BenML’s #CBR5 Review #08 The Witches of Eastwick by John Updike

Aside from the occasional short story, I hadn’t read much Updike before this. The Rabbit novels have been on my list for some time, but you know how that goes. I’ll get to them one of these days. I snagged a paperback copy of The Witches of Eastwick cheap at the used bookstore and decided to dive in.

What I liked most about the book is its oddball, imaginative plot. In Eastwick, a sleepy, seaside Rhode Island village, three close female friends, all divorced, spend their days in mostly mundane ways: gardening, walking the dog, gently neglecting their respective children. Thursday afternoons are reserved for drinking, snacking, and gossiping. Though Updike never truly details the extent of their witchy powers, it becomes evident that these three women are not quite normal (and later, it is revealed that any divorced Eastwick woman has similar powers). They mostly use their powers for silly things: conjuring a thunderstorm to clear an obnoxiously crowded beach, turning tennis balls into toads, or casting a spell on an annoying Eastwick woman so that whatever the witches toss into a ceramic jar falls out of her mouth (feathers, hatpins, dust bunnies, etc.).

Read more about this witchy tale over here.

BenML’s #CBR5 Review #02—Americana by Don DeLillo

Most books fit into some basic genres (mystery, historical fiction, self-help (privileged white women eating Indian food and claiming inner peace), etc.). Americana was a tough one for me to classify. Most simply, I could stick it into two genres. The first half is a Henry Miller-esque rant against corporate America and the second half is, somehow, a road trip story evoking Kerouac. I won’t claim that really makes sense, but bear with me and listen up: this book is worth a read.

Read the rest over at my site,

BenML’s #CBR5 Review #01: The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

Image Pick up this book—it weighs little. At under 200 pages, I suppose novella would be an apt description, but crammed into its pages are endless glowing descriptions, painful moments, and tidbits of perfect clarity. The Sense of an Ending is riveting, cleverly meandering, and pretty damn good.

Told by a terribly unreliable narrator, Tony (or Anthony as his refined new friend Adrian calls him), from the later stages of his life, the story traces Tony’s days at secondary school to his golden years. He and his two best friends are a tight group, but a new student, Adrian, arrives and seamlessly melds into their crew. This group of four, prone to wearing their watches on the insides of their wrists and scoffing “That’s philosophically self-evident” in a half self-mocking, half desperate manner, finish their school year and head of in various directions. Three to university, one to his father’s business.

As time flows by and they drift apart, their lives carry on in mostly unremarkable ways. We stay with Tony through this section, only meeting up with the others during holiday reunions on breaks from school and within optimistically exchanged letters. Why Tony is telling this story becomes evident later. An emotionally devastating event, which Barnes carefully and tactfully leads the reader toward, shocks Tony and his friends and is the axis around which the story spins. This event and those deeply involved in it cause Tony to painfully reminisce and find something with which to anchor his current reality. His memory and observations serve him poorly, compelling him to dredge up past lovers and others.

Continue reading