Search >>
Pulitzer Prize
Pulitzer Prize for Fiction
Pulitzer Prize for Biography
Pulitzer Prize for History
Pulitzer Prize for Nonfiction
National Book Critics Circle Award
National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction
National Book Critics Circle Award for Biography
National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction
National Book Award
National Book Award for Fiction
National Book Award for Nonfiction
Man Booker Prize
Man Booker Prize
New York Times Best Books
New York Times Best Fiction Books of the Year
New York Times Best Nonfiction Books of the Year
LA Times Book Prize
LA Times Book Prize for Fiction
TIME Magazine Best Books
TIME Magazine Best Fiction Books of the Year
TIME Magazine Best Nonfiction Books of the Year
Amazon.com Best Books
Amazon.com Best Books of the Year
ALA Notable Books
ALA Notable Books - Fiction
ALA Notable Books - Nonfiction
PEN/Faulkner Award
Pen/Faulkner Award
100 Best Novels
The Novel 100: The 100 Greatest Novels of All Time
Modern Library 100 Best Novels of the Century
FAW Best Books of the Year
Best Books of the Decade
Best Books of 2016
Best Books of 2015
Best Books of 2014
Best Books of 2013
Best Books of 2012
Best Books of 2011
Best Books of 2010
Best Books of 2009
Best Books of 2008
Best Books of 2007
Best Books of 2006
Best Books of 2005
Best Books of 2004
Best Books of 2003
Best Books of 2002
Best Books of 2001
Best Books of 2000
Best Books of 1999
Best Books of 1998
Best Books of 1997
Author Honors
New Yorker 20 Under 40 (2010)
New Yorker Twenty Best Young Fiction Writers in America (1999)
Granta Best of Young American Novelists (2007)
Granta Best of Young American Novelists (1996)
Granta Best of Young British Novelists (2003)
MacArthur Fellows in Fiction
National Book Foundation 5 Under 35

Gertrude and Claudius
JOHN UPDIKE

Gertrude and Claudius by John Updike
44 reviews (2000) (224p)
New York Times® Best Fiction Books

Visit this book's Amazon.com page >>


Book Description
NATIONAL BESTSELLER

"A LIVING, POWERFULLY PHYSICAL WORK . . . UPDIKE IS A SUPERBLY SKILLFUL WRITER."
–The Wall Street Journal


"WHAT A PIECE OF WORK IS UPDIKE! Our own king of erudition has gone back to the Hamlet story to imagine its inception: its offstage pre-story, when Claudius fell in love with his brother's queen and that first dastardly deed in the garden was set in motion. Wickedly replete with allusions, weaving the history of ideas with the lustier possibilities of adulterous coupling. . . . There is something delightful about following Updike down this path, seeing his sentiments and sympathies unfold."
–The Boston Globe

"WITTY . . . FRESH AND MOVING . . . Engrossing enough on its own terms to stand independently of Shakespeare's play."
Time


"[UPDIKE] HAS MANAGED TO CREATE IN GERTRUDE A GENUINELY COMPELLING CHARACTER, a woman who is, by turns, vulnerable and outspoken, daring and naïve. . . . One of his most sympathetic and persuasive female characters."
–The New York Times

"BRILLIANT."
–New Republic


Amazon.com Review
Borrowing a phrase from Hamlet for the title of his 1999 nonfiction collection, John Updike may perhaps have been dropping hints about his fictional work in progress. He has, in any case, now delivered Gertrude and Claudius--and his variation on what is arguably the Bard's greatest hit sits very handsomely in the Shakespearean shadows. As its title suggests, this is a prelude to the actual play, focusing not on the sulky star but on his mother and fratricidal stepfather (think of it as a Danish, death-struck version of The Parent Trap). Updike's great achievement here is to turn our customary sympathies on their heads. This time around, Gertrude is a decent, long-suffering wife, whose consciousness happens to be raised to the boiling point by her sexy brother-in-law. And Claudius, too, seems half a victim of this fatal attraction, with a strong neo-Platonic accent to his lust:
The amused play of her mouth and eyes, the casual music of her considerate voice, a glimpse of her bare feet and rosy morning languor were to him amorous nutrition enough: at this delicate stage the image of more would have revolted him.... What we love, he understood from the poetry of Provence, where his restless freelancing had more than once taken him, is less the gift bestowed, the moon-mottled nakedness and wet-socketed submission, than the Heavenly graciousness of bestowal.
Subtract the poetry (and leave in the wet-socket business) and we're not too far from Rabbit Angstrom. As in the bulk of his fiction--and most conspicuously in the underrated In the Beauty of the Lilies--Updike sacrifices artistic firepower when he goes archaic on us. That explains why Gertrude and Claudius gets off to a wobbly start, with the author's medieval diction careening all over the page. But once his narrative gets up to speed, Updike dispenses one brilliant bit of perception after another. Note, for example, Ophelia's teeth, "given an almost infantile roundness by her low, palely pink gums, and tilted very slightly inward, so her smile imparted a glimmering impression of coyness, with even something light-heartedly wanton about it." Who else could make mere dentition such a window into the soul?

