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Joyce Carol Oates, the "grand mistress of ghoulishness" (Publishers Weekly), showcases her mastery in four deeply disturbing novellas that will leave the reader both quaking and pining for more In the titular novella, an academic in Pennsylvania discovers a terrifying trauma from her past after inheriting a house in Cardiff, Maine from someone she has never heard of. Mia, Joyce Carol Oates, the "grand mistress of ghoulishness" (Publishers Weekly), showcases her mastery in four deeply disturbing novellas that will leave the reader both quaking and pining for more In the titular novella, an academic in Pennsylvania discovers a terrifying trauma from her past after inheriting a house in Cardiff, Maine from someone she has never heard of. Mia, the protagonist of "Miao Dao," is a pubescent girl overcome with loneliness, who befriends a feral cat that becomes her protector from the increasingly aggressive males that surround her. A brilliant but shy college sophomore realizes that she is pregnant in "Phan-tomwise: 1972." Distraught, she allows a distinguished visiting professor to take her under his wing, though it quickly becomes evident that he is interested in more than an academic mentorship. Lastly, "The Surviving Child" is Stefan, who was spared when his mother, a famous poet, killed his sister and herself. Stefan's father remarries, but his young wife is haunted by dead poet's voice dancing in the wind, an inexplicably befouled well, and a compulsive draw to the same gar-age that took two lives. In these psychologically daring, chillingly suspenseful pieces, Joyce Carol Oates writes about women facing threats past and present.


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Joyce Carol Oates, the "grand mistress of ghoulishness" (Publishers Weekly), showcases her mastery in four deeply disturbing novellas that will leave the reader both quaking and pining for more In the titular novella, an academic in Pennsylvania discovers a terrifying trauma from her past after inheriting a house in Cardiff, Maine from someone she has never heard of. Mia, Joyce Carol Oates, the "grand mistress of ghoulishness" (Publishers Weekly), showcases her mastery in four deeply disturbing novellas that will leave the reader both quaking and pining for more In the titular novella, an academic in Pennsylvania discovers a terrifying trauma from her past after inheriting a house in Cardiff, Maine from someone she has never heard of. Mia, the protagonist of "Miao Dao," is a pubescent girl overcome with loneliness, who befriends a feral cat that becomes her protector from the increasingly aggressive males that surround her. A brilliant but shy college sophomore realizes that she is pregnant in "Phan-tomwise: 1972." Distraught, she allows a distinguished visiting professor to take her under his wing, though it quickly becomes evident that he is interested in more than an academic mentorship. Lastly, "The Surviving Child" is Stefan, who was spared when his mother, a famous poet, killed his sister and herself. Stefan's father remarries, but his young wife is haunted by dead poet's voice dancing in the wind, an inexplicably befouled well, and a compulsive draw to the same gar-age that took two lives. In these psychologically daring, chillingly suspenseful pieces, Joyce Carol Oates writes about women facing threats past and present.

