A Fair Maiden
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A Fair Maiden

3.16 of 5 stars 3.16  ·  rating details  ·  1,265 ratings  ·  247 reviews
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 marv...more
Hardcover, 176 pages
Published January 6th 2010 by Houghton Mifflin Company (first published 2009)
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Bleak! But what'd I expect? After all, Joyce Carol Oates is not Maeve Binchy. She sure knows her way around invoking an atmosphere, though. The themes here are pretty worn around the edges, for Oates and for literature in general. Nevertheless, you find yourself rooting for Katya, and genuinely grieving for her, and hoping that everything will be all right-- although, this being JCO, you know that's not bloody likely. The end becomes pretty predictable pretty quickly. It's just as well that this...more
Valerie McCoy
Mar 15, 2010 Valerie McCoy rated it 1 of 5 stars Recommends it for: No one
Recommended to Valerie by: My friend
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
At the risk of sounding presumptuous, I think Joyce Carol Oates had Little Red Riding Hood in mind when she wrote this. Fairy tale references are scattered throughout the book like breadcrumbs. We meet sixteen-year-old blond, tan-legged Katya (aka Cinderella or Snow White), who is working as a nanny for the rich Engelhardts on a New Jersey beach. She doesn't have an evil stepmother, but she does have a mother who prefers gambling and drinking to paying attention to her children. Enter Marcus Kid...more
Bonnie Brody
Joyce Carol Oates is one of the greatest and most prolific writers working today. She is the winner of the National Book Award, the PEN/Malamud Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and more awards than can be fit into this short review. Her recent short novel, A Fair Maiden, is one of her more minor works. Though I call it minor, it is by Joyce Carol Oates and, by any standard, that makes it major.

Katya Spivak is sixteen years old and is working as a summer nanny on the Jersey shore for a relatively...more
Sunny Shore
I usually love everything Joyce Carol Oates writes, but this was one of her lesser efforts. She is such a prolific writer....she pretty much lands on the bullseye with most books....but with such a large body of work, she's bound to miss once in awhile. I listened to the 5 CDs of this sad tale of a Jersey teen who gets in over her head with an old rich man, while being a nanny for a family at the Jersey shore. It's all been done before and we hear every thought in Katia's pretty little mind, whe...more
This might be a good book, but I really didn't like it. Joyce Carol Oates can certainly write which is a lot more than can be said about a number of both the good and bad books I've read in the past year. But reading about female victimization, framed in the manner that it is in this book, brings me no joy. Yes, Katya does use her sexuality as a tool of exploitation too. But that's because it's all she knows how to do. And, she's fifteen. It's the responsibility of the adults around Katya to pro...more
Laura Jolicoeur
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mo Ibrahim
A Fair Maiden by Joyce Carol Oates opens with "INNOCENTLY IT BEGAN. When Katya Spivak was sixteen years old and Marcus Kidder was sixty-eight."

Katy is described as being five feet five, tanned, and slender with streaked-blond hair and "steely gray eyes". Since the sixth grade she had begun hearing words about her "Tits, boobs, [and] ass ..." She was thirteen when she noticed how men, not boys, looked at her. And she was fourteen when she lost her virginity to her older cousin.

Kidder is described...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I read some of the other reviews before writing mine. I haven't read many of JCO's previous novels or short stories so I didn't know what to expect from this book. I read it as an adult fairy tale. I felt for Katya, a girl who had so little experience of beauty for its own sake that she had no context in which to place Mr. Kidder or his world, hence her amabivalence and the rolling of the dice theme. Certainly she had no experience of being loved or appreciated simply for the fact that she was w...more
Very engaging and well written. The subtle power plays that prove Katya's ultimate powerlessness are interesting to follow throughout. I'm not sure I entirely agree with Oates's strong anti-male (I won't exactly call it feminist, she seems to discuss the lack of control that a women has, but does not really propose any alternatives; her heroine is far from prototypical as a new "modern" feminist). In that vein, she has some great quotes: "A female is her body. A guy can be lots of things, not ju...more
I tore through this novella in about three days, unable to put it down, dying to see "what happens". JCO drew me in, made me uncomfortable and edgy all the way, and then left me disappointed at the end. I'm still not entirely sure what I think of A Fair Maiden. It doesn't help that I read it fast on the heels of seeing Catherine Breillat's controversial film Fat Girl (A Ma Soeur), which deals with a similar theme, although with far less subtlety.

From the very start, Oates creates an air of foreb...more
Mar 11, 2010 Debs rated it 2 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2010
Oates is always a bit hit or miss for me; I've always preferred her short stories to her novels/novellas. That being said, if you handed me this book without any form of identification and asked me to name the author, I would probably have gotten it in one or two guesses. Oates has a very particular style and the same themes of gender, sexuality and power run through all of her works that I've read.

More than anything, Oates' observations regarding female/male relationships and cultural percepti...more
3 1/2... ¿Podría ser un 4? Puede ser... y puede ser que todavía tenga la lectura tan reciente que aún no lo haya acabado de digerir :)

