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Villages

3.2 of 5 stars 3.20  ·  rating details  ·  698 ratings  ·  93 reviews
John Updike’s twenty-first 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 Mervin...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published September 27th 2005 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published January 1st 2004)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,372)
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Mike
Jul 26, 2009 Mike rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Someone in a bad marriage who will by happy reading of a worse one
On the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) anytime a movie is totally preposterous, some wag on the forums starts a "100 things I learned from _____" thread.

I'm a little reluctant to do so with "Villages", because it's possible, given the author's fame, that I totally missed the point of the book. (I didn't learn how to evaluate literature in high school, and failed the only literature class I took in college.) On the other hand, probably all the good things about this novel have already been writte...more
Kim
Dec 01, 2008 Kim rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: NO ONE
Recommended to Kim by: someone who'd rather see me bored
This is about as useless a book as there ever was, and the only reason I didn't give it no stars is because occasionally he'd do a fancy trick and win, but it was all in his imagery and had little to do with the plot. I've put it down with less than 100 pages to go. This is pretty deep dislike, I'm sure you understand.

I guess: if I want to read a novel about the history of 20th century programming, I'll screw a nerd instead. Which I don't want to do, because then I'd be bored. The end.
Joe
For decades there's been a "Bad Hemingway" contest. You take Papa's style - his short, monosyllabic sentences, his klunky rhythm, his simple grammar, his lack of adjectives, his self-conscious macho posing - and try to make it even worse by caricaturing it. It would be interesting to have a "Bad Updike" contest: his dysphoric, relentlessly physical sex, his unlikable one-dimensional characters, his inability to inhabit female consciousness except insofar as women exist for the endless delectatio...more
Brenna
I've never read any Updike except for his reviews and essays in the New Yorker, which I really liked. So I thought I'd give his novels a whirl, especially since everyone loooooooves him. But I just could not stand anything about this book. Here's an excerpt from the inner thoughts of the main character (I just can't call him a "hero"), to give you an idea why:

"Why do women go along with men? Perhaps it was a simple question of electrical engineering: in a world full of plugs, nature must provide...more
Christopher
Typical Updike. His prose always reminds me of paintings, this story is no exception, though this time his protagonist is framing the world though a single mathematical inquiry, and approaching life as a computer programmer.

The story rating is a 2-3, but the audio presentation is what truly pleased me: Edward Herrmann’s (of ubiquitous History Channel narrations/Mr. Richard Gilmore in Gilmore Girls) reading is simply wonderful. I find that Updike is the perfect writer to have read aloud to you,...more
Louis
C'est le premier livre d'Updike que je lis... et sans doute pas le dernier. 6 chapitres sur 14 s'intitulent «Village Sex», et comme tout l'oeuvre de John Updike, les descriptions fort détaillées des ébats sexuels du héros ne sont pas écrites pour des prudes. L'adultère et les faux-semblants semblent des activités des plus normales dans ce roman probablement largement autobiographique. Cela dit, j'ai été conquis par le style imagé et enlevé d'Updike. Pour «adultes avec réserves», comme on disait...more
Evan
too much like updike
Ian Mapp
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Marvin
This novel, read magnificently in its audio version by Edward Herrmann, is vintage Updike. A man in his 70s remembers & celebrates the women in his life--mother, grandmother, girlfriends, 2 wives, lovers--their beauty, their sexuality, their contributions to his developing selfhood. Typically, there's lots of vividly described sex. The central question seems to be: Why do women fuck, when it comes with such tremendous costs for them, costs that men such as the book's subject mostly ignore? H...more
cin
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kris
Updike writes:
It was a celibate villager who wrote, 'We know not where we are. Beside, we are sound asleep nearly half our time. Yet we esteem ourselves wise, and have an established order on the surface.' Such a surface order makes possible human combinations and moments of tender regards. It is a mad thing, to be alive. Villages exist to moderate this madness--to hide it from children, to bottle it for private use, to smooth its imperatives into habits, to protect us from the darkness without...more
Lawrence
Ho hum! I felt as if I had read this story before in previous Updike books. I came across as a mix of Couples and Roger's Version. Computers, the tedious and endless affairs of suburbanites who indulge in extramarital affairs out of nothing but boredom . . . downright uninteresting, lacking in insight, and comparatively uninspired prose. But I do have to give Updike a bit of applause for including in this one the following sentence:

Former President Reagan hangs heavily over the infant millennium...more
Carolyn
This would be Updike's response to Clinton's "it takes a village" idea - it takes a village to frame us... frame, enclose, confine, imprison...