30 review for Cardiff, by the Sea: Four Novellas of Suspense

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jaidee

    5 "how the heck do you doit?" stars !! Thank you to Netgalley, the author and Grove Atlantic for an advance ebook in exchange for my honest review. This will be released in October 2020. I am absolutely astonished that in a collection of 4 novellas that ALL OF THEM WOULD BE FUCKIN BRILLIANT !! Ms. Oates' collection is hypnotic, mesmerizing, terrifying, astute and true. I will list the novella's title and a brief little review of each. These mini-reviews were written right after I read the piece and 5 "how the heck do you doit?" stars !! Thank you to Netgalley, the author and Grove Atlantic for an advance ebook in exchange for my honest review. This will be released in October 2020. I am absolutely astonished that in a collection of 4 novellas that ALL OF THEM WOULD BE FUCKIN BRILLIANT !! Ms. Oates' collection is hypnotic, mesmerizing, terrifying, astute and true. I will list the novella's title and a brief little review of each. These mini-reviews were written right after I read the piece and are collected here. Cardiff, by the Sea (5 stars) This novella is so moving, so thrilling, so astute. A young woman receives a call from a lawyer in Maine. She has inheritance ! But she is adopted. Who were her parents ? On this quest she meets her great-aunts, her uncle. This little ditty does not do this novella justice. It is likely one of the best little psychological pieces I have ever read....as good as yes....Shirley Jackson ! That says it all ! I will revisit this novella for sure but more for its prose and structure to help me with my own creative writing. I felt short of breath, afraid and thrilled reading this one ! Fuck fuck fuck this was so damn good Ms. Oates ! Miao Dao (5 stars) Mia is turning 12, 13, 14. Mia is deeply hurt by her mother, her departing father, her distant unsupportive friends. The boys at school are both silly and brutish, the stepfather is..... Mia loves the feral cats and one beautiful white one is angelic yet terrible.... This is a terrifying and deeply sad story that has wisdom and rhythm. Ms. Oates you are astounding me ! Phan-tomwise, 1972 (5 stars) A 19 yo undergrad in humanities is so very lonely, so very bright, so very naive. She tangles with two malignant narcissists (one paternalistic, one sneering) and the results are not just frightening but terrifying, horrifying. One of the most ruthless tales about misogyny that I have ever read. I was breathless and hopeless reading this. Ms. Oates....just stop....you are so bloody good ! The Surviving Child (5 stars) A new stepmother for Stefan. His mother killed herself and murdered his sister ! The new stepmother is haunted by the new seaside house, by strange happenings, by the notoriety of the brilliant first wife. Her love for Stefan is fierce but will that save her from succumbing to.... This is a brilliant psychological ghost story. Chilling, everyday, horrifying. Amazing !! Ms. Oates I bow down to your ghoulish brilliance ! As you can probably tell ....these are novellas to both frighten and tantalize and are the PERFECT ADDITION to your autumn and especially Halloween reading list.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Candi

    I’ve had one experience reading the work of Joyce Carol Oates about ten years ago. I thought that We Were the Mulvaneys would completely absorb me, but I failed to connect to that story on some level I can’t quite point to now. I’ve been hesitant to read her since - until last month, when this collection of novellas labeled as ‘suspense’ caught my attention. I’ll admit the title has a kind of pull to it as well. It sounds rather idyllic, so I was curious to see how that would likely be turned ov I’ve had one experience reading the work of Joyce Carol Oates about ten years ago. I thought that We Were the Mulvaneys would completely absorb me, but I failed to connect to that story on some level I can’t quite point to now. I’ve been hesitant to read her since - until last month, when this collection of novellas labeled as ‘suspense’ caught my attention. I’ll admit the title has a kind of pull to it as well. It sounds rather idyllic, so I was curious to see how that would likely be turned over on its head. These ended up satisfying my desire to read something rather chilling during October! “It’s the twilit Maine of Winslow Homer that Clare finds most haunting – mist-shrouded, clouded, evasive. Porous boundaries between shoreline and sea, sea and horizon, horizon and sky, as in a watercolor wash.” In the title piece, “Cardiff, by the Sea”, a young woman finds herself the heiress of a long abandoned house by the sea in Maine. She also learns about a biological family of which she has no memory, having been adopted as a very young child. She uncovers a gruesome story and meets an eccentric pair of great aunts and a sinister uncle while making the arrangements to claim her inheritance. This was my favorite of the novellas. It was unsettling and steeped in a deliciously eerie atmosphere. Clare’s confusion and sparks of brief visions take on a nightmarish quality that drew me right in. This may be a stretch, but I felt a little Henry James influence here. Perhaps it was the ambiguity and the mental state of the protagonist that put me in mind of The Turn of the Screw a bit. But I liked this one a lot more than that classic piece! “… if you stand very still and stare long enough, you will see the feral cats emerge. Wary, watchful, glittery eyes. Ears pricked in alertness.” “Miao Dao” was probably my least favorite of the bunch, but it delivered a disturbing tale for those that might have a strong aversion to cats. There are a lot of them skulking around in this story, the most intimidating being one named Miao Dao by a friendless teen, Mia. Beware of white cats with black eyes (and adolescent girls), especially if you are a bully or a creep! “Afterward she would recall how at dusk the old Gothic buildings of the campus took on a sepulchral air. And how a light mist seemed to radiate from streetlamps, as if the very air had become blurred.” “Phantomwise: 1972” takes the reader onto a college campus where a young, lonely academic is exploited by not just one but two predators. This one had a rather surprising twist to it! “The first glimpse she has of the surviving child is shocking to her: a beautiful face, pale and lightly freckled, darkly luminous eyes, a prematurely adult manner – solemn, sorrowful, wary, and watchful.” A shocking murder and suicide are highlighted in “The Surviving Child”, with a young boy having escaped a fatal outcome but certainly not the horror of the event itself. When the boy’s father remarries, the new stepmother is haunted by the stories of the tragic demise of a troubled poet and her little daughter. There’s a spine-tingling supernatural quality in this short work that delivers some gratifying chills. Overall, I thought this was a fantastic collection. Just frightening enough without going over the top. Psychological suspense and terror work much better for me than ravenous zombies, dolls with evil intentions, or one grisly bloodbath after another. At times the abbreviated style of the writing didn’t always appeal but I liked this well enough that I’m encouraged to make another attempt at one of Oates’s full length novels. There are just so many to choose from, I don’t know quite where I’ll land next! Thanks to my fine friend Jaidee for pointing me towards this delightfully disturbing collection! Check out his spirited review here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... “If I were to live here in Cardiff, by the sea, I think that another self would emerge in me. My soul.”

