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10 Reviews
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My three pennorth
And a threepennorth it is. On the whole a masterpiece, subject to a couple of quibbles which I'll mention in a minute. However what I particularly seized me was that this novel explores a notional figure beloved of the right, and also sometimes advanced by people of other political orientations when it suits them.

This figure is frequently advanced in the...
Published 17 months ago by Y

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not one of her best
A strong premise which in my view somehow fails to deliver even in the many words. Some moments of high originality, which will stay with the reader for a long time; however I would not hand this to a JCO novice. I feel, sadly, that 'Marya: A life' has said some of the things much better and with better economy, and the writer has lost her way in this one. But then again,...
Published 23 months ago by Felis


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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My three pennorth, 25 Feb 2013
This review is from: Mudwoman (Paperback)
And a threepennorth it is. On the whole a masterpiece, subject to a couple of quibbles which I'll mention in a minute. However what I particularly seized me was that this novel explores a notional figure beloved of the right, and also sometimes advanced by people of other political orientations when it suits them.

This figure is frequently advanced in the context of an atrocity inflicted by a demented individual. No sooner is this individual's context, in the present or remote past, advanced as an explanation for his or her behaviour, than voices are raised caliming that not only have many human beings survived and thrived despite similar abuse and deprivation without turning into Eileen Wuornos, but some have even made it to the top - top being defined as hugely professionally successfully and (or) very rich.

Here, then, is a woman with a background to rival any real human monster, who has made it through the snakepits of academe and the highly masculine discipline of philosophy, to become the president of a Yale-like university and a revered celebrity academic at the age of 42. In real life how she would be celebrated! Even if she reiterated,over and over, how terrible her post-traumatic stress disorder could be, this in itself would be yet more cause to celebrate and revere her. The suffering would never be seen, is never seen, as any kind of abrading force of the gilt on the gingerbread, let alone evidence of less than perfect success.

On the contrary overcoming extreme early hardship and living with terrible psychological fallout subsequently is seen as PART of the success. In fact it's the price we make our heroes and heroines pay, isn't it?

In this novel the protagonist, Meredith, Merry, M.R., Jewell or Jedina undergoes post-traumatic flashbacks and psychotic fugues which make poor Adela Quested's trip under the mountain seem as unpleasant as an over-extended walk on a hot day without sunglasses. It is never possible to know how many of the awful things which happen to her, or which she perpetrates, are real experiences, but it becomes very clear that the fact she undergoes them in some dimension is more than enough to cause a complete functional breakdown. Reality is suffering and the fact that it is unique to Meredith does not undermine its highly effective impact.

The episodes are all intimately linked to her childhood horrors and are possibly delusional because they are so metaphorically exact - like the Freudian idea (ideal?) of a dream. Interesting, too, to see a description of madness in an extreme extrovert, as I take the heroine here to be.

Nowadays fictional geniuses are all savants, introverts, and pure scientists, like the girl with the dragon tattoo. Here is someone at the opposite end of the scale - a maestro of words, a communicator and befriender, prone to toppling in her madness from congeniality to neediness, from agonised suffering when rejected into the deep wells of paranoia.

Oates deserves the Nobel Prize for Literature - I hope she gets it. Her acuity is remorseless. Having said that some of the psychotic episodes were, despite their terror, somehow hackneyed. The rape, for instance, could not have been there, as an apocalyptic instance of suffering and cruelty. Yet, awful as it is, it seems a banal episode rammed into the story, with surprisingly little after-effect. It is recollected once later, and has none of the developing resonances of the other bizarre dreams/memories.

Likewise the beginning of the US's adventure in Iraq, whilst picked up repeatedly and woven into the story, just will not be woven and falls out again. The protagonist is said to be horrified by the prospect, even driven to madness by the thought of so many youthful deaths, but she's horrified enough already and has enough to be horrified by, heaven knows. As a metaphor or a trigger for her collapse it does not work at all, if it's meant to be either of these. It feels like a brave stab at disavowal of odious popular politics by the author.

Finally the ending simply felt, frankly, like something written by someone who is aware she's nearly out of ink and wanted to complete the paragraph. The novel is simply bitten off, like thread between the teeth. I have absolutely no idea what this means or why the whole structure is tossed aside in this way. Any bright ideas, let me know. I'm at a loss!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not one of her best, 21 Aug 2012
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This review is from: Mudwoman (Hardcover)
A strong premise which in my view somehow fails to deliver even in the many words. Some moments of high originality, which will stay with the reader for a long time; however I would not hand this to a JCO novice. I feel, sadly, that 'Marya: A life' has said some of the things much better and with better economy, and the writer has lost her way in this one. But then again, who am I to speak... I look forward to many more new publications, and they are coming soon. I personally find that with JCO some sort of an alternative pattern of fantastic and flawed has established itself in the last decade or so. I still prefer this to someone bringing out a number of average titles.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars unusual story, 26 April 2012
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This review is from: Mudwoman (Kindle Edition)
Joyce Carol Oates books are always unusual and this fits the bill. Very thought provoking and sad.Also felt rather "a flat ending " A big book but once started couldn't put it down.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Mudwoman, 3 April 2014
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Raymond Groutage (Hampshire,ENGLAND) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Mudwoman (Paperback)
A good book which both myself and my wife enjoyed and believe me my wife isn`t easily pleased and we do not often find some thing we both enjoy.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Hard work for no reward, 14 Jan 2014
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This review is from: Mudwoman (Kindle Edition)
I found this book to be a hard read without any benefit to the effort involved. I did not like the style, especially the poor punctuation, and the frequent filling-in of the back story was too lengthy and digressed too much from the current situation.
This book was chosen as one for our Book Group and therefore I would normally have finished such a book no matter what, but not in this case.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Challenging and open ended, 18 Sep 2013
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This review is from: Mudwoman (Kindle Edition)
One of Oates best I was fascinated by the stark contrasts in the main character's life and how these were explored. Also the possibilities that were explored but left open. It left you considering what might have happened. Probably not to everyone's taste but I would certainly recommend it
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5.0 out of 5 stars masterwork, 25 May 2013
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This review is from: Mudwoman (Kindle Edition)
.. a beautifully written book: the present is unsettlingly counterpointed with childhood and unlike other reviewers I found the conclusion satisfying and triumphant. If you have suffered any kind of child abuse this book is essential reading.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A very unsettling story, 10 Nov 2012
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This review is from: Mudwoman (Paperback)
The novel revolves around the slow decline of the Head of a top American university. She lands herself in situations that made my head spin, and all the while I wanted to shout at her to get away, to save herself. This novel got under my skin and it's intelligently written. As usual, Oates displays her writing powers with beautiful sentences and a very rich vocabulary. I enjoyed this book very much.
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5.0 out of 5 stars mesmerising, 28 Aug 2012
Oates is one of our finest authors and this book is an excellent example of the themes which she frequently revisits in her work.

It is the story of a successful woman desperately trying to outrun her brutal and shameful start in life in order to find a safe place where she can live at peace with herself.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Complex Study of a Survivor, 24 Dec 2012
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This review is from: Mudwoman (Kindle Edition)
This book is brilliantly executed. A story of survival, complex and fascinating. The central character is a highly intelligent woman whose past arises unexpectedly in the form of post-traumatic stress disorder but she has no idea what is happening to her. Her disintegration is gradual and sinister and explores the muddy depths of the psyche of the damaged survivor. A gripping and extraordinary read. Highly recommended.
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Mudwoman
Mudwoman by Joyce Carol Oates (Paperback - 16 Aug 2012)
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