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A Fair Maiden by Joyce Carol Oates

A Fair Maiden

by Joyce Carol Oates

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Thank god for JCO. She writes about what lurks around the edges; the shadows that dart away as soon as you turn your head to look. In this one, a young woman with a difficult home life gets a summer job babysitting for a rich family at the Jersey Shore. She is mesmerized by and jealous of the affluence she finds at the beach. When she meets a man who is the richest of the rich people there, that he's in his 60s doesn't matter to her. He is a sophisticated writer, artist and musician. He buys her an inappropriate gift almost immediately and things move forward from there.

The subject matter is obviously repulsive. However, Oates kept me reading. She is insightful about America's class issues. Her characters may behave in appalling ways, but they feel real as they do so. There is real value in shining light into the shadows and many great books do just that. This book illuminates and humanizes the teenager and the old man even as we shudder at their relationship. ( )
  nancyewhite | Dec 28, 2015 |
I was really creeped out by the subject, especially given the child's apparent enjoyment of the situation, but still, this is one of JCO's better-written novels with great point-of-view narration, so I have to give it 4****. ( )
  CurrerBell | Oct 29, 2015 |
Interesting story line. Unlike any other I have read. The author is highly creative and able to set mood well. I am sure some will not like the book because of the inclusion of sex of a minor by an elderly man and becuase of flawed and unhealthy characters. None of the characters could be considered as selfless or worthy of praise. Even Katya is crude and cruel at times. The story brings to light the meaning of love and it shows how relationships can be a mixture of cruelty and kindness. The story is believable and well developed. Joyce seems a like a modern day Edgar Allan Poe. ( )
  GlennBell | Jan 21, 2015 |
I am ambivalent about this book. On the one hand I read it in a day because I had to know what would happen, but for me it lacked a sense of urgency in the book itself. Still not sure how I feel about the ending either. ( )
  hannawy | Feb 5, 2014 |
A quick read where the main character, Katya, is captured wonderfully with all the insecurities and indecisiveness of a teenage girl. Joyce Carol Oates leaves some ends open in this novel (Naomi, for instance), but only the most insistent reader would dwell on it. ( )
  SarahWagner503 | Jan 19, 2014 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0151015163, Hardcover)

Sixteen-year-old Katya Spivak is out for a walk on the gracious streets of Bayhead Harbor with her two summer babysitting charges when she’s approached by silver-haired, elegant Marcus Kidder. At first his interest in her seems harmless, even pleasant; like his name, a sort of gentle joke. His beautiful home, the children’s books he’s written, his classical music, the marvelous art in his study, his lavish presents to her — Mr. Kidder’s life couldn’t be more different from Katya’s drab working-class existence back home in South Jersey, or more enticing. But by degrees, almost imperceptibly, something changes, and posing for Mr. Kidder’s new painting isn’t the lighthearted endeavor it once was. What does he really want from her? And how far will he go to get it?

In the tradition of Oates’s classic story "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" A Fair Maiden is an unsettling, ambiguous tale of desire and control.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:49 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Sixteen-year-old Katya Spiva is walking with her two summer babysitting charges in Bayhead Harbor, New Jersey, when she's approached by silver-haired, gentlemanly Marcus Kidder, a local resident of some renown. What does this mysterious rich man really want from Katya, who is young enough to be his granddaughter? And what will he risk to get it?… (more)

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