  3. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    What a great collection.. four novellas, suspenseful with a sense of dread, nothing bloody or gory just eerie! Great time of year to read this! Previously this year I also read the author’s Night.Sleep.Death.the Stars, and loved it! I will be looking for some additional works of hers to read! Thank you to Netgalley and and Grove Atlantic for the ARC!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    Joyce Carol Oates is a versatile author and a prolific one as well. I have read her off and on for years, with varying degrees of success. Her writing style can change from book to book, but this one, consisting of four novellas, is straightforward. She uses, in the first and last story, foreshadowing, so in those two stories we get a small taste of what is to follow. Psychological thrillers, that are just chilling enough that I found them delicious. Females take center stage in all four of thes Joyce Carol Oates is a versatile author and a prolific one as well. I have read her off and on for years, with varying degrees of success. Her writing style can change from book to book, but this one, consisting of four novellas, is straightforward. She uses, in the first and last story, foreshadowing, so in those two stories we get a small taste of what is to follow. Psychological thrillers, that are just chilling enough that I found them delicious. Females take center stage in all four of these novellas. In the first, a young women who was adopted, receives a phone call that leads her to find out about her birth family. Needless to say, all is not as it first appears. In the second, a young teen harassed at school because of her developing body, added to her fluctuating home life, finds comfort in the midst of feral cats. One cat in particular will figure prominently in this story. The third and my least favorite showcases a young college student taken advantage of by an older teacher. A prominent poet also figures largely. I was, however, surprised by the ending. The fourth, and my favorite, also features a poet, albeit a dead one. In this one a young woman married into a house with a troubled past. Secrets a plenty, and of course, things are not as they appear and secrets are abound. These are not bloody, horrific stories, but well thought out stories with fully realized characters. Like short stories, novellas let one read in manageable time frames. ARC from Edelweiss.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    Joyce Carol Oats is a realistic and prolific author. Her fiction has great atmosphere and characters. It’s easy to lose oneself in her stories. Oats published her first novel in 1963.... and has since written 58 novels ....plus many collection of short stories, essays, plays, non-fiction, and poetry. She’s also a professor, editor, and literary critic. Her contributions to the literary world are remarkable. It was a pleasure to hear her speak a couple of times at book readings. “Night Sleep Death Joyce Carol Oats is a realistic and prolific author. Her fiction has great atmosphere and characters. It’s easy to lose oneself in her stories. Oats published her first novel in 1963.... and has since written 58 novels ....plus many collection of short stories, essays, plays, non-fiction, and poetry. She’s also a professor, editor, and literary critic. Her contributions to the literary world are remarkable. It was a pleasure to hear her speak a couple of times at book readings. “Night Sleep Death The Stars” is one of my favorite novels— a family portrait with an unforgettable beginning pointing to the racial crisis we’ve seen this year in 2020....( but the book was written much before this year)... It’s an ambitious 800 page novel - that I still try to convince every reader I know to read it. I feel strong about two novels in recent years: “Night Sleep Death The Stars” and “The Hearts Invisible Furies” by John Boyne. I like both books soooo much — it’s a toss up of which of the two is my ‘very’ favorite. It’s very rare for me to read 800 - to 1000 page books THAT I WISH DIDN’T END... I still wanted ‘more’. “Night....” was that 800 page experience. “Pillars of The Earth” and “World Without End”, both by Ken Follett, we’re also. “A Little Life”, by Hanya Yanagihara, was another. There are more books written by Oats ( a five time Pulitzer Prize finalist), than I’ve read.... yet I’ve enjoyed many. ( varied genres).... with much admiration, respect for her talent. Being such a die-hard fan of “Night Sleep Death The Stars”.... I can’t imagine any Oats book being better. ( but willing to be wrong)... That said.... “Cardiff By The Sea” was TERRIFIC... Each of the four novellas were engaging, suspenseful, psychologically spooky, and most importantly ( to me).... enjoyably electric. The characters memorable— The storytelling gripping— Yep!.... a book worthy of the money I spent!!! (I rarely visit Netgalley these days), - but after reading this book I noticed it was published by one of my favorite publishers from way back: Grove Atlantic. No surprise to me that Grove Atlantic & Joyce Carol Oats were a team with this book. I love and admire them both. Now... for a few tidbits about the 4 novellas: Here’s an excerpt from the first story: “Cardiff By The Sea”.... “Clare has never told anyone that she was adopted. That is her secret. So now she can’t tell anyone about the happiness she feels as an heiress”. Proof that someone cared for her. A grandmother. “But why did you wait so long to acknowledge you, Clare— this grandmother of yours...”. “And what about your (birth) parents? Are they alive? Will you try to contact them?” “Within a day or two you might meet them. Whatever awaits you in Cardiff”. “Clare tried not to think much about her mother or father. She assumed that neither parent was living, for otherwise why would their daughter big given away to strangers at the age of two years, nine months?” One more: Clare Seidel: “She will want to make inquiries: mother (Kathryn), father (Conner), sister (Emma), brother (Laird). She will want to see photographs of the lost family; she will want to make copies of these photographs. She will not (yet) want to ask, ‘Why did my father do such a terrible thing?’— for the question is too bright and blinding, like gazing into the sun”. The second story is called “Miao Dao” We read about a young girl named, Mia. It had ten months since Mia‘s father had left their family. The divorce was said to be final. Her younger brothers, Randy and Kevin, didn’t know what to think. Her mother, started wearing designer jeans, tight fitting suede trousers and matching jackets, high-heeled boots, and wearing lots of face makeup. Recently Mia’s mother had been going out on dates. Mia found it pathetic… After all her mother was in her late thirties. The nerve of her! As the story continues - we hurt for this young girl Home life is not a place where Mia feels protected and safe. Her mother remarried... making life for Mia scarier. Life at school was just as bad with crude and cruel boys bullying her. Her one savior was “Miao Dao”....a feral cat. This was a sad story. Also a reminder how much our fury friend’s comfort can help save us in the best of ways. There are two more stories- each as strong as the first two. Haunting, unsettling, suspenseful. Remarkable skillful author!!!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Teresa

