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The Female of the Species: Tales of Mystery and Suspense

3.59  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,030 Ratings  ·  137 Reviews
A young wife is home alone when the phone rings in “So Help Me God.” Is the strange voice flirting with her from the other end of the line her jealous husband laying a trap, or a stranger who knows entirely too much about her? In “Madison at Guignol” an unhappy fashionista discovers a secret door inside her favorite clothing store and insists the staff let her enter. But e ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published January 15th 2007 by Mariner Books (first published 2005)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,052)
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May 05, 2008 Madeline rated it it was amazing
Reading this book is like having a nightmare. No, actually it's like having nine separate nightmares.

That's not critisism, by the way. This was the only way I could think of to describe these short stories. It says right in the title that these are "tales of mystery and suspense", and believe me, when Joyce Carol Oates tells you you're going to read a book of suspensful mystery stories, she is not kidding around. Each story in this book focuses on a woman doing something horrible, violent, or ju
علياء بسيوني
تخبرك الكاتبة فى كثير من القصص عن غموض الأنثى..تحيرك معها طفلة وناضجة وعجوزاً..لكنها لاتحل اللغز ابداً
Feb 08, 2009 Katherine rated it it was ok
Creepy! For me, that's not so good. I'll be honest; this is the first JCO I've read. I grew up in New Jersey and my mom used to tell me about seeing JCO at the public library being a real pill. So I haven't been drawn to her work, and this try didn't warm me to her.
Feb 15, 2014 Anastasia rated it liked it
So Help Me God -
A young woman married to an abusive and devilish man might be pushed to react.

The Banshee -
A suspenseful tale of a young girl of six attempts to garner the attention of her wealthy socialite parents.

Doll: A Romance of the Mississippi -
Doll, along with her father, travel through seedy towns along the Mississippi leaving a bloody trail in their wake.

Madison at Guignol -
A wealthy, vain New York City socialite craves the approval of her peers, to the point where she'll venture
Jan 02, 2015 Ian rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
My second Oates. This one is a collection of short stories, many of which originally appeared in genre magazines. I think I can safely say now that Oates doesn’t quite work for me. According to the blurb, in these stories “women are confronted by the evil around them and surprised by the evil they find within them”. I thought the most successful story was ‘Madison at Guignol’, in which a trophy wife polished to a lacquer-like gloss learns of a secret door at one of her favourite high-end boutiqu ...more
Jan 03, 2009 Laurie rated it really liked it
This collection of short storis examines the capacity of women to do evil. Bringing us into the depths of horror, Oates's protagonists range in age, interest, and situation. We meet a six-year-old girl, a young nurse, a middle-aged fashionista, and an elderly woman dying in a nursing home, among others. What unites all of these women across their stories are the desperate personal circumstances in which they find themselves, and the realization that the only path out is a dark and disturbing one ...more
Dec 25, 2007 Nilay rated it it was ok
I was first interested in reading this book because most of the narrators were female, so it would be easy for me to relate to them. Many of the stories were filled with mystery and suspense just as the title suggested, but at the same time realistic which made it even the more scarier. The stories also had a lot of variety in them; the narrators' ages and the settings were different.
This was one of the books that taught me that people are basically savages waiting to be unleashed.
Thomas Bruso
May 31, 2014 Thomas Bruso rated it it was amazing
I prefer Joyce Carol Oates when she pens short fiction, and in the case of THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES, a collection of nine riveting suspense and mystery stories, Oates knows how to keep her readers in a trance, literally flying through pages to see what happens next.

This particular collection of stories is well-structured and unputdownable that I had difficulty tearing myself away from the beautifully and haunting narratives. In the first outing, "So Help me God," my favorite story in the book,
Jim Algie
Feb 06, 2014 Jim Algie rated it really liked it
I often judge a thriller or tale of suspense by how many times I miss my stop on the subway while ensnared in the serpentine twists and hairpin turns of the plot. In the case of Joyce Carol Oates’ collection, The Female of the Species, that meant more than a bit of backtracking. One night after work, oblivious to the crush of commuters, while rereading the longest and most complex tale, “Tell Me You Forgive Me,” I came to my senses four stops after my station.

