Thursday, 3 December 2009

U is for Updike

I have never read a book that grated on me like The Widows of Eastwick did. We got off to a bad start because I thought that the Widows of  Eastwick was the book name for the film. When I began reading it, though, I realised it was the sequel. Boy, did I know it was the sequel – constant references to the first book and how depraved it was and how they killed poor little whatshername were irritating beyond belief.

The main story revolves around the three witches of Eastwick, thirty years older and now appropriately all widows.
Alexandra is the middle in age, a large hippy living in Mexico. She’s scraping through after her husband died, leaving with next to nothing.
Jane is the oldest and richest, living with her ancient mother in law after the death of her husband. Materially cared for, but not emotionally.
Sukie is the youngest and possibly least irritating. She’s moderately rich and moderately emotionally balanced.
After ignoring each other for decades, they decide that now they’re alone, they’ll visit a few countries together. This is the cue for cringeworthy, racist speech where the ‘small Asian couple’ lose their ‘L’s completely and the Egyptians are all filthy men with no teeth and Arab headgear. As if that wasn’t quite enough, a man unfortunate enough to be mistaken for a suitor for Alexandra is internally derided as ‘faggy’ as soon as he mentions his dead partner.

It’s got a horrible tone to it, a seething mass of bitterness and hatred for everything. I think the worst thing for me was that it pretends to be a feminist novel, but it’s written by a man and has far too many lesbian-ish scenes for it to be anywhere near true feminism. I’m not exactly the world’s biggest feminist (if we’re that equal, why are we shouting about it?) but I object to a ‘feminist’ novel which includes a scene with a magic circle and ‘sky clad’ women, just so he can write about flesh and wrinkles.

It was tiresome, repetitive and boring. All the women were old, widows, elderly, alone…. The townspeople of Eastwick were suspicious, wary… In three hundred pages, about two things happen which are actually of any interest, and even these are buried under pages of dead prose which can be easily skimmed with no detriment to the plot.

Before reading this, I was interested in reading the Witches of Eastwick. After this though, I don’t want to read another Updike novel, and would strongly advise against anyone else reading one.

Next book – Slaughterhouse 5

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