    It’s been awhile since I’ve read a new JCO, but after reading this, I’m reminded one reason she’s likely so prolific is her finger has always, even from her earliest publications, been on the pulse of the zeitgeist. That’s not to say her stories are ephemeral, with no relevance to the past (or to a likely future). The collection’s third story is set in 1972. With superficial changes it could be of today or, unfortunately, of tomorrow. JCO has a style, at least in these novellas, that draws me in, It’s been awhile since I’ve read a new JCO, but after reading this, I’m reminded one reason she’s likely so prolific is her finger has always, even from her earliest publications, been on the pulse of the zeitgeist. That’s not to say her stories are ephemeral, with no relevance to the past (or to a likely future). The collection’s third story is set in 1972. With superficial changes it could be of today or, unfortunately, of tomorrow. JCO has a style, at least in these novellas, that draws me in, though I can see how it might not be appealing to some. You have to not mind parenthetical asides/additions or internal thoughts inside an already closely rendered point of view; sometimes these thoughts are not always what they seem to be and are more closely tied to the ending. The ending of the title novella blew me away, its prose (almost identical to the beginning, yet quite different in tone) shifting the meaning of what came before, even if just slightly: a slight (of hand) off-kilter. The first two stories feature females—one is thirty, the other a young teenager—who are desperately lonely; they both acquire a kitchen knife and undergo dissociative experiences. In the third story, the knives of the earlier stories become a symbolic Kinch (a James Joyce word from Ulysses). A knife mentioned in the fourth story is invisible. The depicted violence of the third story reminded me of the completely realistic Ways to Hide in Winter. The fourth story seems a reworking of Rebecca combined with a fairy tale I won’t name as it might be a clue to a spoiler. The stories deal with male violence toward women (and sometimes children), not ‘just’ misogyny, which seems to have lost some of its meaning due to (over)use, but masculine toxicity (a phrase of today). I don’t know how much Shirley Jackson’s works might’ve influenced JCO (she was the editor of one of Jackson’s Library of America volumes) but I felt definite Jacksonian echoes in these stories; perhaps that’s because lonely, undervalued females were Jackson's specialty.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Anna Luce

