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The Female of the Species: Tales of Mystery and Suspense

3.6  ·  Rating Details ·  1,127 Ratings  ·  147 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
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published January 9th 2006 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published 2005)
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Madeline
May 05, 2008 Madeline rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Katherine
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.
علياء بسيوني
تخبرك الكاتبة فى كثير من القصص عن غموض الأنثى..تحيرك معها طفلة وناضجة وعجوزاً..لكنها لاتحل اللغز ابداً
Anastasia
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 wh
...more
Tharwat
Oct 07, 2016 Tharwat rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
-29-
الحمد لله رب كل شيء، {إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يَظْلِمُ النَّاسَ شَيْئًا وَلَكِنَّ النَّاسَ أَنْفُسَهُمْ يَظْلِمُونَ}، تمر أيامي سريعة خاطفة، أشبه بطلقات طائشة، روى البخاري من حديث رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم أن من علامات الساعة تقارب الزمان، أي سرعتها وتعاقب أيامها حتى كأنها ساعات معدودة، اللهم رحماك بسنين عمري، "قال مورق العجلي: أمرٌ أنا في طلبه منذ عشر سنين ولستُ بتارك طلبه. قيل: ما هو يا أبا المعتمر؟ قال: الصمتُ عما لا يعنيني".. بدأت هذه الأسابيع المنصرمة في قراءة مجموعة مميزة اشتريتها من معرض
...more
Ian
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
Laurie
Jan 03, 2009 Laurie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nilay
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.
Annisa
This was one of the books that taught me that people are basically savages waiting to be unleashed.
Jim Algie
Feb 06, 2014 Jim Algie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Thomas Bruso
May 31, 2014 Thomas Bruso rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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,
...more
Mandy Moody
May 26, 2009 Mandy Moody rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Kurt Reichenbaugh
Oct 09, 2010 Kurt Reichenbaugh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Marsha
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
...more
Nicole G.
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.
Lene
Dec 07, 2009 Lene rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 05, 2015 Jia Drisdom rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Mohamed Ateaa
Mar 06, 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
Mohamed Yehia
كيف تكتب قصص مشوقة و مثيرة بشكل متمكن و محكم و متنوع
Medina
Oct 24, 2014 Medina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Ryan G
May 04, 2014 Ryan G rated it liked it
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
Daniel Ruwe
I wish more writers wrote short stories like these. Short, suspenseful, nothing too fancy. Unfortunately most short stories published today seem to be drawn from MFA classes and nothing most people would want to read.

As far as that kind of story goes, these are solid. There aren't any "wow" stories, but none of them are flimsy either. There were published in various mystery magazines over the space of a few years. Maybe it would be better to read them that way. Reading nine stories with similar
...more
Jim
Jan 31, 2017 Jim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Certainly one of our finest writers, JCO has great range and is a master of the short story. These shorts, however, advertised as 'tales of mystery and suspense,' tend to go very dark and would better be called horror. One was so disturbing that I decided not to finish, telling myself there were better things to do with my night. Read it, but not her best by a long shot.
Jordan Ruwe
Jun 26, 2017 Jordan Ruwe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting stories, well written, and always kept me guessing. The only issue was that the stories got a little redundant: deranged woman kills someone.
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
Judith Rich
Read this after a friend raved to me about Joyce Carol Oates (he has an entire bookcase devoted to her). I found these creepy and weird. They reminded me of the TV version of Roald Dahl's "Tales of the Unexpected". The one with the clothes shop was particularly nightmarish and will stay with me (and not in a good way).
Amy
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
...more
Carolyn
"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
...more
Christine
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
...more
J
Jul 13, 2011 J rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2010
*"Doll" was the only story that really fit the description of book.
(FROM JACKET)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 even her fevered imagination cannot anticipate
...more
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Hmmm? 2 11 Dec 11, 2012 07:43AM  
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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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“Isn’t it the way of the predatory female? What is this? Mrs. G. cries. What are you hiding from your customers? I demand to know. She throws off Tikki’s chill talon-fingers on her wrist and steps forward, blinking and staring. The storage space is filled primarily with mannequins. Naked mannequins, female figures, some of them mere torsos, headless, and others with hairless heads, yet not smoothly bald but—bloodied? As if their hair had been yanked out in clumps? Mrs. G. looks about, in a paralysis of wonderment and growing horror. The mannequins resemble Sabine’s usual highly stylized show-window mannequins, yet these are curiously twisted, disfigured, in arrested poses of agony, their pale bodies covered in welts and bloody patches. Some of the mannequins are fallen, in untidy heaps, with bare jutting legs and feet, and some, so strangely, are hanging upside down from—can it be meat hooks? Like Titian’s nightmare vision, The Flaying of Marsyas, a painting from which Mrs. G. once shielded her sensitive eyes, recoiling in disgust from the spectacle of a naked humanoid figure hanging upside down from a tree, being skinned alive.” 0 likes
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