The arc of the book - a man's life - his love life - the rise and fall and recovery of it. The fall - the bulk of the book - is uncomfortable to read. Not nasty or ugly, or terrible, really, in the scheme of human horrors, but a fall that is relationally detached the way the cool yet muddled men in Updike's books avail themselves of others - they being N...more
Jeff Muise
Sigh, this another extended Updike meditation on sex in the suburbs during the 1950s to present day. It is so similar to many other Updike books that it might be snipped from the same running manuscript as the Rabbit books or Couples. I have grown weary of Updike's fascination with infidelity and female anatomies. However, I still think the book was worth reading for the enjoyment of Updike's fluid writing style. His prose always flows like poured honey -- an unbroken, lazy stream that is clear,...more
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 handl

...more
Mark Speed
A really wonderful novel. Updike does what he did so well in the Rabbit series: follows a protagonist's trajectory through life. In this novel, he focuses a lot on sex and relationships. It's not a demanding read, but I found it richly rewarding. Updike really was a master at this kind of story.
Alec Gray
One of Updike's last "suburbanite" books; it recapitulates his inner and outer life with women. After reading much of Updike's works, you realize much of these has been seen before, but still a wonderful writer and interesting man. Recommended
Karen
Jun 27, 2008 Karen marked it as to-read
I have this among a hundred others that are on my 'to-read' list. I think I'm among other book 'junkies' and I buy books like crazy at discount stores, flea-markets, garage sales and also at the library when they are selling their 'discarded' books. I had a chilling thought after bringing home the last dozen or so. . . "what if I'm to be bed-ridden and home-bound? What if I've gotten all these books subconciously because I'll need something to occuply myeself while I'm recovering from a long ill...more
Jack Sallay
So. Much. Sex. And yet towards the end the story came into place - in moments. Overall, I don't recommend this as it is not one of his best works. But not terrible. Three stars, no less, no more. Read Rabbit, Run if you've not read anything by him before.
Tim
Extremely well written...the prose is fantastic...has some low points that appear to be redundant. More than once I felt as if I had just read something that was supposed to be new...
Lachlan
This tells the fictitious life story of a very fallible, very human man who becomes quite successful in the early days of the computing boom. The "villages" are the various suburban towns in NE USA that he resides in as his life story unfolds. His lasting boyishness keeps him both attractive to and interested in women. Updike describes his sexual escapades in delicious detail, lingering on the feel of the female body to the hetero male. But there is so much more to this book, which explores mora...more
olaszka
this book has got flaws, to be sure. you find yourself frowning every now and then at the dated world view especially where relationships are concerned. but then, the narration is retrospective and the focaliser happens to be a male piece of shit embracing the sixties. a bit of misogyny is part of the deal. then there's the sex. a bit too much of it, it limits the perspective.

still, i loved two things about this book: the language (it goes without saying that updike poeticizes the mundane with u...more
Dot
I found this a very disappointing read from one of America's best known novelists. Basically an account of the life of a man, the villages he has lived in Connecticut/New York, his career in the post war fledgling IT industry, and the women he was drawn to. The book jacket described the work as "witty and passionate" but I found the descriptions of his many sexual encounters, narrated in a detached voice, with almost clinical anatomical details, became very tedious. The history of his role in th...more
Terry
Okay, I'm weird, but thought I'd read this, Updike's second to last novel, because I had just read his 2nd novel, "Rabbit, Run." Thought it would be interesting to compare his writing style from 1959 to 2004. I actually liked the earlier novel, "Rabbit, Run" better. On the plus side, it was nice to see that an older man was still writing about sex. On the other, the adultery got pretty old -- and they say gay men are frisky! Updike's character development is there, he can write some pretty prose...more
Shuriu
It does seem to him as Julia explains details of their health insurance or their next trip to Europe that the English language in her mouth has too elaborate a syntax -- expanding a simple thought graspable by the mind in a few billionths of a second into a paragraph a number of minutes long. One of the boys older than he back in Willow -- probably Marty Knopfzinger who made a study of such matters -- confided in him this piece of village wisdom, "the more a girl talks the more she'll fuck. Thei...more
Manish
'Villages' traces the life of a Computer Engineer from his childhood in rural Pennsylvania, college at MIT, entrepreneurship at Connecticut and finally retirement - all along analysing his sexual trysts with the various women he encounters. Being my first novel of Updike, the book was a revelation. His sharp analysis and the boyish wonder with which he treats the whole idea and act of sex, made this book worthwhile. At a deeper level, the book is also a mirror to the transitions that the America...more
Alicia
Like so many of his books - similar to the Rabbit series, but with less interesting characters.
Robert Bason
Following John Updike on one of his family travels is always worthwhile.
Lynn
Now that I've read the Updike biography by Adam Begley, I'm going back and adding a few of his books that I missed.

This one should be called "Couples Redux".
Danika
perhaps i'm not a big updike fan in general, but this book was pretty disappointing for me. the characters were snobbish and spoiled and i felt no love for any of them. plus, why should i read about boring, past-their-prime, middle aged suburbanites cheating on their spouses when i can read about hot, young celebrities in crappy magazines doing the same things? granted, the writing in "in touch" does not compare to updike's fluid, beautiful style but the subject matter is much more interesting w...more
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John Hoyer Updike (born March 18, 1932 in Shillington, Pennsylvania) 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 hi...more
More about John Updike...
Rabbit, Run (Rabbit Angstrom, #1) Rabbit at Rest (Rabbit Angstrom, #4) Rabbit Is Rich (Rabbit Angstrom, #3) Rabbit Redux (Rabbit Angstrom, #2) The Witches of Eastwick (Eastwick, #1)

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