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A Fair Maiden | [Joyce Carol Oates]

A Fair Maiden

Sixteen year-old Katya Spivak is out for a walk on the gracious streets of Bayhead Harbor with her two summer babysitting charges when she's approached by silver-haired, elegant Marcus Kidder. At first, his interest in her seems harmless, even pleasant, like his name - a sort of gentle joke. His beautiful home, the children's books that he's written, his classical music, the marvelous art in his study, his lavish presents to her. But by degrees, almost imperceptibly, something changes.
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Audible Editor Reviews

In what at first appears to be a modern-day Lolita, this novel chronicles the summer that 16-year-old Katya Spivak nannies for a wealthy family in Bayhead Harbor, New Jersey, and her developing friendship with the elderly (and also wealthy) Marcus Kidder. Kidder, a one-time children’s book author and artist, courts the young Katya, convincing her to spend more and more time with him, and eventually model for a portrait (for cash, of course). Katya is particularly vulnerable to his doting overtures, not only because she’s a poor girl from South Jersey, but because she was also abandoned by her father at a young age and her mother is a manipulative alcoholic. Still, throughout the novel she wavers under Kidder’s affections, drawn to his money and power, but unsure of what he really wants. Are his intentions merely those of a lustful, perverted old man, or is it something more? While trying to figure it out, there are plenty of cringe-worthy scenes. If Katya referring to him as an “elderly lover” with “sweet and sour breath” doesn’t turn your stomach, Kidder forcing her to pose in silky red lingerie just might.

Angela Goethals shines portraying the confused innocence of a girl on the brink of adulthood, as well as easily transforming into the formal, elderly Kidder. Her only misstep in the narration is when she embodies the voice of Katya’s mother — the white trash Jersey accent takes on more of a North Dakota vibe. Her talent for pacing builds the tension perfectly in the sexually-charged scenes when Katya and Kidder are alone and keep the listener on the hook for the duration of the novel: Kidder and his intentions remain an enigma for 23 chapters, thanks to the air of mystery Goethals is able to maintain. —Colleen Oakley

Publisher's Summary

Sixteen year-old Katya Spivak is out for a walk on the gracious streets of Bayhead Harbor with her two summer babysitting charges when she's approached by silver-haired, elegant Marcus Kidder. At first, his interest in her seems harmless, even pleasant, like his name - a sort of gentle joke. His beautiful home, the children's books that he's written, his classical music, the marvelous art in his study, his lavish presents to her: Mr. Kidder's life couldn't be more different from Katya's drab working-class existence back home in South Jersey, or more enticing.

But by degrees, almost imperceptibly, something changes, and posing for Mr. Kidder's new painting isn't the light-hearted endeavor it once was. What does he really want from her? And how far will he go to get it?

©2009 The Ontario Review, Inc. All rights reserved; (P)2009 BBC Audiobooks America

What the Critics Say

"Fans of Oates' gothic stylings will not be disappointed...and Katya's belligerent exuberance ("He wants me! Me, me!") gives the prose plenty of punch." (Booklist)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.2 (20 )
5 star
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2.8 (10 )
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Story
3.5 (11 )
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Performance
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    Linda Austin, Texas, United States 05-14-12
    Linda Austin, Texas, United States 05-14-12 Listener Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Creepy book. Creepier than usual."
    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    The book just made me uncomfortable fromthe start. Didn't finish it.


    What was most disappointing about Joyce Carol Oates’s story?

    Too creepy and sexual, much like some of her others. Just creepier.


    What didn’t you like about Angela Goethals’s performance?

    It was okay.


    If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from A Fair Maiden?

    Everything I read.


    Any additional comments?

    The Mulhaneys and The Widow's Story are the only decent books she has written, in my humble opinion.

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
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