The Tattooed Girl
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The Tattooed Girl

3.3 of 5 stars 3.30  ·  rating details  ·  2,125 ratings  ·  222 reviews
Joyce Carol Oates is one of the world's most respected living novelists. Her new novel brings us a tale of dark passions, prejudice, and the strange forms that love can take.A celebrated but reclusive author, young but in failing health, Joshua Seigl reluctantly realizes that he can no longer live alone. One day he encounters a young woman with synthetic-looking blond hair...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published 2004 by HarperPerennial (first published May 1st 2003)
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This has to be one of the worst books I have ever read. The only reason I finished it was because it was a book club pick. The whole book is filled with anti-Semitic slurs. I couldn't care less about any of the characters. It was difficult to find a redeeming quality to anyone. Also, certain facts are never discovered (what was Seigl's disease and who tattooed the girl and why???) I really wonder if the person who wrote the blurb on the book cover read the same book that I did. It was nothing li...more
Jun 29, 2011 Sherri rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Sherri by:
How do you review a book when the subject is distasteful?

Do you give the book a lower rating because you don't like to read about a young woman, Alma Busch, who doesn't believe that the Holocaust happened and that over 6 million Jews, homosexuals, gypsies, mental patients and more were brutally murdered?

Alma works as an assistant for a reclusive author who became famous and wealthy because of his semi-autobiographical novel about his families holocaust history. She hates him because of his hous...more
I really must get going on J. C. O. She is arguably the best woman writer we have. Joyce Carol Oates is... JUICY!

I have previously only read "Zombie" and fell in love with the anarchistic style of writing.... makes Chuck Palahniuk look the fraud he is. There is some of that here, intermingled with almost young-adult reader-friendliness. This is a dark tale, very much on the same scale as Stephen King's "Apt Pupil".

There is The Jew, a strong character that reeks of academia, Seigl, and then his...more
Laura Zurowski
There are so many negative reviews of this book that for a moment I thought I had made a wrong selection! I'm a huge JCO fan and IMHO this title did not disappoint. True, the characters are deeply flawed, broken, and ignorant - but that's what her books are all about. You want a romance story between a writer and a girl with tattoos go pick up that other book that was wildly popular a few years ago. In this story, what resonated strongly for me is that the relationship between Joshua and Alma re...more
I found something hostile and unpleasant and misanthropic about this, but I can't deny that it is smart, complex, compelling storytelling. In many ways, it reads like a thriller (with a healthy dose of the gothic); violence and doom are lurking right from the start, and I found myself sort of helplessly rooting for the protagonists to overcome their apparently inevitable fates, despite having very little sympathy for either of them.

But its themes are Serious Business (violence, prejudice, histo...more
Perhaps I'm biased, but JCO hasn't ever written a bad book, in my opinion. The reviews for "The Tattooed Girl" were somewhat lukewarm, at best. I think it is probably one of her better books. With some of her longer material, she has a tendancy to run on and on, covering the same ground again and again. Not so with short books like "The Tattooed Girl". An economy of English is exhibited; and it's all killer, no filler. (pun intended, sorta) Oates' tale of the inked girl and her life as she hooks...more
Lois Bouchard
This book really disturbed me and grabbed me at the same time. There was a lot to think about. The author skilfully weaves a tale of such sadness, anger, poignancy, and pure evil that it took my breath away. The way she introduces the true natures of each of the characters was great. Alma was antisemitic without having any real idea of why except that her less-than-savory family had been bigoted against Jews. But, hey, isn't that quite true of most bigotry? Her self-loathing had obviously been s...more
May 10, 2011 Roxanne rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Roxanne by:
There were so many themes running throughout this book that I almost started taking notes. Aside from the obvious - there was another level of the inner workings of denial, depression, and psychological mechanisms involved in self hate and the projections thereof. Joyce Carol Oates is a genius. Her understanding of how we work out our self delusions in our relationships is astounding - and then to top it off she is able to write a story, excellent plot and all, that takes us into that world if w...more
I love Joyce Carol Oates. She is beautiful and creepy and dark and always finds a new voice, even if on similiar themes. I read this book in two days. The Tattooed Girl features two main characters, Joshua Siegl, a half-Jewish writer with a secret condition, and Alma, the mysterious girl he employs. Oates is not afraid to write about what's dark and ugly about people's secret thoughts and wishes. There are twists and turns, and a total WTF ending. Good for a dark and stormy night.
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Jim Leckband
Oates plays with the concept of how inclusion or exclusion in a group affects how we end up living our lives. The two main characters are a rich, half-non-practicing Jewish male, successful writer (not unlike Philip Roth - who is the book's dedicatee) and a poor, uneducated, half-practicing Christian young woman who has a lot of poorly done tatoos. As you can tell - Oates is fairly obvious in delineating the difference between them.