The sensuality of her writing and h
Mandy Moody
May 28, 2009 Mandy Moody rated it really liked it
My theory about collections of short stories is that the authors that write them are sick - that sometimes they have characters or stories stuck in their heads and that writing short stories is how they exercise them - like demons.
I mean that it the most admiring way.
The Female of the Species by Joyce Carol Oates proves my theory. A collection of short stories - each a disturbing tale of dysfunction, anger, violence, desperation or sadness.
I loved it.
Stories of women pushed to extreme behaviors
Are women victims or monsters? Are they to be wooed or crushed? Can anyone ever understand what’s going on in their minds?

Ms. Oates's stories reveal women who are laws unto themselves, at once beautiful, fascinating, mysterious and dangerous in their unpredictability. Edgy, disturbing and nerve-wracking, this collection of suspense tales cannot be put down in mid-read. They call, sirenlike, to be finished even as we fear the ending. They are rough edged and harsh to the point where we want to c
Kurt Reichenbaugh
Oct 09, 2010 Kurt Reichenbaugh rated it really liked it
Shelves: noir
I picked this book up a few years back after seeing a quickie review in Rue Morgue magazine. I finally got around to reading them last week. A fine set of (mostly) noir stories told from the female perspective. I thought they were all compelling. Favorites were: "So Help Me God" - a woman takes creepy phone calls while her husband is out on night-shift patrol, "Doll - A Romance of the Mississippi" - a child-like prostitute meets clients armed with a hidden razor, "Tell Me You Forgive Me?" - Betr ...more
Sandra KS Pitt
Il y a quelques semaines de cela je consultais un blog de lecture et le blogger disait qu’il avait toute une série de livres de Joyce Carole Oates dans sa PàL. Pour être tout à fait honnête je n’avais jamais entendu ce nom auparavant. Ce qui peut sembler étonnant quand on sait que l’auteure en question a écrit plus d’une centaine de livres et était pressentie cette année pour le prix Nobel de littérature (rumeur rumeur). Je me suis donc penchée de plus près sur ce qu’elle écrivait et là ça a été ...more
Oct 24, 2014 Medina rated it really liked it
This is the first I've read of Joyce Carol Oates and I didn't know what to expect, but I didn't expect the psychological jolt. Oates's stories are subtle and obvious at the same time; they don't explain themselves fully. And they're violent and sexual- Intense- in a way that differs from violence and sex in male-authored books.

The first story, So Help Me God, was my true introduction to Oates and I didn't expect the story, which tells of a woman in an abusive relationship that is getting lewd p
Ryan G
I have a few friends, whose opinions I normally trust, who have been prodding me into reading Joyce Carol Oates. I'm not really sure why I was hesitant at first, maybe it was as simple as having other books I would rather read instead. Anyway, long story short, I tend to buy quite a few books at The Dollar Tree, well because they are a dollar. Sometimes they have absolutely nothing I would ever want to read, most of the time they have one or two books that if I had to pay more than a dollar, I p ...more
Nicole G.
Jan 05, 2008 Nicole G. rated it liked it
This was good, but not her best work. A collection of short stories, with females as their protagonists. "Doll: A romance of the Mississippi" was rather creepy, but other than that, the rest of the them were just median. I don't think there are any JCO stories that are bad, per se, but these weren't as gripping as other short story collections of hers.
Mohamed Yehia
كيف تكتب قصص مشوقة و مثيرة بشكل متمكن و محكم و متنوع
Dec 07, 2009 Lene rated it it was amazing
While many of the stories in this collection were indeed unsettling, I found the examinations of the capacity for evil interesting. I think JCO is a master storyteller with an insight into human nature that is both keen and non-judgemental. Whether pushed or coerced, there is truly no telling what one may be capable of doing.
Jia Drisdom
Dec 12, 2015 Jia Drisdom rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone who love JCO
I think you either love Joyce Carol Oates or you don't. I don't. I found this book to be boring, mundane. I give it three stars because the writing is wonderful; I just wasn't captivated by any of the stories.
Jan 02, 2015 RNOCEAN rated it it was amazing
This collection of short stories examines the capacity of women to do evil. I actually think that women can be more evil that the male species, and even more devious. Bringing us into the depths of horror, Oates's protagonists range in age, interest, and situation. We meet a six-year-old girl, a young nurse, a middle-aged fashionista, and an elderly woman dying in a nursing home, among others. What unites all of these women across their stories are the desperate personal circumstances in which t ...more
Amanda Galbavi
Jan 09, 2016 Amanda Galbavi rated it liked it
I had a hard time rating this. It is a collection of stories, all but one have a female POV character. I really enjoyed many of the stories, but there were three I did not care for at all ("Madison at Guignol", "Angel of Wrath", and "Angel of Mercy"). I had a hard time finishing the book because the two "Angel" stories were at the end.

