Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Gravedigger's Daughter” as Want to Read:
The Gravedigger's Daughter
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Gravedigger's Daughter

3.54  ·  Rating details ·  8,738 Ratings  ·  1,052 Reviews
From one of the greatest literary forces of our time, an intensely realized, masterful epic of a young woman's struggle for identity and survival in post - World War II America.

In 1936 the Schwarts, an immigrant family desperate to escape Nazi Germany, settle in a small town in upstate New York, where the father, a former high school teacher, is demeaned by the only job h
...more
Hardcover, First Edition Hardcover with dust jacket, 582 pages
Published May 29th 2007 by Ecco (first published 2007)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Gravedigger's Daughter, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Gravedigger's Daughter

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
Sort: Default
|
Filter
Jason Pettus
May 12, 2008 rated it it was ok
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted here illegally.)

So what's the dark fear that lies in the inner heart of all erudite nerds? Namely this -- that no matter how educated, intelligent or well-read you are, there are always going to be a certain amount of very well-known authors you have never read at all, not even one single page of, and that at any mom
...more
Helene Jeppesen
Oct 23, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was obviously a very beautiful book, coming from Joyce Carol Oates. It deals with Rebecca, the gravedigger's daughter, whose family moved to America just before the 2nd World War started. In many ways, this is a coming-of-age story because we get to hear about Rebecca's life from she's an infant till she's a grown woman. However, Oates' structure is beautifully puzzling as she starts the novel when Rebecca is in her twenties, on her way home from work.
This is a story about struggles and ho
...more
Paolo del ventoso Est
Lo so, sono un po' volitivo e mi lascio prendere dall'entusiasmo facilmente: ora Joyce Carol Oates è diventata la mia scrittrice preferita a discapito della mia amata Ginzburg, ma dannazione è davvero una penna formidabile. Questo romanzo mi ha coinvolto dalla prima all'ultima pagina cambiando abilmente gli ambienti, i personaggi e perfino lo stile di scrittura con l'ultima (magnifica!) parte in forma "epistolare". Trovo sia meraviglioso il modo in cui la Oates conosca i suoi personaggi; non è u ...more
Robin
Mar 01, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book would have had much higher marks from me if it would have ended differently.

This is my first Joyce Carol Oates read and was for a face to face bookclub. In general I'm not drawn to "women in jepordy" stories but I'm always willing to give something new a try.

I was drawn to the character Rebecca and wanted to see her life work out for the better. And ultimately things did get better for her. She finally did re-marry although she was permenently damaged from her first husband.

The worst t
...more
Madeline
Jul 03, 2008 rated it liked it
I guess I liked this book, but reading it once is plenty for me. It was very well-written, but I just could not handle how ungodly depressing it was. Honestly, the main character can't seem to go ten pages without getting the shit kicked out of her (literally and figuratively) by all the Mean Bad Men in her life. First there's her father, who goes apeshit when his daughter dares to enter a spelling bee (I still don't get that); then there's her husband, who chooses beating the shit out of her as ...more
Cărți și călătorii
O carte destul de dură despre imigranții evrei din Germania în America anilor 1930-1940, cu dezumanizarea lor din cauza expatrierii forțate și a neadaptării într-o țară nouă. Avem drame de familie, violență domestică, discriminare, religie, crimă, sex, frică, fugă, dezvoltare, negare de sine și renegare a trecutului, inclusiv a familiei, adoptarea unei noi identități și redecoperirea identității reale după ani și ani (povestea se întinde până în anii '90). Printre toate astea, se remarcă și câte ...more
Jenny
Feb 10, 2008 rated it did not like it
Once again, I must diverge from the critics who loved this Joyce Carol Oates novel. Apparently I didn't learn my lesson with "We Were the Mulvaneys." I don't know where to start, so I'll just list the major problems: a bloated and disjointed narrative, overwrought prose, and a nonsensical epilogue. Good times...
Lori
Feb 02, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2008february
A character's worst fear should be to appear in a Joyce Carol Oates novel. It's pretty well guaranteed his or her like is going to suck.

Still, though, I keep picking them up. And as decently written as they may be, I'm miserable right along with everyone else. There's never a glimmer of hope, a break from the compounding gloom. As a reader, the weight lands firmly on your shoulders for the length of the book. Join us for a walk of pain.

Gravedigger's Daughter is no exception. I felt for the prota
...more
Nate D
Dec 28, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: the sadness of being a girl
Recommended to Nate D by: Christmas
Shelves: read-in-2011
I've not read a great deal of Joyce Carol Oates' copious publication list, but the Gravedigger's Daughter seems to be at the more reserved, conventional end of her spectrum. It is the story of a lifetime, a classic American lifetime from blighted immigrant upbringing to eventual success, or success-through-children as is often the case. In the meantime, much contemplation of the perils of being a women, and of being a single mother, and of being a foreigner. Of perseverance and the loneliness of ...more
Christina
Dec 22, 2007 rated it really liked it
This is a book about identity, about coming to terms with your past and being who you are. About family, battered women and their husbands. About the immigrant experience.