    / / / Read more reviews on my blog / / / As I highly rate Joyce Carol Oates I was quite looking forward to Cardiff, by the Sea, a collection of four novellas 'of suspense'. While I have only read a few of Oates' works Patricide, a novella of hers, is a favourite of mine. The novellas collected in Cardiff, by the Sea have more in common with Oates' The Pursuit as they are not only just as depressing but they are also written in a similar 'stop and start' type of prose. We have staccato sentences t / / / Read more reviews on my blog / / / As I highly rate Joyce Carol Oates I was quite looking forward to Cardiff, by the Sea, a collection of four novellas 'of suspense'. While I have only read a few of Oates' works Patricide, a novella of hers, is a favourite of mine. The novellas collected in Cardiff, by the Sea have more in common with Oates' The Pursuit as they are not only just as depressing but they are also written in a similar 'stop and start' type of prose. We have staccato sentences that often elide their subjects (such as “Chewing, trying to swallow but can't.” or “Seeing the apprehension in the child's face.”). While this style worked in the first novella, the longest in the collection, it felt a bit repetitive and overall less convincing in the following ones. In the first one we follow a deeply traumatised young woman and because of this the prose perfectly conveyed her 'disturbed' psyche. There were scenes where Oates' choppy prose worked well, especially in terms of visuals and pacing: “Mia felt a stab of excitement. Following the flashlight beam. Shining light on ugly gouged tire tracks. Broken and shredded trees.”. As I've said however I do wish that this collection could have showcased Oates' impressive stylistic range. These novellas also share many other similarities outside of the way the are written. They feature women who are traumatised, abused, sexually assaulted, and/or gaslighted/manipulated. All of the male characters in these novellas are awful human being. They are pedophiles, rapists, murders, opportunists....the lists goes on. The women in these stories lack agency. There are one or two incidents that suggest otherwise but throughout the course of their narratives they are very much confined to the role of victims. 'Cardiff, by the Sea': 4 stars As I've said the best story in this collection is the very first one: 'Cardiff, by the Sea'. This novella was creepy and atmospheric. We follow Clare a woman who receives a call informing her that her grandmother has died...except that Clare has never met or know of her having been raised by adoptive parents. When she visits her newfound 'blood relatives' in Cardiff she becomes increasingly obsessed with the death of her birth parents. She stays with her two great-aunts, who very much reminded me of April Spink and Miriam Forcible from Coraline (except they are far more sinister). They are perpetually arguing and interrupting one another. Perhaps their creepiness is due to Clare's susceptible state of mind, perhaps not. Clare's uncle also lives with them and soon enough Clare becomes convinced that he played some sort of role in her family's demise. This story is pure Gothic. Unease reigns supreme. Clare's fragmented and unreliable memories contribute to this unsettling atmosphere. Oates' prose her works really well as it reflects Clare's psyche. Her trauma and shock definitely give her an alienated view of things. If you enjoy Shirley Jackson's work or macabre stories such as the ones penned by Mariana Enríquez chances are you will appreciate this novella which is equal parts suspenseful and disturbing. 'Miao Dao': 3 stars This story had potential. I mean: cats killing pervy men? I'm sold. We follow Mia who has just turned thriteen. Her father recently separated from her mother and she now rarely sees him. Her male classmates begin to harass her and her female peers are not all that supportive (if anything they perceive as either a loser or a potential 'threat'). As Mia is 'shamed' for body she begins to feel deeply alienated. Mia finds momentary solace when she is among a group of feral cats that has taken residence in her neighbourhood. When her mother gets together with a seemingly 'good' guy things take a turn for the worse. Mia ends up taking in a kitten, whom she names Miao Dao, and weird things start happening. This story was kind of miserable. Even more so that 'Cardiff, by the Sea' as it focuses on sexual abuse. It also reminded me of my own adolescent, a period of my life I never wish to relive again. The 'leering', the comments, the physical harassment. The way all of these make the victim feel ashamed and embarrassed (as she perceives herself guilty since it is her body that is making these boys and men act this way). So, given all the horrible things that happen to Mia, I was hoping for the story to present us with a satisfying revenge storyline...and it kind of doesn't. The 'cat' element was definitely underused, and I think that the story would have benefitted from venturing more into the paranormal. Still, the ending does kind of make up for some of my initial frustration towards this story. 'Phantomwise: 1972' : 2 ½ stars This seemed a rehash of the previous two stories. We have a nondescript young woman—who similarly to Clare and Mia is mostly defined by the fact that she is being ill-treated/abused as opposed to having a discernible personality. The story follows a student who becomes involved with a professor (yes, this is that kind of story). As things sour between the two of them, the young woman becomes close to an older man who likes to talk about Lewis Carroll and his 'Alice'. This isn't a gripping or even suspenseful tale. Oates doesn't really subvert this tired female student/male professor dynamic, if anything she goes full on misery porn. Misery and more misery. Women are helpless and men are predators. Great stuff. 'The Surviving Child' : 2 ½ stars This last novella seemed a mix between Rebecca and Verity. We follow the new wife of a man whose previous wife not only committed suicide but she killed their daughter too. She spared the son and the new wife wonders what could have driven her to do so. The prose is once again full of Yoda-like sentences which didn't really add anything to my reading experience. Kind of predictable but not as miserable as the previous novella. With the exception of the titular novella I didn't particularly care for stories in this collection. Oates can certainly write but her style here could have been more varied. Her female characters are passive, even pathetic at times, and I found myself wanting these stories to be more subversive.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Eric Anderson