The author character has written a novel based on his relative's...more
Elizabeth Moeller
At times, the characters in this novel seem more like actors in a parable, than real, fully fleshed humans. There is the chubby, sexual, dumb blond girl from the poor desolate lands of western Pennsylvania; the wealthy, intellectual Jewish man whose defining features are guilt and obliviousness; and the swarthy, angular hustler who uses the girl in hopes of getting to the man. All of these characters orbit around each other in a suburb of Rochester, NY, experiencing differing versions of underst...more
"La ragazza tatuata", come romanzo, mi ricorda un uccellino: costretto a condividere le attenzioni della madre con gli altri cuccioli delle nidiata, e quindi per forza di cose un po' gracilino. Soltanto una volta cresciuto diventa finalmente forte e capace di volare da solo... almeno fino a quando un cacciatore lo colpisce, ponendo fine alla sua vita.

Joyce Carol Oates scrive - Wikipedia alla mano - almeno un libro all'anno. Nel 2003, l'anno de "La ragazza tatuata", tra pseudonimi, saggi e romanz...more
Ugh. The synopsis on the book jacket is pretty deceiving. It makes this "tattooed girl" seem so alluring and mysterious, which made us book club members curious about reading it. Well, this story is a big depressing angry mess. It's all about ignorance. The author guy has no clue his assistant is a stupid anti-Semite, and she has no clue about much of anything. It's hard to feel sorry for her. There were small glimmers of good writing, but not enough to save this book.
Chilling. JCO names one character as having borderline personality disorder, but as far as I'm concerned, Alma has it as well. The "hero" Joshua Seigl seems to run from one borderline (his sister) to another, under the illusion that he can rescue her. Obviously, the author has researched the characteristics of borderline disorder and the result is an intelligent, suspenseful, psychological thriller.
Zoe Jean
I was disappointed to see that a reviewer decided to reveal too much of the end of the book until I reached the end of the book and found that particular person was wrong.

Joyce Carol Oates is not a light read. Light reads usually spells out every nuance of the story in order for all readers to understand it. A person has to actually think about a story written by Oates while reading it and some people find that tedious but that's ok. However, don't assume that others would find the book incompre...more
Josh Medsker
I really liked this book. I've only ever read her short stories before. The only complaint is that the Dmitri character seemed a little... flat. But all in all, this pulled me in. This was incredibly creepy, and the characters of Alma and Siegl seemed to step out of real life. I will be reading her novel We Were The Mulvaneys after I finish Absurdistan.
Thomas Strömquist
"I debated with myself whether to recommend this book or not. It is well written and a very good and insightful story about what happens when a number of people (foremost the wealthy and distinguished author/professor Siegl and the poor and horribly abused Alma (girl of the title), who is hired as his assistant). The characters are for the most part believable and complex, with a lot of issues. The story is very dark and unrelenting, however, and I read the entire book with dread, anticipating a...more
Meh. Unlikeable characters. Facile class distinctions as they talk across each other (it's HARD to be poor; it's HARD to have everything handed to you). Didn't buy the ending--it mostly came out of nowhere, blaming someone tangential to the plot.

