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Shvoong Home>Books>Novels & Novellas>The Witches of Eastwick Review

The Witches of Eastwick

Book Review   by:Kenna Docksey     Original Author: John Updike
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The town is Eastwick, on the coast of South County, Rhode Island; the period of the novel’s main action is a year or so, starting in September, about 1970. Alexandra Spofford earns money by shaping, baking, and painting little ceramic figures of women. Jane Smart performs on the cello and teaches piano. Sukie Rougemont writes a gossip column for the weekly newspaper. All three women are divorced: Alexandra from Ozzie, Jane from Sam, and Sukie from Monty. As the story begins, Ozzie is dust Alexandra stores in a jar, Sam hangs in Jane’s cellar for use sparingly in philters, and, thanks to Sukie, Monty has become a plastic place mat. All three women commit adultery. All three neglect their children. All three are witches, sisters in a coven. Through gossip, they grow interested in the newly arrived, unmarried man in town, the New Yorker who has bought the dilapidated Lenox place on an island accessible from the mainland by a short causeway. Coarse and clumsy in some respects, Darryl Van Horne nevertheless plays piano skillfully, and he collects bizarre modern art as an investment and spends money on the old mansion as if he had plenty. He will, he says, solve the world’s energy problems with the sulfurous experiments he runs in his basement. Meanwhile, he has Alexandra, Jane, and Sukie over for tennis on his new court, followed by liquor, marijuana, and nude lounging in his hot tub, over which a retractable roof opens onto the stars. The town itself changes. Affairs end and others begin. The Unitarian minister runs off with a far-leftist teenaged girl and eventually blows himself up while making a bomb in New Jersey; his wife assumes the pulpit in his stead.
The editor of Sukie’s paper, Clyde Gabriel, drunk as usual and harassed once too often by his wife, kills her with a poker from their fireplace and then hangs himself in their stairwell. Their two children return for the funeral and remain to settle the estate. Soon they become part of the little society on the little island. Then, to the witches’ dismay, Darryl marries Jenny Gabriel, the apparent innocent they befriended in their quasi-lesbian way. Alexandra, against her better nature, provides indispensable help to Jane and Sukie as the three of them cast a spell of revenge on Jenny that apparently works: she develops cancer and dies within a few months, even though Alexandra and Sukie try, near the end of Jenny’s life, to undo the spell. After that death, Darryl, immensely in debt, flees town with Chris Gabriel, toward whom he feels homosexually attracted. The coven of Alexandra, Jane, and Sukie having disbanded and been replaced by another one, the three aging witches leave Eastwick for various new men in their lives, Time passes, as it must, leaving in the troubled town a legend of evil.
Published: March 30, 2007   
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