Upgrade to a better browser, please.

Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Books

The Witches of Eastwick

Added By: Administrator
Last Updated: illegible_scribble

The Witches of Eastwick

Purchase this book through Purchase this book from Purchase this book from
Author: John Updike
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf, 1984
Series: Eastwick: Book 1

1. The Witches of Eastwick
2. The Widows of Eastwick

Book Type: Novel
Genre: Fantasy
Sub-Genre Tags: Low Fantasy
Avg Member Rating:
(36 reads / 18 ratings)

Film & Television Adaptations

The Witches of Eastwick

The Witches of Eastwick

Warner Bros. Pictures

Purchase this movie from Amazon Instant Video Purchase this movie from Purchase this movie from Read about this movie on IMDb


Warner Bros. Television

Purchase this movie from Purchase this movie from Read about this movie on IMDb


Toward the end of the Vietnam era, in a snug little Rhode Island seacoast town, wonderful powers have descended upon Alexandra, Jane, and Sukie, bewitching divorcées with sudden access to all that is female, fecund, and mysterious. Alexandra, a sculptor, summons thunderstorms; Jane, a cellist, floats on the air; and Sukie, the local gossip columnist, turns milk into cream. Their happy little coven takes on new, malignant life when a dark and moneyed stranger, Darryl Van Horne, refurbishes the long-derelict Lenox mansion and invites them in to play. Thenceforth scandal flits through the darkening, crooked streets of Eastwick-and through the even darker fantasies of the town’s collective psyche.



"He was a meikle blak roch man, werie cold."
--ISOBEL GOWDIE, in 1662

"Now efter that the deuell had endit his admonitions, he cam down out of the pulpit, and caused all the company to com and kiss his ers, quhilk they said was cauld lyk yce; his body was hard lyk yrn, as they thocht that handled him."
--AGNES SAMPSON, in 1590

"AND OH YES," Jane Smart said in her hasty yet purposeful way; each s seemed the black tip of a just-extinguished match held in playful hurt, as children do, against the skin. "Sukie said a man has bought the Lenox mansion."

"A man?" Alexandra Spofford asked, feeling off-center, her peaceful aura that morning splayed by the assertive word.

"From New York," Jane hurried on, the last syllable almost barked, its r dropped in Massachusetts style. "No wife and family, evidently."

"Oh. One of those." Hearing Jane's northern voice bring her this rumor of a homosexual come up from Manhattan to invade them, Alexandra felt intersected where she was, in this mysterious crabbed state of Rhode Island. She had been born in the West, where white and violet mountains lift in pursuit of the delicate tall clouds, and tumbleweed rolls in pursuit of the horizon.

"Sukie wasn't so sure," Jane said swiftly, her s's chastening. "He appeared quite burly. She was struck by how hairy the backs of his hands were. He told the people at Perley Realty he needed all that space because he was an inventor with a lab. And he owns a number of pianos."

Alexandra giggled; the noise, little changed since her Colorado girlhood, seemed produced not out of her throat but by a birdlike familiar perched on her shoulder. In fact the telephone was aching at her ear. And her forearm tingled, going numb. "How many pianos can a man have?"

This seemed to offend Jane. Her voice bristled like a black cat's fur, iridescent. She said defensively, "Well Sukie's only going by what Marge Perley told her at last night's meeting of the Horse Trough Committee." This committee supervised the planting and, after vandalism, the replanting of a big blue marble trough for watering horses that historically stood at the center of Eastwick, where the two main streets met; the town was shaped like an L, fitted around its ragged bit of Narragansett Bay. Dock Street held the downtown businesses, and Oak Street at right angles to it was where the lovely big old homes were. Marge Perley, whose horrid canary-yellow For Sale signs leaped up and down on trees and fences as on the tides of economics and fashion (Eastwick had for decades been semi-depressed and semi-fashionable) people moved in and out of the town, was a heavily made-up, go-getting woman who, if one at all, was a witch on a different wavelength from Jane, Alexandra, and Sukie. There was a husband, a tiny fussy Homer Perley always trimming their forsythia hedge back to stubble, and this made a difference. "The papers were passed in Providence," Jane explained, pressing the nce hard into Alexandra's ear.

"And with hairy backs to his hands," Alexandra mused. Near her face floated the faintly scratched and flecked and often repainted blankness of a wooden kitchen-cabinet door; she was conscious of the atomic fury spinning and skidding beneath such a surface, like an eddy of weary eyesight. As if in a crystal ball she saw that she would meet and fall in love with this man and that little good would come of it. "Didn't he have a name?" she asked.

"That's the stupidest thing," Jane Smart said. "Marge told Sukie and Sukie told me but something's scared it right out of my head. One of those names with a 'van' or a 'von' or a 'de' in it."

"How very swell," Alexandra answered, already dilating, diffusing herself to be invaded. A tall dark European, ousted from his ancient heraldic inheritance, travelling under a curse... "When is he supposed to move in?"

