Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Review: Rabbit Is Rich by John Updike

Title: Rabbit Is Rich
Author: John Updike
Pages: 432
Challenges: 451 Challenge; Read 'n' Review Challenge

From Wikipedia:
This third novel of Updike's Rabbit series examines the life of Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom, a one-time high school basketball star, who has reached a paunchy middle-age without relocating from Brewer, Pennsylvania, the poor, fictional city of his birth. Harry and Janice, his wife of twenty-two years, live comfortably, having inherited her late father's Toyota dealership. He is indeed rich, but Harry's persistent problems — his wife's drinking, his troubled son's schemes, his libido, and spectres from his past — complicate life. Having achieved a lifestyle that would have embarrassed his working-class parents, Harry is not greedy, but neither is he ever quite satisfied. Harry has become somewhat enamored of a country-club friend's young wife. He also has to deal with the indecision and irresponsibility of Nelson, his son, who is a student at Kent State University. Throughout the book, Harry wonders about his former lover Ruth, and whether she had ever given birth to their child.

My Two Cents:

While Rabbit Is Rich is much better than Rabbit Redux (See my review of that here), both in characterization and story, there's just something about the sequels to Rabbit, Run that irks me.

Where Rabbit was disturbing in an overly voyeristic and sexual way in Redux, I found him to be much more enjoyable this time around. He was actually funny and somewhat sympathetic, something I hadn't felt for him since Run. In fact, I actually liked Rabbit this time around.

Nelson, his son, however, I wanted to slap across the room and into next Tuesday. He was whiny, lazy and spoiled. I had to keep reminding myself that he was 23 instead of 13 because he acted as if he was nothing more than a put-upon teenager (You all know the type!). He quits college because it doesn't "do anything" for him, and thinks he can just come home and work at the car lot his grandmother and parents co-own. Janice and Bessie, her mother, try to push Rabbit to give Nelson "a place" there, because it's what Janice's father would have wanted, even though he is nowhere near ready for the responsibility. He whines, complains and bullies his way onto the car lot against Rabbit's better judgment, and eventually Rabbit's skepticism is rewarded.

Updike is still that fabulous, present-tense writer he's always been. I especially liked his description of Janice and Rabbit's plane ride to the Caribbean.

I know this is supposed to be an "everyman" kind of novel, and the characters aren't supposed to be heroic or really even likable, but I still have a hard time with a novel in which I hate nearly every character (With the exception, this time, of Rabbit). It just doesn't do much for me.

My rating: 6/10


bermudaonion said...

I've never read any of Updike's work, but it sounds like this isn't the one to start with. Thanks for your review.

Michelle said...

If anything, start with Rabbit, Run and go from there. So far, it's the best of his books I've read.

Alyce said...

I hadn't even heard of these books until about a week ago when my husband started talking about maybe wanting to read them at some point. I had to look up the "Rabbit" books to know what he was talking about. :)

Michelle said...

I didn't know about them, really, until college, when I had a professor who loved Updike. So, in a modern American novels class, guess what we read?

Elizabeth said...

I always struggle with novels where I really don't LIKE the characters - I have a feeling this one would be difficult for me, too. Thanks for the great review.

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