Gertrude and Claudius also amounts to a running theological argument, in which men constantly impale themselves on metaphysical principle while the adulterous queen is willing "to accept the world at face value, as a miracle daily renewed." (That would explain Gertrude's snap diagnosis of her neurotic son: "Too much German philosophy.") A superlative satellite to Shakespeare's creation, Updike's novel is likely to retain a kind of subordinate rank, even within his own capacious body of work. Still, it's packed with enough post-Elizabethan insight about men and women, parents and children, to suggest that the play's not the thing--not always, anyway. --James Marcus


Other Award Winning Books by John Updike
The Early Stories by John Updike
18 reviews (2003) (864p) (PF)
Read Reviews | Visit this book's Amazon.com page
Toward the End of Time by John Updike
55 reviews (1997) (352p) (NYTimes)
Read Reviews | Visit this book's Amazon.com page
Rabbit at Rest by John Updike
46 reviews (1990) (0p) (PP) (NBCCA) (NYTimes)
Read Reviews | Visit this book's Amazon.com page
Roger's Version by John Updike
12 reviews (1986) (352p) (NBCCA) (NYTimes)
Read Reviews | Visit this book's Amazon.com page
The Witches of Eastwick by John Updike
34 reviews (1984) (320p) (LATimes)
Read Reviews | Visit this book's Amazon.com page
HUGGING THE SHORE by John Updike
4 reviews (1983) (919p) (NYTimes Non)
Read Reviews | Visit this book's Amazon.com page
BECH IS BACK by John Updike
3 reviews (1982) (208p) (NYTimes)
Read Reviews | Visit this book's Amazon.com page
Rabbit is Rich by John Updike
34 reviews (1981) (432p) (PP) (NBCCA) (NBA) (NYTimes)
Read Reviews | Visit this book's Amazon.com page
The Coup by John Updike
11 reviews (1978) (0p) (NBCCA)
Read Reviews | Visit this book's Amazon.com page
The Centaur by John Updike
33 reviews (1963) (320p) (NBA)
Read Reviews | Visit this book's Amazon.com page

John Updike Award Stats
Major Prize* Nominations 9  
Unique Books Nominated for a Major Prize* 6  
Pulitzer Prize Wins 2 Rabbit at Rest · Rabbit is Rich ·  
Pulitzer Prize Nominations 2 Rabbit at Rest · Rabbit is Rich ·  
National Book Critics Circle Award Wins 2 Rabbit at Rest · Rabbit is Rich ·  
National Book Critics Circle Award Nominations 4 Rabbit at Rest · Rabbit is Rich · Roger's Version · The Coup ·  
National Book Award Wins 2 Rabbit is Rich · The Centaur ·  
National Book Award Nominations 2 Rabbit is Rich · The Centaur ·  
Man Booker Prize Wins 0  
Man Booker Prize Nominations 0  
PEN/Faulkner Award Wins 1 The Early Stories ·  
PEN/Faulkner Award Nominations 1 The Early Stories ·  

*Major Prize = Pulitzer Prize, National Book Critics Circle Award, National Book Award, Man Booker Prize, and PEN/Faulkner Award

BACK

Pulitzer Prize | National Book Critics Circle Award | National Book Award | PEN/Faulkner Award | Man Booker Prize | Contact