May favorite story of the book was "Hunger" which tells the story of how a murder affects multiple generations of a family, and the events leading up to it. It sta
Apr 24, 2016 jocelyn rated it it was amazing
Shelves: collections, gruesome
one thing about these short stories is that they are more for the effect than the story. this book claims 'tales of mystery and suspense' and you are getting just that: mystery & suspense. what you are not getting is a rounded answer and explanation. going from story to story leaves you with a feeling of dread, like you know what might happen but you're not sure.

don't expect to get a lot of closure from these; to me, that's not the purpose. you get a snippet enough to characterize the story
Mohamed Ateaa
Mar 13, 2012 Mohamed Ateaa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
كتاب ممتع للغاية
اهمهم القصة الاخيرة و اطولهم ايضا

محمد عطية
Joyce Carol Oates is a very prolific writer that I’d heard a ton about, but was unsure where to start. A year or so ago (really) a bookshop near me was closing and had a big closing down sale so I picked up this collection of short stories as I thought that they would perhaps serve as a good introduction to her writing.

The stories apparently are designed to show that women are just as capable of being naturally evil as their male counterparts; and many of the stories do feature some kind of murd
I love Oates' writing style. Her fragmented sentences. (See, I can do it too, and it really is easier) The way she can paint something all nicey nice. Then slowly morph into nasty nasty. (whoops, I did it again!) But I didn't care much for any of the short stories. They are edgy and evil, but that must have been her intent. However, I am a very big fan of Joyce Carol Oates, so maybe I should be giving it 5 stars, because, as usual, her writing is superb, and she delivers what she proposed.
This collection of short stories involves female leads. Only one story is told through a male's voice, and his is a voice that loves women unconditionally - a voice that invents adoring relationships with women he doesn't know.

I felt like I flew through this book because some of the stories were so captivating you wanted to race to the end to find out what happened. A few stories stick out as particularly good - The Haunting (about a girl haunted by ghost rabbits in their cellar), The Hunger (ab
Jul 18, 2011 Sherri rated it really liked it
Joyce Carol Oates is not only a prolific author of novels she also is a big name in the short story realm as well. However, I'd say her short stories often seem to be more novella than short story. I think that is one of the reasons I like reading her books of short stories, I never feel short-changed on character development, story-line or the rich way she tells stories: one line after another sneaking into you and holding your attention till the very next sentence grabs your attention away.

Jun 13, 2009 Carolyn rated it liked it
"Is Doll your actual name? (Doll is frequently asked.)
Doll is trained to say, Yes.
Yes, but you may call me anything you wish. If calling me by another girl's name is what you wish. (Doll giggles. Doll nibbles at the end of one of her pigtails, winningly positioned over her slender shoulder.)" (from "Doll: A Romance of the Mississippi")

The title of the book, combined with the red and black cover of the edition I read, evoked a black widow spider, appropriate for this collection of short storie
Feb 16, 2016 Pauline rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library-books
I'm not the biggest fan of short stories, but I had to read those ones from Oates, Who I appreciate more and more.
This book is a compilation of 9 stories previously released in various papers and magazines (If I'm not mistaken).
Some stories I enjoyed more than others, but in the end I really liked this book. The themes are always the same with Oates, quite morbid and disturbing. I really enjoy her style, her writing is very different to what I'm used to.
Will be reading more from her very soon.
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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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