Book Reviews of Centaur

Author: John Updike
ISBN-13: 9780449912164
ISBN-10: 0449912167
Publication Date: 8/27/1996
Pages: 320
  • Currently 4.2/5 Stars.

4.2 stars, based on 5 ratings
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Book Type: Paperback
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2 Book Reviews submitted by our Members...sorted by voted most helpful

reviewed Centaur on + 261 more book reviews
Winner of the National Book Award. Its written by the bestselling author of The Witches of Eastwick.
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Review/Synopsis from customer David G. Phillips:
The Greek mythology interspersed throughout this book is a small but seemingly important factor. The protagonist, Caldwell/Chiron is a teacher of high school students in 1940s East Coast. Caldwell is an obsequious and self-hating man that feels totally inadequate in life - however, he is a goodhearted man that means well. Caldwell, like the famous centaur, Chiron, is a noble teacher that lacks the command and respect that a good person deserves. The book starts with Caldwell being shot in the foot with an arrow that one of his students shot into his foot (the same way in which Chiron is killed in Greek mythology.) Caldwell and his son Peter/Prometheus are connected for a three-day period after car trouble and a blizzard. The book is mostly narrated from Peter's viewpoint, and you sense the boy/students frustration with his father/teacher and his lack of self-esteem.

Peter dotes over his father during this bonding period, as his father prepares for death and his lack of will to live. Symbolically I believe that the father figure is immortal in a son's eyes, and just as Chiron prepares for death as an immortal, the father figure must also prepare for a type of death when the son comes of age as a young adult. The story slowly evolves to being a modern day metaphor of the Chiron legend.

I wish I knew more about Greek mythology to truly appreciate this book. Even though my amateurish knowledge limited my understanding of the symbolism, I still truly enjoyed the book and Updike's incredible ability to write. I recommend the book and also recommend having a basic understanding of the Chiron legend to really appreciate the book.


I really, really enjoyed this novel. Updike has got such a poetic writing style - I didn't anticipate it being a memorable book while I read it, but now I'll walk around and ask a question and immediately think to myself, "That's the sort of thing George Caldwell would say." The book just gets inside you and takes root, touching you near without even letting you realize it.