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The Tattooed Girl

3.3  ·  Rating Details ·  2,693 Ratings  ·  276 Reviews
Joyce Carol Oates if one of the world's most respected living novelists whose audience has increased significantly with publication of MIDDLE AGE and I'LL TAKE YOU THERE. Her new novel brings us a tale of dark passions, prejudice, and the strange forms that love can take. THE TATTOOED GIRL is an intense, visceral, yet unexpectedly tender novel about a celebrated but reclus ...more
Hardcover, 307 pages
Published January 1st 2004 by Fourth Estate (GB) (first published May 1st 2003)
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Oct 17, 2016 Fabian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really must get going on J. C. O. She is arguably the best woman writer we have. Joyce Carol Oates is... just JUICY!

I have previously only read "Zombie" and fell in love with her 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 Seigl, a strong character that reeks of academia, and then
Sep 24, 2007 Michelle rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bookclub
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
Feb 25, 2011 catherine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
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
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) are brought together. 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 d ...more
May 06, 2010 Snotchocheez rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Dec 31, 2016 Asha rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition

This is my first Joyce Carol Oates book and I am quite pleased with the writing, but not too devoted to this particular plot or, for that matter, the characters. For the writing I'll say this: Oates sprinkles in metaphors and similes and makes allusions to Biblical and Greek works with the steady, knowing hand of a seasoned chef preparing their own specially created dish. I wasn't ever overwhelmed by metaphors and I didn't feel the need to look up passages from Virgil. She's very matter of fact

Elizabeth Moeller
Sep 06, 2013 Elizabeth Moeller rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Chris Blocker
Years ago, I fell into Oates. It started with a short story that I really loved, “Shopping”. From there, I jumped into one novel, then another and another. It seemed like I was going to read a lot of Oates in my lifetime. But I could tell her writing was a bit hit or miss, a consequence likely from her prolificacy.

So I told myself years ago that the next Oates I would read would be the collection that contained the story that got me into Oates's writing originally. I had a copy of Heat on my she
Maya Lang
A provocative exploration of prejudice and the complex factors that thwart or foster human compassion. Joshua Seigl is a reclusive scholar and writer whose world view does not extend past his own navel. He is neurotic and obsessive, and a series of interviews for an assistant early in the novel reveal cringe-worthy moments of misanthropy. Seigl is, in short, not a figure from whom we expect kindness. Enter Alma Busch, the tattooed girl whose very skin invites pity. She is a victim of abuse, curr ...more
Lois Bouchard
Mar 22, 2012 Lois Bouchard rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
May 10, 2011 Roxanne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 27, 2010 Sara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Heather Muzik
Jan 31, 2013 Heather Muzik rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 05, 2011 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 26, 2013 Jillian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scary
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.
Oct 04, 2007 Meri rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bookclubbooks
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.
Josh Medsker
Jan 18, 2009 Josh Medsker rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Feb 05, 2009 Michael rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literature, 2000s
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.
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.
Mar 12, 2016 Rick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A kind of bizarre book that I wasn't entirely sure I wanted to finish. But I have to say that be the end, Oates ties it all together beautifully, albeit tragically (I hope that's not too much of a spoiler).
May 27, 2015 Ruth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was glued to the pages. Flew through this one in two afternoons. Fascinating characters, fascinating story. Only flaw was the ending, in which Oates gave in to her flair for the melodramatic.
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?".
May 07, 2013 Stacey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Stark and depressing. Well done.
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
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 19, 2008 Carrah rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Theo Erasmus
Jan 02, 2017 Theo Erasmus rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reads like a thriller - but is compelling, thought-provoking and profound.
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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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“So they'd fucked up her life, those guys she'd trusted, for fun. What the hell.” 1 likes
“We see the shadows of things, not the things themselves . . . We are forced to imagine what the writer doesn’t reveal.” 1 likes
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