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Of the Farm

3.53  ·  Rating Details ·  734 Ratings  ·  71 Reviews
In this short novel, Joey Robinson, a thirty-five-year-old New Yorker, describes a visit he makes, with his second wife and eleven-year-old stepson, to the Pennsylvania farm where he grew up and where his aging mother now lives alone. For three days, a quartet of voices explores the air, making confessions, seeking alignments, quarreling, pleading, and pardoning. They are ...more
Paperback, 144 pages
Published March 30th 2004 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published 1965)
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Good Books that Begin with O
100th out of 339 books — 44 voters
Rabbit at Rest by John UpdikeRabbit, Run by John UpdikeRabbit Is Rich by John UpdikeRabbit Redux by John UpdikePigeon Feathers and Other Stories by John Updike
Best of John Updike
25th out of 100 books — 5 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,139)
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Glenn Sumi
This is John Updike's fourth novel and, alas, not one of his best.

It was published in 1965, at a time when Updike was being hailed as the next great American writer after works like Rabbit, Run (1960) and Pigeon Feathers (1962) and dozens of pieces in The New Yorker. He and Alfred A. Knopf probably felt they could publish his grocery lists to glowing reviews.

Of The Farm began as a short story and should have remained one. Updike would revisit this setting a few times in more economical tales lik
Dec 16, 2014 Jason rated it really liked it
If you’ve come for plot, you’ve come to the wrong place. There is a plot in this novel, of course, though it’s simple, uninteresting to imagine: a man takes his new wife and stepson to visit his cantankerous mother who lives on a farm in Pennsylvania. But that’s not why you read Updike, or at least this Updike, looking for an exciting plot. Instead you want to be enraptured in beautifully sculpted sentences, you want to experience keen and fresh insights in human psychology, to view dissections ...more
Nov 07, 2013 Michael rated it liked it
Thought I'd read my last Updike years ago, after enjoying the Rabbit books and loathing The Witches of Eastwick but read an essay by David Foster Wallace in which is hails this, The Poorhouse Fair, and the Centaur, so read this. Updike is undoubtedly a great wordsmith but the somewhat hackneyed plot (to be fair, maybe not so overdone in 1965 when he published it) and overall implicit misogyny that mars much of his work made it less likable.
Oct 18, 2012 Pierce rated it really liked it
Not sure why I enjoyed this so much. Some of it might be the copy I found, a neat little 2 paperback with a pulp cover and red dyed edges.

Intense and solid small story. Probably my most enjoyed Updike. Funniest part was the sentences Updike imagined a ten-year-old would be capable of.
Scott Foley
Jan 03, 2012 Scott Foley rated it really liked it
Of The Farm details the complex relationship between a son in his mid-thirties and his elderly mother. The son brings his new wife and her son from a previous marriage to his mother's remote farm, and it's obvious from the beginning that the mother and the wife are not going to get along.

