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VINE VOICEon 22 August 2002
This is one of Ms. Oates' earlier works set in Detroit.
It is a book of excellence as one generation is rolled into the other. A very true to life book where as the characters advance in reaching their destiny however small, they are always setbacks and stumbling blocks, not allowing them to see the light at the end of the tunnel, reminding us of the pathways we've walked before and are forever walking in. This was a very emotional book for me with great depth to the story line.
It is a long book and should be read with patience in order to get the gist of the Detroit the author penetrates in that century with it's poverty, racial and violent concerns. You won't forget Maureen Wendall who some will empathise with you see her desires and the things she yearns for with all her heart and soul.......and you won't forget her brother Jules either...intelligent and so very intricate you wonder what he is about to do next with that brain that never stops ticking. I cannot help saying what a brilliant writer I have found in Ms. Oates, and I encourage those who love her as much as I do to try THEM. I recommend it to all her favourite readers who haven't read this one as yet.
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on 11 June 1999
In this novel the characters seemed to be desperately trying to escape from each other, but unable to escape the past they share together. Joyce Carol Oates descriptions of the characters lives are vivid and oftentimes disgusting. The characters rarely seem to be able to make the right choices and are often victims of circumstance. Still, I was constantly intrigued during the novel. This novel is an excellent view of the sixties. Another wonderful novel by Oates is "Because It Is Bitter and Because It Is My Heart," whih is set in approximately the same time period. "Because it is Bitter..." adds the aspect of race relations and has a more solid ending than "Them."
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on 23 February 1999
This book describes the state of American turmoil during the 1960's with vivid imagery. Being in my mid-twenties and not alive to experience the 1960's, I feel this book provides an important account of these times. I truly felt the eerie adrenaline-induced excitement of this tumultous period. Jules' character chilled me to the bone; his evil sexuality reminiscent of the character of Arnold Friend in 'Where are You Going, Where Have You Been?" This is a beautifully written book, one of JCO's finest works to date.
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on 5 March 1997
Them is a great book. Don't get my wrong. I enjoyed it very much and was fascinated by even the characters that didn't arouse much sympathy. But it also took me by surprise. As a fan of Joyce Carol Oates, this book was not what I expected. It's very down-to-earth without many of the gothic elements that can be found in her other novels, short stories, and plays. But that doesn't mean it isn't very dark in places as well. The story starts out in the early part of this century with Loretta - a teenage girl living in the inner city with her carousing brother and alcoholic, widower father. She is concerned mostly with having fun and meeting boys until her brother committs a murder that will change her life and the lives of her future family dramatically. The bulk of the story is centered around Loretta's son, Jules, who struggles with his family and the harsh environment of the city. The pace got a little slow in the middle, but it was appropriate for the lives of the characters. Real life doens't happen at a whirlwind pace for many, and one of the striking things about Them is how Oates captures the mundane nature of daily living even as life-changing events occur around the characters. So if you want to read Joyce Carol Oates save this book for another day and pick up Zombie or Foxfire instead. But come back to it.
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on 31 January 1999
I liked this story for two reasons. One, because I think that the people are very real. Despite the fact that so much of the plot seems far fetched the characters are always believable to me. Also, I think it is an important historical artifact which explores a period of time when the country was experiencing many changes. I was captivated by this book.
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on 12 January 2015
like Oates very much ~ this was a gift to a friend.
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I was disappointed with this, looking forward to reading an early effort of this very good, and very prolific writer. My chief complaint is the unfocused slapdash effect of the way the stories are conveyed. There is a sense that this is a writer coming to a decision that all she has to do is put words on a page that are true to her vision and everything will come right in the end. In this sense this is a failed experiment because not much choice is being expended on the plot (which is just one thing happening after another), the theme (if there is one, it is "white working classes making a mess of their lives"), or the language. There is not much sense of organisation or any great thought about what is going on. I suppose the WWC are not presumed to have much thought, though there are some attractive and thoughtful signs in the persona of the oldest son, Jules.

One can see why it made a certain impact (winning the National Book Award), but Oates went on to write much better books after this one.
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on 21 March 2015
Good copy ; intrigued.
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