Oates details the story of Rebecca Schwart's life from her earliest childhood and on. Rebecca is the third child of poor, immigrant Jewish parents who arrived in the States in the 30 and Rebecca was actually born in New York Harbor, making her a US citizen as the only one in the family.

The book starts with Rebecca thinking back
...more
gorecki
Apr 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I reached for my first book by Joyce Carol Oates, The Gravedigger's Daughter, I must admit I was expecting a somewhat sugar-coated and sweetened novel about a poor little girl, daughter of refugees from pre-war Germany, who grows up being mocked and bullied by her peers. I was somewhat expecting a novel about pity and unfair treatment. Probably it was the book cover that added a lot in forming this wrong expectation of mine. And while in a sense, I did find pity and drama in this book, they ...more
Lucinda K
May 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
If there were six or seven stars to give them to this book, I would think that not enough! It has more than earned a place on my Favorites shelf. Now my favorite Oates novel out of the 20 or so (I lost count) of her books I’ve read.

And what is it about? A “Graveddigger’s Daughter”? Yes. But also memory, perspective, and history intersecting, specifically during and especially in the decades following World War II in a culture somehow drowning deep in and yet distant from the war's reality. It’s
...more
Ruth
Apr 30, 2008 rated it it was ok
This was my necessary breezy read after the last one. It's the second thing I've read by this author, who seems to be really well-appreciated by the world, but I am still ambivalent about her work. It is easy to get into but also easy to fall right back out of- I guess that's what I will say. She is very prolific, though- it could be that I'm just reading the wrong things. This one is about a woman who has a really hard childhood and young adulthood and gets a lot of abuse, and then she goes on ...more
Deb
Dec 03, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Joyce Carol Oates is probably our most prolific writer. I've read so many of her novels, and she always gets me in her spell. She often writes of troubled young women who become victims to brutish men because of making bad choices and having low self-esteem. She has killer lines, which she often uses as repetitive phrases or tropes effectively throughout the book. She can do so much in one line, for example:

"Mrs. Chester Gallagher
Each time she signed her new name it seemed to her that her handwr
...more
Ksenia Anske
Sep 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Raw and gritty and saucy and rich. And tremulous. And reflective. And melancholy. The prose of life, of American life. Of a woman, told by a woman. After this book I want to read everything Joyce Carol Oates has ever written.
Lectrice Hérétique
Sep 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: contemporains
À force de lire Joyce Carol Oates, je vais finir par être à court de mots pour en parler. Oates nous livre ici un destin de femme, (pourtant pile le genre de sujet qui normalement me passe au-dessus) et fait encore mieux qu’avec Les Chutes. Oui, c’est possible. Le récit est beaucoup moins linéaire et les digressions chères à Oates sont légion. Les non-dits, les allusions, les souvenirs rassemblés comme les pièces d’un puzzle sont autant de moyens de nous immerger dans la vie chaotique de Rebecca ...more
Hannah
Mar 29, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm still up in the air about whether I liked this book or not. I picked it up because I had heard of the author, but have never read anything by her before. It is the story of Rebecca, the daughter of German immigrants to America. The father was a Math teacher, but takes the only job that he can in America, digging graves. The family tries to assimilate to America, while at the same time maintaining their prejudices and believes about Americans.

The story is very violent as Rebecca deals with an
...more
Sarah
Aug 14, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
This story depicts the tale of the Shwarts who, in the mid 1930s, fled Nazi Germany and have been reduced to life in a tiny cottage while their father, a former school teacher, can only find work as a cemetary caretaker. Perceived and actual intolerance by members of the community only exacerbate the family's frail mental health and, ultimately, tragedy strikes when our protagonist, Rebecca, is only 13 years old. The reader witnesses Rebecca's trials of youth, her struggles to escape an abusive ...more
Angie
Aug 03, 2012 rated it it was ok


Just finished. I'm guilty of needing books with "purpose". Not necessarily happy endings, but at least fulfilling on some level. This left me feeling empty and adrift. Not satisfied in any way. "We Were the Mulvaneys" was the first book I ever read by Oates. I thought it was magnificent. So raw and frighteningly truthful. It caused me to seek out her other works. But this...this left me wanting, and not in a good way. It actually gave me a headache. I don't know, maybe it was just too much of a
...more
Irina Cebanu
Dec 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Oates' style is the most beautiful I've yet encountered, non-sophisticated, but appealing at the same time. It's not plain, but not overabundant in complicated words either. The descriptions aren't boring, the story goes smoothly and the characters are 3D. Intrigued to read other Oates' books.
Bruce
Dec 14, 2010 rated it really liked it
This novel is narrated by the main character, Rebecca, in the third person, primarily using free indirect discourse. Oates’ style is to make liberal use of sentence fragments, and these seem consistent with the FID approach. The initial section of the first of three parts of the book reveals Rebecca as a young woman of about 23, working in a sweatshop factory to support herself and her three-year-old son. Her husband, Niles Trignor, is often away from home at unknown locations for days and weeks ...more
Laurie
Mar 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
This was a very hard book to read. It’s not that it is poorly written; it’s that the protagonist’s situation struck a raw note and was so painful for me to read about.

