Top critical review
"Look at Maureen, she's going to make someone a good wife."
on 11 June 2011
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.