Villages, Paperback Book
3.5 out of 5 (1 rating)


Owen Mackenzie's life story abounds with sin and seduction, domesticity and debauchery.

His marriage to his college sweetheart is quickly followed by his first betrayal and he embarks upon a series of affairs. His pursuit of happiness, in a succession of small towns from Pennsylvania to Massachusetts, brings him to the edge of chaos, from which he is saved by a rescue that carries its own fatal price.


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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? He sets the question (less successfully) in the context of the villages with which this fucking (& its consequences) occur. As he concludes, he writes (in a statement probably not adequately set up by the preceding narrative): "Life is madness.Villages exist to moderate that madness." Beautifully, perceptively wrtten, as always, with Updike's usual keen insights into the vicissitudes of the cultural experiences of middle-class American males since WWII, it could have explored more thoroughly & perceptively this moderating role of villages.

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