From Publishers Weekly
In this 21st novel by one of the premier chroniclers of American life, a man recalls a lifetime spent in New England communities of women. Owen Mackenzie, now in his 70s and living in the small village of Haskell's Crossing, Conn., with his second wife, Julia, spends his days immersed in the daily routines of retirement while reminiscing about his childhood town of Willow, Pa., and the village where he spent his adulthood, Middle Falls, Conn. Though Owen studied at MIT and founded an early computer startup that made him moderately rich, his story is primarily defined by his romantic relationships. He marries his first wife, Phyllis, a classmate at MIT, for her cool beauty, but later decides that he needs a broader range of sexual experience. After a fraught first affair, he learns caution and is able to clandestinely indulge his love of women, until Julia, a minister's wife, comes along and convinces him to embark on a messy divorce and remarriage that indirectly results in Phyllis's accidental death. Owen's obsession with women's bodies and blithe ignorance of their inner lives can sometimes read like a tedious parody of Updike's earlier work, without a sense of humor to imply the author is in on the joke. Yet Updike still writes lovely sentences and creates a believable portrait of the American village, concealing dark secrets but providing a limited stability.
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Updike treads over familiar territory with Villages
, his 21st novel. For those who crave more of his famed investigations into suburban sex and the male mind, this novel will prove a welcome addition to the canon. To some critics, however, Villages
seemed a rehash of old material, with little to recommend it to modern audiences. Detractors found Owens sexual antics empty, his life devoid of emotional growth. Still, Updike remains one of the premier stylists of the English language, and he handles his subject with the assurance that comes from a lifetime of practice. Also, dont forget the recently published collection by Updike: The Early Stories 1953-1975
**** Selection Mar/Apr 2004.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.