    I had a chat with Joyce Carol Oates about this new book which you can watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pGJlsLdSd28 Joyce Carol Oates excels at writing stories of psychological suspense which also contain an underlying layer of more profound and unanswerable questions. In “Cardiff, by the Sea”, her new collection of four novellas, she presents several differently compelling and inventive strategies for teasing the reader into questioning what's real and what's only a part of the narrato I had a chat with Joyce Carol Oates about this new book which you can watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pGJlsLdSd28 Joyce Carol Oates excels at writing stories of psychological suspense which also contain an underlying layer of more profound and unanswerable questions. In “Cardiff, by the Sea”, her new collection of four novellas, she presents several differently compelling and inventive strategies for teasing the reader into questioning what's real and what's only a part of the narrator's imagination. In the title story, an emotionally-charged terrifying childhood memory haunts a scholarly young woman. In “Miao Dao”, a stray cat becomes a kind of ghost guardian for a vulnerable teenage girl. A bright young student falls prey to her influential mentors in “Phantomwise:1972”. And, in “The Surviving Child”, a new wife joins a household haunted by the memory of a mother who tried to eviscerate her family. These are innately dramatic situations whose psychological complexity is furthered by the longer amount of space the author allows for them to be told, but the stories remain compact enough for their tension to remain breathtakingly persistent. Recent books of short stories by Oates such as “Pursuit” and “Night-Gaunts” present similarly suspenseful situations, but it's interesting how the author works in this new book with slightly longer forms of narrative to produce an effect that is very reminiscent of Henry James' “The Turn of the Screw.” Read my full review of Cardiff, by the Sea by Joyce Carol Oates on LonesomeReader