Though a brief novel, Updike delivers an intricate and dramatic story peeling away the complicated layers that make up relationships. Throughout the book, the man is constantly on alert, hoping to defuse any arg
J. Alfred
Sep 17, 2009 J. Alfred rated it liked it
Updike, by common consent, is a major voice in American letters. I first came across him in high school, when we read his short story The A&P, which is simply masterful. Later, I grabbed up his The Witches Of Eastwick in some secondhand shop, and we had a falling out: I hated it. Didn't even finish the stupid thing. It wasn't till this year, when he died, that I was reminded of his existence: in one of my classes we read this article ( article itself i ...more
مهران نجفی
Jul 23, 2015 مهران نجفی rated it it was amazing
داستان شروع آرام و آهستهای دارد. همه چیز روی دور کند گذاشته میشود و در ادامه هم –همانطور که از آپدایک انتظار میرود- خبری از ماجراهایی، بالاتر از سطح یک زندگیِ ساده نیست. صفحاتِ کم حجم داستان را، ساختهشدن و تکامل شخصیتها شکل میدهد و بستر این امر، روی گفتوگوهای کاراکترها تمرکز یافته. این گپوگفتها یکجورهایی از هر دری هستند. از بحث و تبادل نظر روی کتابهای کمیک تخیلی –که دربارهی انسانهای جهش یافته است و راستِ کار ریچارد است- گرفته، تا صحبت دربارهی زندگی مشترک قبلی پگی و جوئی رابینسون، خاطرات کودکی او ...more
Feb 16, 2009 Steve rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone who's never read any Updike (or any Updike they've enjoyed).
The last view years of his considerable writing life, it sometimes seemed that John Updike was almost writing parodies of himself, but this slender, early novel, shows why Updike, when he was on his game, was as fine an American writer of the 20th century. If you've never read him, start here.
Jonathan Stemberger
Of the Farm by John Updike. Random House Publishing Group, New York, 1965.
John Updike’s novel Of the Farm is about a man named Joey that returns to his old home in the country in order to visit his mother. It is not a novel for those who seek constant action; the story spends a lot of time on dialogue and description of past events and life on the farm which gives the piece a slow elderly feel. The descriptions Updike writes provide the reader with a full understanding of what is going on in mai
Feb 06, 2015 Susan rated it liked it
This book is a look into the lives of four people during a weekend in Summer.
A thirty something divorcee takes his new wife and her young son to visit his 'difficult' Mother, who now lives alone on the family farm.
It's amazing how much the reader learns about these people over such a short time span, and in such a short book.
Old and new wounds emerge, as the characters play mind games with each other.....I liked the young son.....the others not so much,
I thought the writing was very good, someti
Suz Thackston
Jan 03, 2014 Suz Thackston rated it it was ok
I so disliked this slender little self-conscious bit of egoist twaddle. Yeah, Updike can write, but every line drips with polish and precision and angst over whether it's worthy of appearing in 'one of the greatest writers of the 20th century's stupid book. Not one line comes across as passionate or coming from his heart or as if HE believes it. It's a heavy-handed personal creed being wrapped in storytelling form because Updike thinks he's such a great storyteller. I can see the talent over whi ...more
Jun 26, 2015 Gen rated it it was ok
Updike baffles me. He's like that thing - the phenomenon, trend, habit, word - a previous generation claims is "super groovy," but with which it's impossible to connect if you're from any different time ... or not a dude. His significance feels completely contextual; absent the shock value of the sexual revolution, there's nothing to him. This novella is the perfect example - it had some admittedly gorgeous sentences, but taken as a whole, it felt insubstantial and pointless. Not a moment passes ...more
Sep 05, 2016 latner3 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

A study of a quartet of voices over a three day period within the confines of an isolated farm.Making confessions,quarrelling,pleading and pardoning.Brilliantly written.A mini masterpiece.
Taylor Church
Nov 15, 2015 Taylor Church rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a fun little novella that told a complicated yet simple story of a family. The farm is a symbolic feature, and the locale of the story, but the real story is in the characters, the family dynamic. This was the first Updike book I have read, and I was quickly taken by his ability to describe and elucidate the immaterial and mundane portions of life. Even though the small book seems to just tell a brief account of a tension-filled weekend, the author tackles much greater themes with poeti ...more
Ari Landa
Jun 21, 2016 Ari Landa rated it liked it
I found this book to be more poetic and less narrative storytelling, but still, I enjoyed Updike's prose. I gave it 3 stars because it lacked the intrigue of most novels. Nonetheless, it's still a worthwhile read for the subtle poetic characterizations of ordinary life. The main theme discussed in the book is the relationship between man and wife, as distinct from the relationship between people, and whether marriage should be pursued as an intellectual, compatability, compromise based relations ...more
Andy Montero
Feb 28, 2016 Andy Montero rated it really liked it
John Updike has long been my favorite author. I was intrigued to read this book from 1965, the year of my birth. This is a short novel, more like a long short story, without chapters and a quick read. Updike's style is familiar and comfortable from his "Rabbit" books. The Pennsylvania setting strikes a chord with me, but the minimal plot and dialogue of the four characters really hit close to home. Perhaps I felt some cosmic connection? Who's to say, but I want more. Guess I'll have to read it a ...more
Tyler Koslow
Apr 06, 2011 Tyler Koslow rated it liked it
John Updike
Of the Farm
The Random House Publishing Group

