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Broke Heart Blues

3.42  ·  Rating Details  ·  461 Ratings  ·  45 Reviews
John Reddy Heart came to Willowsville, New York, driving a salmon-colored Cadillac Bel Air and sitting on three Las Vegas phone books; he was eleven years old. From that day on, as John, his seductive mother, addled grandfather, and younger siblings settled into one of the town's most beautiful homes, John Reddy Heart would become legendary as a rebel, a heartthrob, and an ...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published May 1st 2000 by Plume (first published 1999)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,094)
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Erin Quinney
Dec 14, 2013 Erin Quinney rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book got on my nerves. At first, I liked the strange POV, the "we" that switched between characters but always meant the collective, the "Circle." Then, it just got annoying. The person speaking changed at random, was never identified by anything other than gender, and repeated everything again and again and again. Also, the "we" were a little pathetic. Their obsession with John Reddy Heart (really? Blah.) was odd and unbelievable. Most people realize their teenage obsessions were crazy and ...more
Dec 18, 2008 Jim rated it liked it
A typical Oates novel in which you find more details about the people involved than you really want to know. This one starts before a 16-year-old male shoots a naked man manhandling his mother in bed and then describes not only how his life evolved but the feelings of all his peers throughout all the years until a 30th year high school reunion. He had been exhonerated for the killing and many of the teenage girls who had been attracted to him never were able to rid themselves of the obsession. T ...more
James Lundy
Apr 23, 2008 James Lundy added it
Recommends it for: people who like reading terrible, terrible books
First of all, let me say that I have loved everything I've ever read by Joyce Carol Oates -- until now. John Reddy Hart... If I ever hear that name again I think I'm going to... take a nap, which is what trying to read this snoozer will make you want to do. I found myself looking ahead time and time again to see how many more pages the chapter would last. "I'll finish this chapter before I put it down," I'd promise myself. Seldom did I keep that promise,though. Save your money and read a cereal ...more
May 05, 2008 Wallflower rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: strange people like me, i suppose
i'm surprised to see how much others on here didn't seem to like it -- broke heart blues is very nearly my favourite book.
oates' choice of perspective was amazing. i loved the way the first part had no specific narrator -- all of the individual, very different voices, joined together for a common very human purpose. oddly enough i found every moment intriguing, i couldn't put it down. and i adored john reddy heart through the whole thing, though i was at first not quite sure what to make of the
Mar 05, 2014 Simona rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Attraverso questo romanzo ho imparato a conoscere, non solo la Oates, ma anche il protagonista.
Iniziamo a conoscere John Reddy Heart sin da quando arriva a Willowsville, sobborgo nei pressi di Buffalo e all'età di 11 anni guida una Cadillac.
Conosciamo John dalle voci, dalle testimonianze di amici, di compagni di scuola e abitanti della cittadina. Ciò che scopriamo è un giovane arguto, intelligente, insofferente, solitario che pian piano diventa un idolo, un mito per tutti, anche quando sarà pr
Jun 18, 2007 Tami rated it it was ok
How many times can one phrase be repeated within a single book? Anyone who had read a Joyce Carol Oates book knows that the answer is too scary to consider. The concept is interesting, but I almost stopped reading so many times out of annoyance with the repetition and constant babbling tone of the first two sections of the book.
Jun 17, 2015 Roberta rated it really liked it
Shelves: americana
Romanzo corale estremamente affascinante (anche perchè testimonia la tendenza tutta americana a letteralmente "idolatrare" il periodo della giovinezza) che indaga l'immagine che una cittadina perbenista come Willowsville si è fatta di un giovane come John Reddy Heart (un estraneo sia letteralmente che metaforicamente, ma estremamente affascinante, che viene accusato di aver ucciso l'amante della madre). E tutte queste illusioni, che sembrano ai giovani di Willosville più vere della vita vera (ch ...more
Sep 21, 2007 minnie rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction
I have read a few Joyce Carol Oates books and loved them all, this one I found hard going and it took me months to read.The only section I liked was the one written from the point of view of John Reddy Heart,I found the hysterical obsessive voices of the high school girls difficult to take and I was glad to be finished it.I recently read The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides and it reminded me a lot of Broke Heart Blues.
Dec 11, 2012 David rated it really liked it
This is an interesting one for Oates. I really liked the dual-sided nature of the text. That was an interesting technique and made the book much more complex than it would have otherwise been. It's still not my favorite Oates, but that would be a pretty big request to make at this point.
Dec 04, 2012 Marie rated it liked it
I know I read this book a few years back, and I remember it being a bear because of all of the details. Maybe Joyce and Stephen King should date - then they could write a whole book of descriptive adjectives about downtown store fronts. ...
Oct 17, 2015 Beverly rated it did not like it
I confess, it was so repetitious that I skimmed many pages. It was as if someone said to the author write a book with 300 pages and we don't care what the content is.
Dec 01, 2008 Ashley rated it really liked it
I was also suprised to see how much everyone else disliked this book. Definately not her best, but soooo good all the same. I thouroughly enjoyed this book.
Feb 15, 2015 Susan rated it it was ok
The only Oates' book I didn't really appreciate. It was about 250 pages too long- she made her point about 30 pages in.
Lynn Vannucci
Great reviews, for its comedy; I enjoyed it a great deal but not as much as most of her books.
Apr 17, 2014 Alison rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I can't remember a collective 1st person narrator (the we) in any novel or short story let alone a successful one. This book's apparent subject is a crime. But it's deeper subject is the more interesting one, which is the mythology of high school, particularly the mythology of high school as "the best years of your life."

