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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars America's greatest living writer
Joyce Carol Oates, America's greatest living writer, rarely fails to deliver a compelling and emotionally engaging novel, and that is certainly the case with Carthage. The story is one of her best, and the structure of the work is truly masterful (she has always fixated on the structure of novels, occasionally to the detriment of other aspects), but stylistically...
Published 6 months ago by M. Brown

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not to be taken on holiday
From the beginning it is difficult to feel empathy with Cressida, and as the story unfolds, I found myself disliking her more and more. The people who suffered from her disappearance, we're very forgiving, except for maybe her sister, but after all the upset she had caused, Cressida was still more interested in her own feelings, and was very " woe is me" A very...
Published 2 months ago by vivien nolan


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars America's greatest living writer, 9 Oct. 2014
By 
M. Brown (Cardiff United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Carthage (Paperback)
Joyce Carol Oates, America's greatest living writer, rarely fails to deliver a compelling and emotionally engaging novel, and that is certainly the case with Carthage. The story is one of her best, and the structure of the work is truly masterful (she has always fixated on the structure of novels, occasionally to the detriment of other aspects), but stylistically speaking, it's not one of her finest accomplishments, as the quality of the writing varies throughout the work. There are some truly clumsy sentence constructions here, which occasionally hinder the reading experience. I agree with another reviewer that the novel seems rushed through; one gets the feeling as her mortality grows ever closer that she's not as fastidious in her revisions as she once was, which is kind of understandable. And yet there are passages in this novel that are close to sublime, foremost being the account of Cressida's time spent in Florida, which has a different mood from the rest of the novel. The mystery present in the novel has nothing to do with the disappearance, but rather with the dynamics of the family, any family, and the way changes wrought on it by circumstance and fate mangle these dynamics and make life a constant bewilderment. JCO said in a past interview that her books are not sending a specific message to the reader, as she is not a propagandist, but that is not strictly true. One of the main thrusts of this book is her scorn and contempt for American involvement in the Iraq war and the blind patriotism that followed on from 9/11. Witness the relish with which she describes the horrors and callous behaviour of soldiers in that war. However the characters are always the main motive for Oates, and the way she unfolds the inner lives of the characters in this book is superb, as ever. The way the work builds and builds to its (tentative) resolution is really a lesson from a literary master, and it's good that she never completely satisfies the simplest wish of the reader, the way a substandard writer would do. Life is too complex to have happy endings. Oates understands this better than any other writer. And this work is a frequently thrilling and draining testament to that complexity. The ultimate message of this work, if there is one, is that human beings are all groping blindly through the darkness, trying to make some sense out of the cards dealt to them. We are all wounded by experience to some extent, and the truth and fascination reside in how we deal with that wounding, how we react and cope, and how we seek some kind of redemptive resolution to it. Carthage portrays this process better than any recent novel, and that is ultimately where its value lies.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not like other stories of disappearances...., 14 Sept. 2014
This review is from: Carthage (Kindle Edition)
I have not read this author before, but based on the strength of this book, I will definitively read more of her work.

This is a story that took me by surprise because it tackles a girl's disappearance in a way I have not read about elsewhere. We are introduced to a seemingly 'normal 'family, in the town of Carthage. It comprises of two daughters and two parents. the older daughter is thought of as the nice, clever one, beautiful one and the younger daughter, as special and plain. As a reader I thought she has autistic traits or is on the spectrum at least. She is a gifted artist but her view of and interpretation of the world around her is somewhat off.
The older daughter is engaged to a soldier, who upon returning from Iraq, is damaged physically and emotionally. He is deeply changed and rejects the unconditional love shown him.

The family breaks apart when the younger daughter disappears. There is no trace of her after she is seen leave a local bar and the main suspect is the young soldier. So far, so much like any other novel. Read on. I won't tell you what happens next, but it is a novel full of surprises.