Otra vez Oates y su particular forma de contar historias, en este caso una que tiene ciertos tintes de cuento o fábula, a pesar de no estar exenta de ese toque sensual, cruel y hasta un tanto onírico que caracteriza las novelas de esta eterna aspirante al Nobel que esperemos que algún día lo consiga; porque sin duda, y como ya he dicho alguna vez, esta mujer sabe...more
I'm pretty sure that whatever JCO wanted to say with this novel was not what I heard. If it was, that's even worse. Elaborating on this would be disclosing too much... Both Katya and Marcus Kidder were pretty unsympathetic characters in my opinion. Their relationship was disturbing, based soley on manipulation. But the novel was really interesting. I thought the book was really well written. JCO is a really good writer; this is far from my first meeting with Oates. I find that with Oates it's so...more
An interesting examination of the psychology of a girl on the cusp of adulthood, yet so far from a true understanding of adult choices and thoughts and their ramifications. Abused in various ways since childhood, the heroine also lost her father early on. She is unknowingly on a quest, interacting with men, attempting to evaluate and measure their reactions and actions toward her, allowing them to define her and her identification with the world. She seeks answers to these questions: what is abu...more
I have really enjoyed most of the Oates books I have read so far, so I was kind of surprised by how bad this was. The writing is very bare and brings back memories of the cheesy YA novels I read in middle school. I think the subject matter had the potential to be intriguing and I am usually very appreciative of Oates's ability to portray gender issues through the thoughts and emotions of realistic women... but this just felt really sleazy and not even in an enjoyable way. I wasn't sure if she wa...more
A truly horrible and sinister tale, illustrating how a teenager with no sense of family love or self worth is 'befriended' by an old man. Showing how easy it is for a victim to misinterprate minupulation for kindness, and abuse for love. Although it is artisically written, all in all a tale of abuse which left me feeling sad for how easy it is for broken children to be hooked into believing that it is right.
Okay, this book was just plain weird. I very rarely dislike a book. Sadly, this is a book that I just didn't like.
I finished this book over two hours ago and I still can't wrap my head around what happened. I am still so confused! The first 80% of the book was so slow and then finally stuff happens in the last 20%.
I hated the author's use of tense. I'm not a fan of second person. Some parts of the book sounded like a children's book. "Tricia adored funny bunny. Tricia could not get enough from...more
Feb 18, 2014 Megan rated it 2 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2014
I've read a few of Ms Oate's works and while I really truly try to enjoy and appreciate her, I just can't. Dark storytelling is one thing, bleak and dull another. I found the characters flat and wholly unsympathetic. Katya's mother is typical trailer park stereotype, the "Mayflies" cliched New Money, Marcus Kidder moneyed creep- the old man who's doorbell no kid was allowed to ring on Halloween. She is best when describing nature- the waves, the trees, the very air. Quite poetic.
And a small note...more
Emily Jamestine
Avec ce genre de résumé, j’ai plutôt tendance à m’attendre à un traitement subtil, se concentrant sur l’apparence des choses. Alors qu’ici c’est presque le contraire qui nous est offert; cela commençait pourtant bien et puis la fin m’a paru hors de propos. La relation entre la jeune fille et le vieil homme est assez bien tournée, on se demande sans cesse vers quoi cela va aboutir, quels sont les intentions de chacun etc. Le doute subsiste. J’aurais apprécié d’en apprendre un peu plus sur le pass...more
Weird. That's all I can say. It's not that the writing is bad but the story itself is just weird and gross and creepy. It doesn't make you feel good or hopeful or think "wow! that was a great book" at the end. The story of a 16 year old girl who is working as a nanny for the summer in an upper-class beach town. She is befriended by an aging and wealthy resident of the town. What seems so innocent at first, as she poses for him for money while he paints her portrait, turns into a twisted tale of...more
Jen Reardon
Unusual story with very odd twists and turns. Definitely not for every reader.
Denise Mast
This story kept me captivated and I felt compelled to finish the book in one sitting.

Both Katya and Marcus Kidder were isolated from affection; Katya by her unsupportive, neglectful family and for Marcus though social superiority.

Marcus fabricated a fairy tale, I believe, many years earlier and it became more his reality over time. He found the "Fair Maiden" to suit and devoted his every effort in capturing her into his romantic tale.

Katya was both repulsed by the affections & increasingly...more
Definitely the dumbest book I've read in awhile.
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-c...more
An intriguing story, although sometimes pretty horrific. I found Katya kind of perplexing at times...but I guess that's how teenagers are anyway. I thought she was an interesting character although I'm not sure I felt much sympathy for her. I felt more sympathy for Mr. Kidder, until it was revealed that he was also somewhat sinister and manipulative himself. Both were pitiful in their own ways and constantly battled for control while hiding their own vulnerability...I found the power-play throug...more
My Inner Shelf
Comme cela faisait longtemps que je n’avais pas lu Joyce Carol Oates (!!!!), j’ai décidé de m’y remettre un peu. Le mystérieux Mr Kidder est un roman assez court et plus classique dans sa construction que ses pavés les plus denses. La jeune Katya est en manque d’affection, et surtout, en manque de père. Celui-ci a disparu quelques années plus tôt et Katya a du mal à passer outre cette absence. Le vieux Marcus Kidder est un élégant vieux monsieur très courtois et très seul, et lorsque leur route...more
I devoured this in one day, and it is, I am slightly ashamed to admit, my first novel by Joyce Carol Oates. I can say however, that it certainly won't be my last.

The story is that of Katya, age 16, and Mr. Marcus Kidder, age 68. Whilst working as a nanny for a couple who live in the same town as Mr Kidder, Katya meets the old man and some kind of bond is created between the two. This bond is what leads Mr Kidder to ask the young girl to pose for him ; moral ambiguity ensues.

Joyce Carol Oates de...more
When I told a stranger in a cafe' my inner qualms about reading almost exclusively male fiction writers and my unsuccessful quest to read more women, the stranger suggested I read Joyce Carol Oates. It turns out the public library here has quite a selection of Oates. I chose A Fair Maiden rather randomly, and read it in just a few days. The suspense is grabbing. The writing, though... rather than relish the telling of the story, I found myself mostly just wanting to know what happened. That's an...more
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Joyce Carol Oates 2 3 Feb 24, 2014 10:29PM  
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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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“To the young there are no degrees of old just as there are no degrees of dead - either you are, or you are not.” 3 likes
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