"She said he said soon. He could be in there now!" Jane sounded alarmed. Alexandra pictured the other woman's rather too full (for the rest of her pinched face) eyebrows lifting to make half-circles above her dark resentful eyes, whose brown was always a shade paler than one's memory of it. If Alexandra was the large, drifting style of witch, always spreading herself thin to invite impressions and merge with the landscape, and in her heart rather lazy and entropically cool, Jane was hot, short, concentrated like a pencil point, and Sukie Rougemont, busy downtown all day long gathering news and smiling hello, had an oscillating essence. So Alexandra reflected, hanging up. Things fall into threes. And magic occurs all around us as nature seeks and finds the inevitable forms, things crystalline and organic falling together at angles of sixty degrees, the equilateral triangle being the mother of structure.

She returned to putting up Mason jars of spaghetti sauce, sauce for more spaghetti than she and her children could consume even if bewitched for a hundred years in an Italian fairy tale, jar upon jar lifted steaming from the white-speckled blue boiler on the trembling, singing round wire rack. It was, she dimly perceived, some kind of ridiculous tribute to her present lover, a plumber of Italian ancestry. Her recipe called for no onions, two cloves of garlic minced and sautéed for three minutes (no more, no less; that was the magic) in heated oil, plenty of sugar to counteract acidity, a single grated carrot, more pepper than salt; but the teaspoon of crumbled basil is what catered to virility, and the dash of belladonna provided the release without which virility is merely a murderous congestion. All this must be added to her own tomatoes, picked and stored on every window sill these weeks past and now sliced and fed to the blender: ever since, two summers ago, Joe Marino had begun to come into her bed, a preposterous fecundity had overtaken the staked plants, out in the side garden where the southwestern sun slanted in through the line of willows each long afternoon. The crooked little tomato branches, pulpy and pale as if made of cheap green paper, broke under the weight of so much fruit; there was something frantic in such fertility, a crying-out like that of children frantic to please. Of plants tomatoes seemed the most human, eager and fragile and prone to rot. Picking the watery orangered orbs, Alexandra felt she was cupping a giant lover's testicles in her hand. She recognized as she labored in her kitchen the something sadly menstrual in all this, the bloodlike sauce to be ladled upon the white spaghetti. The fat white strings would become her own white fat. This female struggle of hers against her own weight: at the age of thirty-eight she found it increasingly unnatural. In order to attract love must she deny her own body, like a neurotic saint of old? Nature is the index and context of all health and if we have an appetite it is there to be satisfied, satisfying thereby the cosmic order. Yet she sometimes despised herself as lazy, in taking a lover of a race so notoriously tolerant of corpulence.

Alexandra's lovers in the handful of years since her divorce had tended to be odd husbands let stray by the women who owned them. Her own former husband, Oswald Spofford, rested on a high kitchen shelf in a jar, reduced to multicolored dust, the cap screwed on tight. Thus she had reduced him as her powers unfolded after their move to Eastwick from Norwich, Connecticut. Ozzie had known all about chrome and had transferred from a fixture factory in that hilly city with its too many peeling white churches to a rival manufacturer in a half-mile-long cinder-block plant south of Providence, amid the strange industrial vastness of this small state. They had moved seven years ago. Here in Rhode Island her powers had expanded like gas in a vacuum and she had reduced dear Ozzie as he made his daily trek to work and back along Route 4 first to the size of a mere man, the armor of patriarchal protector falling from him in the corrosive salt air of Eastwick's maternal beauty, and then to the size of a child as his chronic needs and equally chronic acceptance of her solutions to them made him appear pitiful, manipulable. He quite lost touch with the expanding universe within her. He had become much involved with their sons' Little League activities, and with the fixture company's bowling team. As Alexandra accepted first one and then several lovers, her cuckolded husband shrank to the dimensions and dryness of a doll, lying beside her in her great wide receptive bed at night like a painted log picked up at a roadside stand, or a stuffed baby alligator. By the time of their actual divorce her former lord and master had become mere dirt--matter in the wrong place, as her mother had briskly defined it long ago--some polychrome dust she swept up and kept in a jar as a souvenir.

The other witches had experienced similar transformations in their marriages; Jane Smart's ex, Sam, hung in the cellar of her ranch house among the dried herbs and simples and was occasionally sprinkled, a pinch at a time, into a philtre, for piquancy; and Sukie Rougemont had permanized hers in plastic and used him as a place mat. This last had happened rather recently; Alexandra could still picture Monty standing at cocktail parties in his Madras jacket and parsley-green slacks, braying out the details of the day's golf round and inveighing against the slow feminine foursome that had held them up all day and never invited them to play through. He had hated uppity women--female governors, hysterical war protesters, "lady" doctors, Lady Bird Johnson, even Lynda Bird and Luci Baines. He had thought them all butch. Monty had had wonderful teeth when he brayed, long and very even but not false, and, undressed, rather touching, thin bluish legs, much less muscular than his brown golfer's forearms. And with that puckered droop to his buttocks common to the softening flesh of middle-aged women. He had been one of Alexandra's first lovers. Now, it felt queer and queerly satisfying to set a mug of Sukie's tarry coffee upon a glossy plastic Madras, leaving a gritty ring.

Copyright © 1984 by John Updike


There are currently no reviews for this novel. Be the first to submit one! You must be logged in to submit a review in the BookTrackr section above.


No alternate cover images currently exist for this novel.