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A Fair Maiden

3.17  ·  Rating Details ·  2,126 Ratings  ·  348 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, 165 pages
Published January 6th 2010 by Houghton Mifflin Company (first published 2010)
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May 25, 2010 Lisa rated it liked it
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 interesting. I thought the book was really well written. JCO is a very good writer; this is far from my first meeting with Oates. I find that with Oates it's sometimes m ...more
Allison Floyd
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
Mar 16, 2011 Charlotte rated it it was amazing
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
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 26, 2011 Salma rated it really liked it
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
Valerie McCoy
Mar 15, 2010 Valerie McCoy rated it did not like it
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.
Sunny Shore
Nov 06, 2011 Sunny Shore rated it it was ok
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
Apr 14, 2010 Felicity rated it did not like it
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
May 27, 2013 Krista rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
Jan 28, 2012 Anne rated it it was amazing
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
Bonnie Brody
Feb 28, 2012 Bonnie Brody rated it really liked it
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
Lisa O'M.
May 18, 2012 Lisa O'M. rated it it was ok
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
Apr 10, 2012 Laura rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2012
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 30, 2017 Kendra rated it liked it
3.5. First Oates book :O! Writing was lovely, characters were not--she incorporated such a gothic atmosphere, and it pulled me in.
Mo Ibrahim
Jan 21, 2014 Mo Ibrahim rated it really liked it
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
Jan 11, 2010 Lisa rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
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
Apr 08, 2010 Laurie rated it really liked it
A strange story by an author who has made thousands of fans by writing about strange things.

Katya Spivek, 16, is from a low class family. She is spending the summer in a high class beach enclave, working as a live-in nanny for a rich couple. Her employers seem to regard Katya as a possession -albeit a disposable one. One day, window shopping on the way to taking the children to the park, she meets Marcus Kidder, a long time resident who considers himself far above the new people like Katya’s em
Feb 05, 2010 Debs rated it it was ok
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
Nina Rapsodia
Nov 27, 2012 Nina Rapsodia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Todo el mundo
Recommended to Nina by: Bicheando en la biblioteca
Shelves: to-buy-soon

"No existe miedo más primitivo que el miedo a que no nos amen y no nos protejan"

Para terminar el año con buen pie, decidí publicar esta reseña hoy ya que es un libro que no quería dejar sin reseñar. Como siempre, busco libros en la biblioteca por impulso y éste fue uno de esos. Lo leí hace poco menos de un mes y la verdad es que iba sin espectativas y me sorprendió mucho. Básicamente nos encontramos con una historia realista, sin fantasía o seres paranormales de por medio. Una cosa curiosa.

Oct 17, 2012 Estibaliz79 rated it liked it
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
Feb 11, 2015 Kristie rated it it was amazing
JCO always has the ability to simultaneously gross me out and amaze me with her plots that neatly test our limits of what our imaginations can tolerate. I listened to the audio of this novella, and I found myself going back over certain chapters after I digested the content in order to drool over her subtexts of class and culture and the parallels she draws between the truly rich and the truly poor. Couple that with her ability to reveal the true plot at the end of the story and you end up with ...more
Ellen Gail
Such a frustrating book. I can't really say I enjoyed it. It was beautifully written, for sure. But watching horrible things happen to Katya Spivak, who has had a life full of horrible things, wasn't fun. The book kept my attention. Katya's an interesting character and the writing begged me to keep going. But this book wasn't even painful in the "it hurts so good" kind of emotional pain. It was just plain painful watching a 15 year old girl be manipulated and knowing all she wants is to be loved ...more
Feb 03, 2010 Heather rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jackie Keating
Oct 21, 2016 Jackie Keating rated it it was ok
This was a bummer because of JOC's short stories start out as if everything is fine, and then slowly unfold into horrific, creepy tales. This novella started out slowly and didn't really pick up until the last third of the story, and even then, it wasn't gripping but just kind of sad. I wouldn't recommend it.
Sep 19, 2015 Linnea rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bra berättelse om makt, klass och utnyttjande utifrån intrigen mellan de två huvudkaraktärerna. Om komplexiteten i viljan att bli älskad. Fint språk. Högg aldrig tag riktigt ordentligt förrän i slutet dock.
Jen Reardon
Sep 09, 2013 Jen Reardon rated it liked it
Unusual story with very odd twists and turns. Definitely not for every reader.
Feb 16, 2011 Karen rated it did not like it
Definitely the dumbest book I've read in awhile.
Julian Lees
Jul 10, 2014 Julian Lees rated it it was ok
Creepy and one-dimensional. A little too Jimmy Savile for my liking.
Jul 07, 2015 Patricia rated it it was ok
It could have been a modern Lolita...but it wasn`t! ...more
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Joyce Carol Oates 2 11 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.” 8 likes
“Time is the enemy of lovers. Worse even than the frank light of day.” 4 likes
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