The Witches of Eastwick by John Updike – Book Review

Another book completed! I prioritised reading John Updike’s The Witches of Eastwick after seeing the film adaption recently, although I didn’t really need to bother, the book and film seemed miles away from each other, but I’ll get onto that later. The three witches that centre this novel are Alexandra, Jane and Sukie, who all have varying strengths of magical power. They live in the rural town of Eastwick, where despite all seeming quaint and idyllic, is full of philandering husbands and suspicious wives. Their normal lives are overturned by the arrival of the enigmatic Daryl Van Horne, a businessman who entices them into his world of grandeur and excess. The witches give into him, which leads them down a dangerous path.

Although the film wasn’t fantastic, I was quite looking forward to reading the original novel. In my film review, I wrote about the magical aura that surrounded the film and I really hoped that this was transferred directly from the book. The magic did not disappoint. It was great how they witches and had the powers, but they were still three women living in Eastwick. They all had a means of a magical background yet they weren’t cackling and flying around on broomsticks. The magic seemed echoed in the surroundings, in their actions and appearances, it wasn’t thrust into your face yet it wasn’t a superfluous part of the book either. Although the trio still managed their fair share of mischief, they can change the weather, have magical games of tennis and make enemies spit feathers. Yet disaster strikes when they go too far. However, the magic seemed to be of vital importance in the film, it allowed for more visual effects, which weren’t that great anyway. I feel the true route of Updike’s novel was not the witches, but the fact that the witches were women.

The gender politics was the most important aspect of the film for me, and the books most relevant aspect of the ‘Witchcraft, Gender and Magic in Literature’ module title. The upshot of the gender quarrel seemed to be that despite these women having miraculous powers, they are all snubbed by society, as they as still slaves to their passions and desires. For me, it seems cruel of Updike to present these empowered women who are destined to live a sad life, stricken with hate and revenge for the rest of society. In terms of gender commentary, they are not rated very highly. Even the husbands cheating on their wives aren’t shown as badly before meeting their own grisly ends. It was a disappointment that the women were a clear target in the book. I wanted Updike to be better than that, but that’s just my reading. It would be great to hear some other opinions on the gender issue!

On the whole, it was just average. It pleased me in terms of analysis for the module, but the book isn’t one I would necessarily pick up and read for leisure. The plot seemed to ebb and flow a bit and the pace always seemed to drop every few pages. I know it will give me plenty to discuss and analyse which Is something I am certainly looking forward to doing.

One response to “The Witches of Eastwick by John Updike – Book Review

  1. Pingback: Arthur Miller’s ‘The Crucible’ – Original 1953 Play and 1996 Film Review | Sollie Reviews·

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