There is something to be said about the treatment of the Holocaust in our society. By writers, by "deniers," by survivors, by the general public. It's something people sort of want to talk about, but only along specific lines. And some people do make the...more
Not JCO's best work. It felt very unstructured and self-indulgent. I do, as always, appreciate what I call the "Vs" of her writing: the visceral violent viscosity. If you read this book, you'll understand what I'm talking about.
I read this book very quickly. Sort of like when you know there's bad news coming and you want the person to hurry the fuck up and tell you what it is. Very enjoyable, very dark. Edward Gorey would like this book.
I loved this book. I've rediscovered Oates and her characters. Her plot keeps you guessing until the end. Almost like a Hitchcock movie!
Going to be part of my favorites for years to come!
Midnight Blue
Good book...enjoyable read....but it ended a little to much on a down-note for me. Plus, it was like M Night Shyamalan movies.....entertaining, but at the end your left going "What?".
Stark and depressing. Well done.
Decent but depressing

I don't really know what to say. I'm not sure what I was expecting from this book. I had a hard time liking or relating to any of the characters. Then I did, but then I hated then all over again. This is a pretty decent and interesting book but I had a hard time really getting into it because all of the messed up stuff that happens to everyone. I guess my ambivalence is a testament to how well-written the characters are...after all aren't we all slightly flawed.
4e de couverture : "Joshua Seigl, la quarantaine, écrivain estimé, riche et séduisant, se voit contraint, à cause d'une mystérieuse maladie, d'engager une assistante. Lorsqu'il rencontre par hasard Alma Busch, une jeune femme pauvre et illettrée, recouverte d'intrigants tatouages, Seigl ne peut résister à l'envie de jouer les Pygmalion. Convaincu de lui offrir la chance de sa vie, il lui propose le poste. Malheureusement pour lui, Alma Busch n'est pas la créature vulnérable qu'il croit... La Fil...more
The best thing I can say about this book is the portion at the end. In this copy, there was a bio and an interview with the author. I love Joyce Carol Oates. Her short story "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" has a Flannery O'Connor ring to it. I have read Blonde, a large novel based on Marilyn Monroe, We Were the Mulvaneys, and her non-fiction book Faith of a Writer. All of these impressed me. However, the Tattooed Girl was not nearly the caliber as the other works. I managed to see a...more
I really tried hard with this book, but it just seemed more like drinking nettle tea than doing something enjoyable. Oates is certainly a talented writer, and that's part of my problem, the deep dark disturbing material is all too real. I can feel the scorched earth of upstate NY in the winter and that icy cold wind; I can picture Alma cowering in a corner her entire life, and most horrible of all I could see the puppy she remembered kids in her childhood home being set on fire (aahhhh! Why?!).
Heather Muzik
Joyce Carol Oates does it again. I felt unnerved and enthralled and engrossed and disturbed all at once. The Tattooed Girl is replete with contradictions and crammed full of ignorance and hate. The story progresses slowly and goes a little bit of nowhere, more of a snapshot of two lives than a start-to-finish spoon-fed tale, but that just so happens to be something that I liked about it. As for the writing itself, it was engaging and poetic--perfect pace and timing to drive forward that which is...more
Kelsey F
The Tattooed Girl, by Joyce Carol Oates, is a cleaver romantic novel. The book follows a middle-aged Jewish author name Joshua Siegl and a peculiar girl named Alma Busch in her twenties. It tells the story of the two and how they find comfort and interest in each as they form an unusual relationship. Oates is a highly proclaimed author and a graduate from Syracuse University. She is the Author to books such as Blonde, The Gravedigger’s Daughter, We Were the Mulvaneys, and Broke Heart Blues.
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Joyce Carol Oates is a recipient of the National Book Award and the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction. She is also the recipient of the 2005 Prix Femina for The Falls. She is the Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at Princeton University, and she has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters since 1978. Pseudonyms ... Rosamond Smith and Laure...more
More about Joyce Carol Oates...
We Were the Mulvaneys The Falls The Gravedigger's Daughter Blonde Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang

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“So they'd fucked up her life, those guys she'd trusted, for fun. What the hell.” 0 likes
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