Villages

  • by John Updike
  • Narrated by Edward Herrmann
  • 9 hrs and 29 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

John Updike's 21st novel, a bildungsroman, follows its hero, Owen Mackenzie, from his birth in the semi-rural Pennsylvania town of Willow to his retirement in the rather geriatric community of Haskells Crossing, Massachusetts. In between these two settlements comes Middle Falls, Connecticut, where Owen, an early computer programmer, founds with a partner, Ed Mervine, the successful firm of E-O Data, which is housed in an old gun factory on the Chunkaunkabaug River.Owen's education (Bildung) is not merely technical but liberal, as the humanity of his three villages, especially that of their female citizens, works to disengage him from his youthful innocence. As a child he early felt an abyss of calamity beneath the sunny surface quotidian, yet also had a dreamlike sense of leading a charmed existence. The women of his life, including his wives, Phyllis and Julia, shed what light they can. At one juncture he reflects, "How lovely she is, naked in the dark! How little men deserve the beauty and mercy of women!" His life as a sexual being merges with the communal shelter of villages: "A village is woven of secrets, of truths better left unstated, of houses with less window than opaque wall."This delightful, witty, passionate novel runs from the Depression era to the early 21st century.

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What the Critics Say

"Updike still writes lovely sentences and creates a believable portrait of the American village." (Publishers Weekly)
"As is usual for Updike, this novel is elegantly styled." (Booklist)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Updike at the height of his powers

This novel is a true masterpiece, full gorgeous phrasings and extraordinarily keen observations. No writer is a greater virtuoso of the English language than Updike, but many of his books are plagued by scenes and storylines that dawdle and beat around the bush. Not this one. This book has a strong and well paced storyline, so you not only get Updike's immaculate writing skills but also the kind of forward momentum that keeps readers feeling a genuine sense of destination.

It's also has a flamboyant cast of characters, lead by Owen Mackenzie, who Updike takes from boyhood to the grave in a whirlwind expedition through childhood hi-jinx, courtship, marriage, fatherhood, numerous extra-marital affairs, business relationships and a career as a computer engineer and entrepreneur. You get a surprisingly well-informed and entertaining history of the computer industry?s evolution. Updike makes extraordinary observations about digital devices and their analogies to the humanity.

It?s also a very sexy book, built around male/female relationships, some sanctioned, some illicit. Nobody writes sex and love scenes like Updike, and this book is loaded with them. They?re not so much descriptions of the act as they are beautifully and incisively crafted explorations of human geography and emotion. Some of these scenes are so literary even Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson would have difficulty quibbling with them.

Lastly, the book is marvelously read and extremely well recorded, making the separation of characters very distinct.

What a treat that John Updike, though advanced in years, is still turning out such powerhouse novels.
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- M. Consol

Good for Updike fans

I'm not a hardcore Updike fan, but I've enjoyed some of his other books. This one is good and is well-adapted to the audio format. Real Updike fans will probably enjoy it even more because it sheds some light on the situations and characters developed in his other books.
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- Alison

Book Details

  • Release Date: 10-22-2004
  • Publisher: Random House Audio