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3.23  ·  Rating Details ·  939 Ratings  ·  114 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 2004)
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Jun 21, 2009 Mike rated it did not like it
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
Nov 15, 2008 Kim rated it did not like it
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.
Oct 09, 2008 Evan rated it liked it
too much like updike
Dec 04, 2012 Joe rated it liked it
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
May 22, 2016 SleepingBeast rated it did not like it
Thankfully, this book revealed itself to be a pile of misogynistic drivel from its very first pages, so I knew very soon not to bother with it for too long. Within the first 20 pages, Updike hammers into the reader's mind that women "let themselves be fucked" as he puts it. He repeats it so often that I found myself wondering whether he holds the sexist viewpoint that women submit and give themselves to men without truly enjoying sex as such, seeing as how frequently his character looks down on ...more
Mar 18, 2009 Brenna rated it did not like it
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
Mar 14, 2011 Christopher rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, audiobook
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,
Jun 26, 2015 Lisa rated it really liked it
A look at the life of a relatively ordinary man with the unique lens of how a village and its mores shape that life. A bit raw at times as is often the case with Updike but ultimately sad. The life lived seems to center on wanting newer and more. Though in old age there is consideration of that quest.
Beth Snyder
May 20, 2017 Beth Snyder rated it it was ok
The first half of the book celebrates love and intimacy in the marriage relationship, although tainted by what I suspect is supposed to be a mental health condition of the main character. The second half is a mishmash of adulterous relationships with a focus on the immaturity of the main character. Really dumb ending.
John Bond
May 15, 2017 John Bond rated it really liked it
Another Updike. Not his best. Contributes to his reputation for too focused on sex....
Oct 09, 2012 cin rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Renee Mcgrath
There are a handful of books that I've read whose most engaging action resides mostly in the introduction and conclusion. A Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez comes to mind, and if I recall correctly, I think Wuthering Heights had that structure as well. Villages seems to follow in that tradition of well-respected authors with engaging stories that kind of stall out in the middle.

Owen Mackenzie meets his wife Phyllis as an undergraduate at MIT. He recounts his earliest sexual e
Bronwyn Hegarty
Aug 21, 2016 Bronwyn Hegarty rated it liked it
the narrative is exceptionally clever but I couldn't get past the author's obsession with his main character's sex life. This was porn pure and simple with some literary genius attached. Owen is a philanderer and totally ignores his intelligent wife Phyllis apart from giving her four children and the lifestyle she desires. He is also a misogynist, screwing anyone in a skirt as if acting out his male chauvinism and neediness through scoring with women. Sure he sounds great in bed, attending to th ...more
Jun 15, 2016 Pablo rated it liked it
Me ha gustado, aunque a Updike le podríamos reprochar, por nonagésima cincuenta y cuarta vez, que a veces escribe tan updikeanamente bien que uno parece atrapado por su talento. Novela de formación que recuerda a otras mejores - como la preciosa El Centauro - con pasajes sobrecogedores y una mirada muy especial, el relato de Owen Mackenzie, su paso a la universidad y su vejez se tiñe de una inesperada oscuridad hacia el final.

Tal vez el libro se lea como tantos otros, sin ser tan bueno como esa
Sep 07, 2009 Lawrence rated it did not like it
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
Dec 12, 2008 Kris rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
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
Ash Ryan
Jun 11, 2015 Ash Ryan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, audio, 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. In Villages, we are presented with Updike's version of small town life, through the life of his main character, Owen Mackenzie. We're also presented with a brief history of the early decades of computer science, which is Owen's field. (This is integrated into the story somewhat more successfully than the history of postwar American art was in Updike's pre ...more
Ian Mapp
Oct 19, 2012 Ian Mapp rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 06, 2009 Marvin rated it liked it
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
Jeff Muise
Dec 13, 2012 Jeff Muise rated it liked it
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
Aug 05, 2012 Carolyn rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
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
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

Dec 14, 2012 olaszka rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 01, 2013 Lachlan rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 20, 2012 Shuriu rated it it was ok
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
Dec 12, 2012 Manish rated it really liked it
'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
Nov 20, 2010 Dorothy rated it did not like it
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
Carol Shrewsbury
Jan 06, 2016 Carol Shrewsbury rated it really liked it
This book surprised me! I can't say I agree with Updike or his protagonist on many things but the writing was magical. The book was erotic, thought provoking, often uncomfortable and it easily held my attention from the first page.


"Owen especially admires two peculiar traits of the male rich: their ability to grow more and more polite as the object of their courtesy grows more and more annoying, and their ability to wear shoes, not just moccasins but loafers of fine leather, without s
Aug 03, 2011 Terry rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 01, 2014 Donna rated it really liked it
I can't believe I have lived this long without reading John Updike! I love his writing.

The only reason I gave this four stars and not five is that I began to find the details of Owen's myriad sexual affairs a bit tedious. Yes, they were brilliant written, but too much detail after the first four or five...

One of the things I enjoyed about this book is the parallel development of the character's life and that of computing in American homes and businesses. I am a fan of the new series "Halt and C
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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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