I also thought the books tripartite structure and seemingly omniscient but actually unreliable narrator were very effective. I also liked how those moments of unreliability show
Carrie Arick
May 16, 2015 Carrie Arick rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: no one
It's supposed to be a commentary on our celebrity obsessed culture and that does come through in the book. Yet, it's an arduous read. The writing is often confusing. I guess your supposed to be in the character of the moment's head, reading their thoughts, but it is just too much and should have been pared down... of course that would make it short story instead of a novel. Also, there are way too many of these characters to keep track of, so you can't connect with any of them. The characters yo ...more
Dec 05, 2012 Gwen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 24, 2015 Ann rated it it was ok
I forgot that I sometimes find Joyce Carol Oates hard to read and I now know I really dislike stories told from the first person plural perspective. I struggled through none the less but was dissatisfied at the end. Told from the perspective of the entire highschool class, there were too many characters to follow. whole thing a bit pointless. I now understand why Gore Vidal said the three sadest words in the English language are Joyce Carol Oates. I have read other books of hers I like such as W ...more
Dec 29, 2014 David rated it really liked it
Very good read. Had lots of interesting shifting stream of consciousness between characters that gave the whole town/HS student body a persona separate from the individual actions. I like her stuff.

Oct 09, 2014 Beth added it
Personal tragedy mirrors the environmental tragedy of Niagara Falls. The author depicts the boom to bust exploitation of Niagara Falls people and natural resources perfectly.
May 03, 2014 Kate rated it really liked it
I thought this book was delicious. It latched on to the sentiments and perceptions of an era and dragged a multitude of characters through it. I could imagine my Mom in her high school bedroom or her friends at a 30th reunion right alongside this crew. Did NOT want the story to end.
Apr 30, 2015 Badluckomen rated it it was amazing
One of my favourites!!!I completely understood everyone in this town's obsession with John Reddy because I myself became quite obsessed while reading .
May 10, 2016 Melani rated it did not like it
Wow. I don't know what JCO was up to when she wrote this book, but, DAMN, I cannot get that time back.
Sep 06, 2013 Geri rated it it was ok
I'd read some good reviews about this author ans decided it was time I try her. Looking through her books this one jumped out at me. I liked the title.
Its about the people of Willowsville NY who become fascinated with a new family in town. Especially John Reddy Heart and his mother Dahlia Heart. Its told by the teenagers who go to school with John Reddy.
I have a rule when I read that if a book hasn't grabbed me by page 50 I rarely read further. I did with this one - though I'm not sure why sinc
Mar 05, 2015 Angie rated it did not like it
I found it tedious and hard to read. I skimmed the last 5 or so pages because it kept going on and on.
Denise Gold
Feb 22, 2015 Denise Gold rated it it was ok
Rough read, a bit repetitious; tough to stick with
Sep 09, 2013 Ffiamma rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: donne, americana
corale, prolisso, ipnotico, ossessivo. un romanzo in forma di ballata per raccontare- oltre a un certo tipo di america- il misterioso john reddy heart, così diverso dai ragazzi benestanti di willosville e l'omicidio di cui forse è l'autore (o forse no).
spesso morboso e ripetitivo, a volte scontato- l'ho molto apprezzato per tre quarti. dopo no, basta: diventa esattamente quello che ci si aspetta da un libro così.
tra i romanzi letti della oates, quello che mi è piaciuto di meno.
Jan 23, 2010 Sterlingcindysu rated it it was ok
John Reddy Heart moves with his family (driving a Cadillac at age 11) into a house his mother got from a sugar daddy while working in Vegas. All the boys want to be like him, and all the girls want him. He allegedly shoots a man who is attacking his mother at 16, but is acquitted. The novel is told from the point of view of his fellow classmates, and their class reunions with just a brief section of his adult life. Very hard to read through, very intense writing.
Jul 16, 2010 Dell rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 07, 2009 Eschaaf2 rated it it was amazing
This novel has made me think about the characters frequently. It's reminiscent of something, I can't put my finger on it, but it makes you feel like the story is a part of your own history. Definitely good. Typical Joyce Carol Oates, though: fairly bleak take on humanity. But that's part of what makes it so fabulous.
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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
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