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Villages: A Novel [Kindle Edition]

John Updike
3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $14.95
Kindle Price: $9.99
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Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

In this wry novel of sentimental education and sexual pursuit, we follow Owen Mackenzie, a representative man of the author’s generation, from cradle to grave, and from bed to bed. His life and relationships are shaped by three villages, warm-lit communities that keep the darkness at bay from within and without. In Willow, Pennsylvania, the young Owen is transfixed by his first glimpses of female beauty. In Middle Falls, Connecticut, he marries, becomes a first-wave computer programmer, and discovers the very grownup pleasures of serial adultery. Finally, married for a second time, he retires with his memories, illusions, and fantasies to the somewhat geriatric community of Haskells Crossing, Massachusetts. John Updike turns Owen’s personal odyssey into a radiant, sensual fable of the seasons of a man’s life—and of the getting of wisdom in America.


Editorial Reviews

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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

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 Owen’s 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, don’t forget the recently published collection by Updike: The Early Stories 1953-1975 **** Selection Mar/Apr 2004.

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.


Product Details

  • File Size: 1450 KB
  • Print Length: 338 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0345477316
  • Publisher: Random House; Reprint edition (December 18, 2007)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0012RMV8O
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
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  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #538,080 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
55 of 61 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Life of Owen Mackenzie as an American History November 4, 2004
Format:Hardcover
John Updike has since the 1950s been the chronicler of the American mind. His twenty-one novels, poems, short stories, and essays have examined the American Dream and its vagaries, the inner and outer lives of the men and women living through the 20th century, the dichotomy between classes, ethics, sexual maturation, big business, politics as seen from both sides of the fence - name it and Updike has explored it. But John Updike also happens to be a gifted, eloquent wordsmith who can make small observations in a few words that become instantly branded on the brain as epiphanies. Reading Updike is a complete pleasure.

For those questioning whether this first man of letters has anything new to say, then VILLAGES is a must read. By the literary means of separating chronological 'biography' with evenly interspersed chapters that pause to explore the sexuality of the main character ("Village Sex I - VI") Updike's writing is refreshing and affords a better scrutiny of the life of a man as influenced by his gradual sexual awakening, underlining how those basic needs alter his movement through the stages from childhood through adolescence through adulthood to old age.

Owen Mackenzie was born during the Depression in Willow, Pennsylvania, (the first Village) a child of minimal means whose every discovery becomes a preparation for the Rake's Progress ahead. His introduction to the glories of the female body are bumpily naive and it is this 'frozen adolescence' the propels him through a marriage to a fellow student Phyllis) at MIT whom he marries and has four children, and upon graduation moves to Middle Falls, Connecticut where he slowly becomes a guru in the nascent computer industry.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not among Updike's best December 9, 2004
By S. Park
Format:Hardcover
I picked up the volume after reading from somewhere that Updike had as his protagonist a programmer looking back to his life. Being an engineer myself, and acquainted with Updike's masterful hand in weaving American history with the lives of his characters, I couldn't but hold high expectations for the novel. I was to be disappointed, and not only for my own, inflated expectations.

It will be little exaggeration to state that the book is a sequence of sexual conquests made by our protagonist Owen Mackenzie in various "villages" (villages refer to suburbs the north eastern suburbs -- Connecticut, Massachusetts). After receiving his degree in EE from MIT, Owen marries Phyllis, a year older classmate, math major, proud, and a tad bit tepid. Owen in one of many house parties held his neighborhood gets tempted by his hostess, and after the abrupt end of the fling, manages to transform himself into a ladies' man. A dozen or so similar instances pursue. I patiently waited for that distinctively Updikean moment of poignancy. Such moment never arrived.

Updike's ability in associating everything -- animate or inanimate -- with some sort of sentiment is nothing short from astounding. It makes one feel as if those objects have memories of their own. For this very reason I found the novel worthwhile reading. But with little wisdom or insight from Owen to impart on us, these sexual experiences of his reduce to mere elements in a long, parallel sequence. Am I asking too much in expecting more from Updike?
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27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ENJOYABLE READ OF TYPICAL UPDIKE November 11, 2004
Format:Hardcover
This was another nice work by Updike. I would be inclined to ignore the few shots Publishers Weekly made, they are usually a bit over the top and I have noted before, that they quite often miss the mark. This was a well constructed work. Character development was excellent. I suppose I enjoyed it more, as Owen, the main character, was close to my age and I could relate quite well to his bewilderment and reactions to different situations. This is a story set to the backdrop of America, during the times of our greatest change, to the early deveopement of computers and the cluelessness with which most men display when it comes to women. Sex is handled, per usual with Updike, quite well. All in all, it is well worth the read and I very much recommend it.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written. Intensely annoying. September 16, 2007
Format:Hardcover
In Villages, John Updike has two messages for his male readers. 1) Unless you hurry up and start cheating on your wife, you will miss out on some great sex. 2) When you do commit adultery, don't feel too guilty about it; after all, sex is an overpowering force of nature that even the most well-educated and well-raised among us are utterly helpless to resist.

