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on 30 March 1998
This could be called the foreshadow of some of the events that happen around us in the news today. Having lived through some of the things that Ms Oates describes in her book I was awash in a flood of emotion. It is hard to assign a level of belief or disbelief unless you have walked a mile in there shoes. Was happy to see some clousure brought the end of the family story. Very glad I read the book, but it brought to the surface many of the reasons that life is so diffcult to live sometimes.
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on 21 October 1998
The Mulvaneys inexplicably hold themselves up to higher standards than mere mortals--and have to pay with their lives for this arrogance. This is a compelling group of characters, mother, father, and four children, that will stamp themselves in your physce long after you put the novel down. I was mesmerized throughout but was awed by the epilogue--a truly satisfying end to a rich, complex novel.
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on 25 May 1998
I'd like to say that reading through many of these reviews I think some of the people either did not read the book or completely missed the point of it. JCO wrote this book and made extremely realistic and believable. I do not know how some of you can write and say the book is unrealistic and this couldn't happen in real life. Just because Marianne Mulvaney's parents made a bad decision, this does not mean that it's unrealistic. Parents MAKE those bad decisions. You must also take into account Michael Mulvaneys trouble with his parents. Unintentionally he will do the same thing. The only reason some people are giving this book a low rating is because they didn't agree with certain decisions made by the children or parents. This is wrong because if it made them feel strongly about it, it means this is a pretty darn good piece of writing. JCO has once again proved herself to be a terrific writer.
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on 23 May 2013
This book was excellently written and kept you interested throughout. It is an American Classic! Really enjoyed it and would recommend it to anyone interested in American Literature and family life, with its ups and downs.
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I've been trying to read Oates for ages but could never decide where to start. She's notoriously prolific. I decided to browse online for one that sounded most like my kind of thing, and hit upon this, a seeming tale of a family falling apart. Exactly the kind of thing I like - lives either falling to pieces or never coming together at all. It delivered exactly what I wanted it to. A deep, rich, intimate tale of an American family torn apart from a tragedy and, more than that, by the particular way they choose to deal with it, (i.e. not very well at all). It's not that I like I'm bitter about happy families wrought asunder from their sense of security, I just like books about people coping, or failing to cope, or coping as best they can, with adversity and struggle. And this is a perfect example.

It's at times a heartbreaking book, as the characters variously lie to each other, delude themselves, try desperately to keep up appearance which can only be for their individual benefit (Corinne in particularly), and gradually buckle under the strain. It's a lot like several of the novels of Richard Yates that I've so far read, and I would definitely recommend this to his fans.

We Were the Mulvaneys is a wonderful book. Initially a warming testament to family love (and, depsite the awful things that happen to them, it pretty much ends that way too), it descends into a near American-nightmare of judgement and circumstance, stubborness, pain. It will touch you, console you, shatter you, put you back together again. A wonderful book, and a very rewarding read. I've now got to struggle to find another to read!
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on 20 March 1998
Our all-women's bookclub found much to discuss about the Mulvaneys, their life events, and Oate's writing. The use of animals as metaphor, themes, foreshadowing, and even as a means of communication among the humans was fascinating. One can also talk about Darwin & science juxtaposed with religion, symbolism of the antiques/junk, life in small towns, notions of revenge, etc. The book is interesting to compare to other family plots with a "perfect" family before tragedy and dissolution afterwards, e.g. The Deep End of the Ocean, Ordinary People and Before and After. Some of us concurred that Michael Sr.'s reaction to this family tragedy was all about power (and himself), and the act itself was more about power than sex, obviously. Even Patrick's act of vindication was much about power -- his act was all about him and not Marianne after all. Michael Sr. was somewhat easier to understand than Corrine -- although we were reminded that she felt her self lucky to have married such a handsome, sexy man. She also fairly easily convinced herself that Marianne was better off away. Much fascinating about the children and their adult lives and choices, too. Some of the detail in JCO's writing was wonderful -- some played with the reader (e.g.Sable's deliberately ambiguous gender for several pages), and some became tedious. Definitely a worthwhile read.
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on 30 December 2009
Told by the "caboose" of the family "train", Judd, the youngest son of the Mulveneys, this book is a moving "family story", all the more touching for the complexity and variety of its characters. I suppose every reader can find a part of himself among its pages. Despite the personal and sad events that strike the family, despite the questionable way of reacting to them, "The Mulvaneys" are and remain a "family", united by those tiny little experiences which are the essence of a family, who every one of us have experienced, in their own way, and that are meaningful only to the people who lived those experiences together. What I loved most of this book is exactly that sense of what a family is, its contradictions, its being a whole thing despite its diversities, its memories shared also by whom wasn't already there (Judd!), even its specific family "code", which would be so mysterious for anyone looking from the outside.
"We were the Mulvaneys" is a very enjoyable book, and there is much more in it of what I've just said, of course. It's up to you do discover it!
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VINE VOICEon 26 December 2007
I loved the detail in this book even though it did make it very long. The description of the farm and surroundings was beautiful and drew an idyllic picture.
Each chapter ends with an element of suspense and usually the reader is made to wait for another chapter before that part of the story is revealed. In the same way, the story moves back and forward in time so teasing the reader with the main event.
It was fascinating to see the immediate dramatic effect of what happened to Marianne and seemed very real how the effects lasted for so many years.
I found the book quite difficult in the middle stage as it seemed to slow down which meant reading it became a bit of a chore at that point, although overall I really enjoyed it. The effect was that some of the detail in the middle I skipped over.
Judd was the narrator of the book but the book drifted in and out of his story as events unfurled.
I felt dreadfully sorry for the family as when you think it can't get any worse - then it does, however it seemed as though they deserved the ending.
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on 18 September 1997
But I loved it anyway. I am not a big follower of Joyce Carol Oates, but plan to become one. I worked for a woman years ago and as a young married woman living in a new and strange city, she gave me unsolicited advice--when a woman has children she has to decide whom she will favor--her children or her husband. In "We were the Mulvaneys", Corinne chooses the latter, and the results are devistating to her children and all concerned.
I have read other comments about this novel, begrudging Ms. Oates the first 100 pages of the idealistic lives of the Mulvaneys before "it" happened. I disagree. She had to show how perfect their lives were before, so we could see how low they became after.
I was very impressed with all the ends tied up at the end. I came to care about members of this family. They could be anyone. Or everyone.
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on 8 January 1999
Is it possible that such a strong, capable family could disintegrate over date rape? Yep - I guess in J.C. Oatesland it happens. In the 1990s I suppose everyone would be in intensive family therapy, but this novel is set in a time when rape did reflect on the victim. I disagree with readers who have said the family was just too perfect for the first 100 pages. Haven't we all known of families filled with high achievers?
My disappointment with the book was that Judd was not as strongly characterized as his brothers and sister. In spite of that, this novel was a page-turner. Reading Oates' books makes me feel as though I've picked up a rock from the garden and looked underneath. In other words, she writes great fiction.
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