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A Fair Maiden  By  cover art

A Fair Maiden

By: Joyce Carol Oates
Narrated by: Angela Goethals
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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

Critic Reviews

"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 listeners say about A Fair Maiden

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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Intense, Sad, and Gripping

This was the first book I read of Oates, and I loved it. It is very like a modern-day Lolita, but told from the young girl’s POV.

At once it feels wrong; Katya is repulsed and repelled by this old man who seems to lust after her and ply her with sweet words and pay her like she’s a prostitute. It also feels right; she is intrigued, enthralled, captivated by the innocent admiration of the talented old soul. She feels loved as she never had before, adored for her beauty and youth.

Her family abandoned her, she has no friends, and no one seems to appreciate her for who she is. Katya is desperate to please, but proud and headstrong. She is lonely, but untrusting of everyone, most of all herself. She is compassionate, but stubborn. Mr Kidder brings out all the best and worst in her, and awakens her to what she is truly capable of.

My only complaint is that the author repeatedly references accents, but the narrator does not affect any accents. Regardless of that, it was a wonderful listen and made me want to look at more of JCO’s books.

7 people found this helpful

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Disturbing to say the least

The main character is beyond naive and frustrating. Disgusted by the old man taking advantage of a young girl that is vulnerable and has issues. Save yourself time & don’t read.

5 people found this helpful

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Dark Shadows

A blend of youth & aged lives mingling in the garden of forbidden fruits, masterful.

5 people found this helpful

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I was hooked

The most fascinating part was the huge shifts and reversals in the internal dialogue of the story’s narrator, revealing —among other revelations— her intermediate position between child and adult. This made her vulnerability all the more poignant. In the same vein she also careened between dutiful, dependent daughter and rapidly awakening critic of her unreliable mother and the social milieu of her family origin. Rich nuanced writing. Excellent performance by the reader. Great listen.

3 people found this helpful

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Enchanting and Disturbingly Beautiful

An enchanting and disturbingly beautiful story of those who have power and those who are powerless. A tale of a sixteen-year-old girl from a struggling family life who crosses paths with a wealthy sixty-eight-year-old man. The old man has designs for the young girl, some of which may be expected and some of which may not. It is well worth the read or listen.

A special note on the audio edition:
Angela Goethals is wonderful! I couldn't imagine anyone else reading and performing this story. I also have the Kindle version because I love to read and see the actual words. If you purchased the Kindle or paper version, I would highly suggest getting the audio version. You'll love it!

3 people found this helpful

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Not my favorite JCO work

but I was not, as other reviewers have said they were, repulsed. Was I made to feel uncomfortable? Absolutely! But also pity and sorrow. This work must be viewed as an adult fairytale to be appreciated. Think Bluebeard combined with Cinderella only with a creepy old gentleman as the fairy godmother…

I believe I’d have enjoyed it more with a different narrator. I’m sure that Ms Goethals was chosen to portray the voice of a naive teenager but so much of the sharp poetry that is Joyce Carol Oates was lost.

2 people found this helpful

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Gripping and great.

Never read Oats. What talent. Amazing story made entirely believable. I hope to find more books narrated by Angela Goethals.

2 people found this helpful

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Expected more from this author

It was free and Oates is generally a good writer. But this one missed the mark for me. Growing up close to Bay Head in NJ, I expected a richer story but instead got one about a boring rich old guy. The story was creepy, as another reviewer commented, but worse than that (creepy can be interesting) the story felt overly contrived.

2 people found this helpful

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Spawn of Jersey Shores meets a Galant Gothic Romantic

This tale is darkly magical. The author has an instinctual understanding of a young girls hunger to be seen and valued as a unique individual. Yearning for her absent father, raised by an unstable mother in a hard scrabble childhood completely devoid of genuine love. Exposed to every form of substance use and addiction. All the women she has known have modeled survival and acceptance of their sex as victim currency. Yet she has fleeting dreams of something higher. With Lolita like innocence the teenage heroine knows how to manipulate men and her betters to avoid her shameful loneliness. When she meets her soul mate, her self awareness quakes, She rolls the dice and nothing will ever be the same for her again.

1 person found this helpful

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My First Joyce Carol Oats

This little novella was my first exposure to this author. Yes, it is dark and disturbing, but very well written. Left me with so many questions. I’m excited to find a new author with over 40 titles to explore. Sadly Audible only had an abridged version of the next book by this author I wanted to explore. She is not well represented on this platform. Such a shame.

1 person found this helpful