The author very skilfully explores issues of identity, family, veterans returning who are damaged in many ways, and whether it is possible to fully love and fully forgive. I highly recommend this novel and will seek out more by this talented author.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Carthage by Joyce Carol Oates, 30 Aug. 2014
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This review is from: Carthage (Kindle Edition)
This book takes you on a journey with many unexpected twists and turns. The story of murder, loss, family life and about the fate of veterans from "the war on terror" is told through the points of view of each character. It starts with the disappearance of a young woman and her father's frantic and unsuccessful search for her. We then hear of the effect of her disappearance from her mother's point of view. The story then covers the experiences of her suspected murderer before back tracking to the voice of the missing daughter. The plot is long and involved with the personalities of the characters slowly emerging and changing through their experiences.

It is a story of how people deal with loss, loneliness and misunderstanding. It is a poignant description of how even a loving family can fail to help one another. It contains so many psychological truths that it deserves to be retread slowly rather than raced through in order to find out what happens.

This is the first book that I have read by Joyce Carol Oates. I am delighted to find out that there are many more to read.

****
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not to be taken on holiday, 8 Feb. 2015
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This review is from: Carthage (Kindle Edition)
From the beginning it is difficult to feel empathy with Cressida, and as the story unfolds, I found myself disliking her more and more. The people who suffered from her disappearance, we're very forgiving, except for maybe her sister, but after all the upset she had caused, Cressida was still more interested in her own feelings, and was very " woe is me" A very frustrating story, with not much happening, it left me very underwhelmed
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Breathless insights, 7 Aug. 2014
By 
Antenna (UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Carthage (Kindle Edition)
This ambitious American novel is more than a crime thriller about a missing girl, gifted but plain, naïve and unstable Cressida, and Brett Kincaid who is suspected of harming her. Once an admired local sporting hero, he has returned, a physical and traumatised wreck from the Iraq war, the pressures of which have just brought to an end his longstanding engagement to Cressida’s beautiful elder sister Juliet. The author is also exploring the impact of the war on a small town community in New York State, and exposing the counterproductive effects of neglectful and cruel US high security penal institutions. On yet another level, this is a kind of modern fable, comparing the US with the declining state of Carthage, re-enacting in C21 terms the classical tale of “false Cressida”, the betrayer and bringer of misfortune to herself and others.

Joyce Carol Oates is a prolific and celebrated writer, with a clear compulsion to tell stories based on complex moral issues. She is often strong on creating diverse, if somewhat stereotyped characters who prove to have complex depths, convincing dialogues, and a vivid sense of place. The continual use of stream of consciousness in this novel carries the reader along, if you can “tune in” to it, and is effective in creating a sense of people’s changing, often fragmented, confused and changing thought processes.

What could have been an outstanding novel gives the impression of having been written in a rush. There is a breathless quality to the great flooded river of prose: the overuse of exclamation marks and brackets often grated on me. There is a good deal of repetition, which has a hypnotic effect but may be the result of a lack of editing. I also had to get used to the frequent “back-to-front” sentence structure which may need to be read twice to grasp the meaning. "Not contempt for the political propaganda fanned on all sides like deliberately set fires but fear - of what the new military invasion would lead to, beyond estimation".

Although the long chapter on a prison tour is a powerful polemic against the brutalising effects of incarceration without rehabilitation and more particularly of capital punishment, I found the delivery quite stagy, and such characters as “the Investigator” and his assistant “the Intern” unconvincing. This may have been a deliberate “unreal” yet hard-hitting interlude in the main story of the Mayfield family, which is gripping and moving, until it reaches an ambiguous ending, open to interpretation as either trite or chilling.

Flawed and irritating, yet full of insights into the human condition and memorable, this story is hard to “rate”.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Where others fear to tread!, 8 Mar. 2014
By 
lovemurakami "tooty2" (uk) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Carthage (Paperback)
The difference between a writer and a great writer is that the latter will produce a piece of work which is at once engaging, it may provoke you as well as endeavour to make you consider viewpoints which you may not agree with. Throughout her long and varied career, Joyce Carol Oates has produced fiction and non-fiction which are frequently not ‘easy’ reads, they will challenge you, making you question your moral codes and often offer alternatives which you may struggle with. She never shies away from controversy which is what makes her work so exciting to read.

