Customer Review

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Villages, 6 April 2006
This review is from: Villages (Paperback)
John Updike's 'Villages' savages US suburban life with its depiction of computer programmer Owen Mackenzie, the neighbourhood cuckold whose entire life seems to drift by in a succession of extra-marital affairs. As you would expect from Updike, this book is brimming with insights about middle-class America, told with the knowing wink and tongue-in-cheek of an author of extraordinary powers. Like Updike's protagonist Owen Wilson, this book is something of a cold fish. Rarely are we afforded the opportunity to glimpse beyond the author's enormous appetite for cynicism, his sharply-drawn characters as they are so harshly debased to cultural mores. Owen makes for a tangible but depressingly shallow protagonist, with little sense of loyalty or compassion. It is not immediately obvious why women are so attracted to him or often what attracts him to them, but it is a credible portrayal of someone that is ultimately unfulfilled by his suburban existence but is only able to articulate it through pursuit of his extra-marital affairs. It all makes for a rather damning portrait of 1960s and 70s America that sits quite comfortably with Updike's more compassionate Rabbit series. The world of 'Middle Falls' (i.e., Anytown, USA) - like Owen's aloof wife Phyllis, and the arcane world of computer programming - is depicted as emotionally impenetratable. This seems a deliberate attempt by the author to evoke a sense of detachment and superficiality - but it doesn't make for the most enjoyable read. Nevertheless, Updike still has the power to startle with the wit and veracity of his language, like the analogy he makes for Owen returning guiltily to his family home after a secret tryst, feeling 'the gaze of its windows as reproachful, like that of a forsaken pet'.
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4.5 out of 5 stars (4 customer reviews)
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