John Updike’s On the Farm is a novel about a man with a new life in the city who goes back home and clashes with his old life. The main driving force behind the plot of this story is the dialogue that is consistently used. The relationship that the main character Joey Robinson develops with his mother and his new wife is evident through this constant use of conversation. In fact, the whole plot seems to be driven by the development of th
Roderick Hart
Oct 19, 2008 Roderick Hart rated it really liked it
This is an interesting shorter novel. A lot shorter than the last two Rabbit novels, for example (not then written). It has some slight autobiogaphical interest, I think. On page 59, the step-son of the first person narrator says to him, 'Your mother knows the names of everything.' He is referring to plants, birds and animals. Living things. I heard Updike say, at the age of seventy, that his mother knew the name of everything and had often tried to teach him, but he did not take it in. And now ...more
Aug 03, 2016 Konstantin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
[rating = B-]
Flawlessly told, the story is not about being on a farm but about having the farm itself. Joey, married to Peggy, returns to a troubled mother who seems unwilling to cooperate. Her, the mother’s, clawing and digging into her son’s marriage betrays the deeper theme of her own sunken marriage. Alone, Joey’s mother clings to what she knows. Short but powerful: the tale reverberates in quick flashbacks of old loves and children. Somewhat theological, toward the end, the idea that women
Apr 16, 2009 Peter rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
The dialogue we share with others is complex and unique among individuals, our language is allusive and teasing. We keep it very circumspective, superficial and flirtatious either to protect our own fragile egos or sometimes to protect others' but the level of indirection we maintain can also be used scathingly to reveal the stark schism between an individual's perceptions and reality.

Of The Farm is about Joey's trip to the family farm to help with some chores that his fading mother can no longe
Dec 10, 2009 Schuyler rated it liked it
This is my first Updike novel. I forget where I had come across this recommendation. So...successful city man and his new wife and step son visit his childhood farm where his kinda-dying widowed mother still lives. I say "kinda-dying" because it's implied that she's on the way out, though no illness is mentioned. Old age?

A gentle introduction into Updike's world, though from what I can gather, Updike made his career on chronicling suburban disillusionment and the despair of the American dream (a
Nov 03, 2011 Cbj rated it liked it
Of the Farm is a really dense novel with a lot of internal dialog. It is about Joey, a corporate employee who goes on a weekend visit to his childhood home (a farm, now run by his mother) with his trophy second wife and stepson. Joey seems to be in a state of extreme neurosis as his thoughts hark back and forth from the present to the past, contemplating his life. He is like a moral melting pot who is caught between his bought beautiful wife (who works on the farm in a bikini and he keeps contem ...more
Aug 23, 2014 Robin rated it it was ok
My least favourite Updike book so far. Some nail-on-the-head sentences here and there that come through clearly, but too much middle aged man whining for me. (Maybe it's time for a break from Updike, hmm?)
Charles Adkinson
May 09, 2013 Charles Adkinson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an atmospheric little gem of a novel. Basically, the main character goes to his mother's farm (ostensibly to mow her fields so she won't get cited or fined or something), but he takes his new wife and her adolescent son with him. Essentially they spend the weekend in a beautifully rendered farmhouse and surrounding area (the farm is its own character in a way), and there's an extreme amount of tension between the protagonist's wife and mother. Updike is great, and if you're looking for a ...more
Charles M.
Early work by Updike, based on a real life expereince of returning to his mother's PA farm. This is a story of reflection on where the main character has been in life and what lies ahead.
Sep 05, 2014 Kate rated it it was amazing
Shelves: classics, favorites
John Updike's Of the Farm is a good story, but more importantly, it really is an exquisitely crafted piece of art. i can't remember the last time i read something whose sentences were so robust yet delicate and just plain good; they wind between plot and description, dialogue and insight with such complex beauty but seem to come from him effortlessly. certainly this is a short novel that contains more truth, charm, and intellect than many lengthier works filling up bookshelves.

this is the first
Mar 04, 2016 Hannah rated it really liked it
I loved this little guy! It definitely reads more like a short story so you can get bogged down in it easily. But if you love Updike it's worth it. The way he creates sentences and manipulates words is so incredibly fascinating.
Jun 25, 2014 Linda rated it liked it
I am still digesting this little book after just finishing it. So for now I will give it 3 stars.
Justin Rose
May 17, 2014 Justin Rose rated it it was amazing
Felt like I really got to know the characters. Their interactions with each other seemed real.
Mary Daniels
Mar 21, 2016 Mary Daniels rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
A little gem that explores human relationships and the places that shape them.
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John Hoyer Updike was an American writer. Updike's most famous work is his Rabbit series (Rabbit, Run; Rabbit Redux; Rabbit Is Rich; Rabbit At Rest; and Rabbit Remembered). Rabbit is Rich and Rabbit at Rest both won Pulitzer Prizes for Updike. Describing his subject as "the American small town, Protestant middle class," Updike is well known for his careful craftsmanship and prolific writing, havin ...more
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