With Carthage, she has once again created a work of fiction which delves deep into the dark side of American society, looking at the effects of its’ war on terror has had on individuals and communities. Readers of Oates are well aware of her mastery of the ‘psychological’ thriller, and in Carthage she once gives us a master class in the genre but also produces a highly readable, intense work of fiction. The novel centres around the disappearance of Cressida Mayfield, the daughter of the former mayor of Carthage, she was last seen with her sister’s ex-fiancé, Corporal Brett Kincaid, a veteran of the Iraq war who has suffered huge trauma to both his mind and body. As the story unfolds, we witness the impact of her disappearance on those involved, how there is a blurring of what is truth and what is not, and how we as human beings attempt to overcome tragedy turning to places and people we would never usually contemplate.

This is not just a ‘psychological’ thriller, it is an examination of war and its effects upon our psyche, it is also a condemnation of the American justice system and at it’s heart is the disintegration of a person’s or persons’ inner core. It is well documented that Joyce Carol Oates is a prolific writer, it is as if her desire to write is as necessary as her need to breath, does this mean her ability as a writer is weakened, the answer is no, her work contrives to tread where other writers would stumble.
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5.0 out of 5 stars I thought this was a very good book. It goes from one character's story to ..., 19 Dec. 2014
By 
Ms. Mary Fletcher (u.k.Cornwall) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Carthage (Paperback)
I thought this was a very good book. It goes from one character's story to another, but not as an affectation to be tricksy, it makes the story compelling. I loved the way it's written, clear, nothing wasted, evocative and involving.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The War at Home from a distance too far, 15 Nov. 2014
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I first encountered the work of Joyce Carol Oates with her novel “Because it is bitter and because it is my heart.” I found it to be one of the greatest novels I had ever read and what especially stood out was the sheer raw beauty of Mrs Oates writing which could move and grip the reader in equal measure. Since then I have enjoyed Mrs Oates work in a series of ever decreasing circles from Black Water (brilliant),Middle Age: A Romance (very good), I’ll Take You There (so so) and The Falls (boring).

However, I persevere with her work because on her day she is still for me a very powerful writer with a genius for giving voices to her characters which go deep below their outward appearances and expose the deep wounds they often carry with them.

Carthage is a novel of our times in that it deals with the aftermath of war for those who fought bravely and then have to return to their towns and face a different but equally had sort of battle to settle back into the lives they left behind. In the hands of Mrs Oates, this should have provided the reader with a searing read but, simply put, Carthage falls short of this by some measure.

The issue I have with Carthage is that too many times Mrs Oates wonders away from the central plot line (the missing girl, the wounded veteran as suspect, the family dealing with aftermath) to almost “showing off” her cleverness with multiple references to philosophy and to even devote a whole tedious chapter to a critique of the American penal system. It’s almost as if she was bored by the whole matter and decided instead to impress her fellow lecturers at Princeton University.

Nowhere is this more prevalent than with the seismic events of the last act which should have given Mrs Oates the opportunity to show her magical skills with words but instead we are given a brief description and closure. It’s as though Mrs Oates thought that this would reduce the novel to a tawdry soap opera which is insulting to the reader who has invested time and emotion on the characters she has created and deserves to be a witness to what happens afterwards.

For me, the defining novel on the subject of the aftermath of war is Susan Fromberg Schaeffer’s novel Buffalo Afternoon. It begins with a chapter called “Two Voices” to introduce the two central characters in a moving and powerful way. For me Mrs Oates should have restructured Carthage to be 1/3 veteran Brett as first person (the disappearance), 1/3 sister Juliet as first person (the aftermath) and 1/3 protagonist Cressida first person (the truth). I am convinced that this would have delivered Mrs Oates the novel Carthage should have been.

I will return to Mrs Oates work because I still regard her as a writer of sublime gifts. I simply hope that she remembers that for all her plaudits, the simple act of having responsibility for her reader’s journey remains as important as ever.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Thought Provoking, 24 Feb. 2015
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This review is from: Carthage (Kindle Edition)
Misery, misery and more misery, but intriguing and kept me thinking about the characters when I wasn't reading it.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another brilliant saga, 19 April 2014
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If you love Joyce CO then this is her at her best and if you haven't discovered Joyce yet don't delay, she writes so many brilliant books it is difficult to keep up.
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Carthage
Carthage by Joyce Carol Oates
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