There may have been other messages that didn't leave much of an impression with me.

It took me a while to figure out why I disliked this book so much. There is, of course, nothing intrinsically wrong with doing a character study of a well-educated man whose main concern in life is to get the wives of other men to swallow his semen and who feels a little bit of guilt and quite a lot of pride about the hurt he brings to others. What is so grating about Villages, I think, is the sense--subtle but impossible to shake off even if you try--that Updike is entirely on Owen Mackenzie's side. That the book is, at its core, a paean to the forbidden ecstasy of adultery.

Updike knows perfectly well that readers are going to assume that Owen's values are the author's. So in order to distance himself a bit from his main character he devises a late, rather crude plot twist in which Owen's infidelity has fatal and tragic consequences. Voila, now the book is no longer a celebration of adultery but a moral debate with readers about it. Hmm...

Updike is sometimes accused of misogyny. Based on this book, I can't really agree. One thing seems clear, though: he has little interest in women who have little interest in sex. Don't be surprised, then, when Owen's wife Phyllis virtually disappears from the story for long stretches.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Not on my recommendation list
I couldn't find the interest or motivation to finish it. I got about 60% through it and moved on to something else.
Published 6 months ago by sam jeppson
3.0 out of 5 stars Villages by John Updike
I purchased this book from the vendor because the copy which I had borrowed and was reading was lost or stolen from me while I was at a local restaurant, and I obviously had to... Read more
Published 13 months ago by Gladuasked
3.0 out of 5 stars Computers and sex, sex, sex
John Updike's novels read just like his short stories, only longer. It's the same "slice of life" approach, he just gives you a broader slice. Read more
Published on December 23, 2011 by Ash Ryan
3.0 out of 5 stars Computers and sex, sex, sex
John Updike's novels read just like his short stories, only longer. It's the same "slice of life" approach, he just gives you a broader slice. Read more
Published on December 23, 2011 by Ash Ryan
1.0 out of 5 stars Pardon me for yawning...
I have listened to the first 45 minutes of Villages, and as of yet, I haven't come across anything in the way of interesting plot -- or *any* plot for that matter. Read more
Published on April 21, 2009 by Everett Leiter
2.0 out of 5 stars Cheap Tricks
Okay, Updike is a master, and I've enjoyed many of his books through the years. In "Villages" a bored suburban husband turns to a life of petty adultery in all it's various forms. Read more
Published on September 3, 2008 by Backeast
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing and forgetable
Slogging through the hero's sex life was pretty tedious, and there wasn't much else here.
Published on January 3, 2007 by J. Hagen
2.0 out of 5 stars Story of Sexual Experiences, but devoid of Passion!
I was in college when John Updike published "Rabbit Redux" but I never read it. I may read it to compare it to the disappointing "Villages". Read more
Published on June 6, 2006 by Jed C.
5.0 out of 5 stars Another beautifully written Updike..Perfect Prose!!......
..But this would have been banned not so long ago as pornography! An MIT Enginner hits it big in the softwear field, marries, procreates, and is engaged in near endless adulterous... Read more
Published on May 28, 2006 by S. Henkels
5.0 out of 5 stars Vintage Updike
Once again Mr. Updike delivers an insightful story of life in suburbia and what lurks in the hearts and minds of men and women - love, lust, betrayal, self doubt. Read more
Published on March 19, 2006 by Rosa A. Lawrence
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More About the Author

John Updike was born in 1932, in Shillington, Pennsylvania. He graduated from Harvard College in 1954, and spent a year in Oxford, England, at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art. From 1955 to 1957 he was a member of the staff of The New Yorker, and since 1957 lived in Massachusetts. He was the father of four children and the author of more than fifty books, including collections of short stories, poems, essays, and criticism. His novels won the Pulitzer Prize (twice), the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Rosenthal Award, and the Howells Medal. A previous collection of essays, Hugging the Shore, received the 1983 National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism. John Updike died on January 27, 2009, at the age of 76.

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