Rebecca Schwart’s life is all about fear. From the time she is a small child, fear rules her life. Daughter of immigrants who fled the Nazis, she lives in horrible poverty, her father being reduced from a high school math teacher in Germany to a cemetery caretaker in America. Understandably bitter by their reduced circumstances an
...more
Debbie
Dec 27, 2008 rated it really liked it
I've read her short stories but this is my first novel. She can surely write. I love her style and while the story is quite graphic in its violence and abuse, it was not gratuitous, but necessary, handled well.

It was a story of survival, escape. One family escapes the holocaust only to confront isolation and prejudice in America, eventually leading a father to insanity and self-destruction. The journey of the surviving daughter reveals another from of persecution--the persecution of women/ a wo
...more
Joy H.
Jul 11, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Alisa
Aug 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
The first half of this novel was so angry, practically dripping with Jacob Schwart's spittle-rage and Tignor's controlling misogyny! The unpleasant feeling of reading about all this anger, together with the deft anxiety-inducing plot, made me read fast, fast, fast, barely skimming some sections. It is a tribute to the author's ability that I kept reading at all. A less well-written book I certainly would've put down. But Rebecca's unique survival story, one in which she crafts a new identity to ...more
Tina
May 17, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: recently-read
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dav
Jun 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Gravediggers Daughter (2007)
• by Joyce Carol Oates


A tragedy. Jewish immigrants flee Nazi Germany and the daughter is haunted by the old world ways of her immutable parents.

The story begins in 1959 with 23-year-old Rebecca telling of her undying love for and marriage to Niles Tignor; a traveling salesman for the Black Horse Brewery; a man you do not say "No" to. Tignor is often away, days or weeks at a time and he's installed Rebecca in an old farmhouse near Chautauqua Falls, New York. Tign
...more
Hortensia
Una historia difícil; una mujer marcada por su niñez y que casi nunca consiguió ser ella misma. "Seguir adelante" era su lema... sopreponerse y poner cara feliz.

Un libro introspectivo, donde conocemos la vida de una mujer que nunca dejó de ser "la hija", "la esposa", "la madre", "la amante"... y curiosamente nunca fue «la mujer».

Es lo primero que leo de esta autora y no le doy más estrellas solo porque hubo unas partes con las que no estuve de acuerdo, además de otras que tenían que haber pasado
...more
Jinger
Aug 17, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2010
Another epic story from Oates, but I really lost interest in it halfway though.

It infuriates me how no one in Oates's novels ever says what they feel or actually mean (as least not the antagonists). When a character comes along that does express himself, he's often made to look ridiculous and embarrassing. I can't help but think that these stories would be half as long if people just spoke candidly. I know that's not exactly suspenseful, but it's excruciating to read about someone sidestepping h
...more
TheGirlBytheSeaofCortez
When I pick up a novel by Joyce Carol Oates, I want to feel I’m in the hands of a writer who really knows what she’s doing. Oates has published so many books, I’ve lost count of just how many, though I’m pretty certain this is her thirty-sixth novel. But even though I want to trust this author to take me on an interesting and unforgettable literary journey, there’s always been something about Oates’ work that won’t let me get truly involved. Some of her books, like Soltice, just leave me cold, w ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Joan Carol Oates?! 3 12 Jan 17, 2016 09:34AM  
reaction 1 11 Mar 31, 2014 05:51AM  
The Transatlantic...: Reactions 2 5 Oct 18, 2013 12:55PM  
Disappointing 9 105 Feb 14, 2013 10:23AM  
  • Missä kuljimme kerran
  • Starr Bright Will Be with You Soon
  • Between Here and Here
  • Invisible Writer: A Biography of Joyce Carol Oates
  • Reading by Lightning
  • Karkkipäivä
  • Jerusalem
  • Cold Rock River
  • The Rilloby Fair Mystery (Barney Mysteries, #2)
  • Ce que je sais de Vera Candida
  • Hybrid
  • The End
  • Maaninkavaara
  • Johnny Swanson
  • I Been in Sorrow's Kitchen and Licked Out All the Pots
  • Sukkwan Island
  • The Secrets of a Fire King
  • Close Range
4,446 followers
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
“The danger of motherhood. you relive your early self, through the eyes of your mother.” 24 likes
“Remembering backward is the easy thing. If you could remember forward, you could save yourself...” 4 likes
More quotes…