The Gravediggers Daughter Joyce Carol Oates

Didn’t like it. Can’t recommend it. The first half of the book feels like a very slow moving JCO novel. It finds horror in the lives of a family. No need for spooks, demons or vampires for Joyce. Humans have more than enough horror in them. A German Jewish Dad manages to get his family to New York in 1936. Having saved them from the Nazi holocaust, he provides his own version of it. OK, it certainly would be tough being a refugee but what sort of dickhead saves his family only to torment them? We then follow the main character into her teen years where she takes up with a misogynist girl basher. Out of the frying pan, as they say. This guy is a real prick and you know she will have to leave him or he will kill her. Given the pace of the novel, you can be certain she is not due to die anytime soon.

The second half of the book flows along nicely. After Mr Arsehole girl basher has expanded his nastiness into bashing the baby, she has managed to leave. But we continue into all men are bastards territory. I’m more than happy to admit my gender are not all gentlemen but in a novel, there should be the odd decent bloke. I guess the guy she takes up with is OK. He provides for her and adopts her son (another damaged child) but he still no advertisement for men. The story runs along at a reasonable pace and then stops rather than concludes. 

At the end of the novel, an epilogue is tacked on which is correspondence between the main character and a woman who is perhaps a long lost cousin. 

This is an overly long novel that seems disjointed. The main character is damaged (and fair enough given what happens to her) but I didn’t really care that much. Go read something else, or have a cup of tea and a haircut – much better use of your time.







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