial despise, he manages to seduce the trio and entice them. But when he marries a younger rival, the three witches give her cancer.

John Updike, as always, manages to impress us with his writing abilities. He does not face any sort of difficulties, or at least, we are not privy to any, as he etches out his first woman-centric book. He describes the three woman protagonists with ease and builds up unforgettable characters. True to Updike style, we are treated to a weird double vision at work here. The impression of witchcraft as sexuality is highly explored and put forward without being obvious. He forges witchcraft and sexuality as the aspects of modernism which a small town might be wary and afraid of. Now, if we compare that to the setting at that time, it is highly probable that he would be referring to liberated women as the point of angst for small town folk.

Though being a huge Updike fan, I won’t lie to you. The novel plods on in the first 100 or so pages when Updike painstakingly describes Eastwick and its various people, nuances. But the plot picks up gradually as all good books do and ends in a very interesting manner. The three witches remarry and go their separate ways in separate places. It so happens that all three of the husbands die, albeit of natural circumstances and the three friends decide to get back in touch. And then, they cook up a plan. “Why not spend a summer in Eastwick?”

A final word on John Updike. Primarily known for his Rabbit books, he has manages to hoist himself up there with the likes of Saul Bellow and Phillip Roth. Though a varied deviation from his routine writing, The Witches of Eastwick is a funny and enjoyable piece of work. Even taking into a consideration the premise of the story, which I may say is ridiculous, Updike conjures up sentences which bleed of artistic greatness and this is where he succeeds in making this book a good one. A point of view which, I should think, even his rivals would tend to agree.

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