  9. 5 out of 5

    Bam cooks the books ;-)

    Joyce Carol Oates' new book contains four novellas of suspense with young female protagonists. In Cardiff, By the Sea, a young academic who was adopted as a child learns she has inherited property on the rugged coast of Maine from a paternal grandmother she never knew she had. Hasn't she always wondered about her biological parents/family and why she was put up for adoption at nearly three-years-of-age? Be careful what you wish for! In Miao Dao, a twelve-year-old girl struggles with her changing Joyce Carol Oates' new book contains four novellas of suspense with young female protagonists. In Cardiff, By the Sea, a young academic who was adopted as a child learns she has inherited property on the rugged coast of Maine from a paternal grandmother she never knew she had. Hasn't she always wondered about her biological parents/family and why she was put up for adoption at nearly three-years-of-age? Be careful what you wish for! In Miao Dao, a twelve-year-old girl struggles with her changing body, school bullies and her dysfunctional family life. Her only friends seem to be a pack of feral cats living in a densely-overgrown cul-de-sac in her neighborhood--particularly one pure white cat she names Miao Dao who becomes quite devoted to the girl. But can feral cats ever be tamed? In Phantomwise: 1972, a college student begins an affair with one of her professors that leads her into danger. In The Surviving Child, a young woman marries a wealthy older man whose first wife, a renowned poet, committed suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning, killing their daughter but sparing their son. The family home on Cape Cod seems to be haunted by a malevolent presence that is affecting the new wife's happiness. Or is she imagining it all? These four novellas were all very effectively written with just the right amount of scary atmosphere. The characters were well drawn and in the span of each story, I came to care about each young woman and the situations they were facing. I received an arc of this new book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. Many thanks!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Kelli

    I've never read Joyce Carol Oates and I really like her writing style. These four novellas were so unique, even though each had a female victim as its central character and each had a surprising ending. An excellent read for the month of October, this won't be my last by this talented author. 4 stars

  11. 5 out of 5

    Martie Nees Record

    Genre: Suspense Publisher: Grove Atlantic/Mysterious Press Publication Date: October 6, 2020 How does a reviewer review anything written by the living legend, Joyce Carol Oates? Is there any new critique one can possibly add? It is fair to say that Oates is one of the great writers of our time. For decades, she has written in a variety of styles and genres. Particularly effective are her portrayals of violence and evil in modern society. She is a master storyteller in all genres: “We Were the Mulva Genre: Suspense Publisher: Grove Atlantic/Mysterious Press Publication Date: October 6, 2020 How does a reviewer review anything written by the living legend, Joyce Carol Oates? Is there any new critique one can possibly add? It is fair to say that Oates is one of the great writers of our time. For decades, she has written in a variety of styles and genres. Particularly effective are her portrayals of violence and evil in modern society. She is a master storyteller in all genres: “We Were the Mulvaneys,” is the family saga that explores its breakdown, “Blonde,” is the ultimate study of Marilyn Monroe through a bio-fiction, or in “The Accursed” she is at her gothic best. “Cardiff, by the Sea” consists of four previously unpublished novellas. (I am interested in learning when the author wrote these stories). In these four, we get a good understanding as to why she has been dubbed the “grand mistress of ghoulishness.” Or her more personal nickname of, “Princeton’s Dark Lady of Fiction.” Oates’ protagonists are usually feminine as they are in this book. The title novella, “Cardiff, by the Sea,” which is my favorite in the collection, reads like a fever dream. A young woman in academia, who was adopted at the age of two, receives a phone call from a lawyer concerning her birth family. She inherited a house in Cardiff, Maine from her biological grandmother whom she has never heard of before. Let the terror begin. She travels to Maine and for the first time and meets her great-aunts and their nephew who is her uncle. The aunts in this short reminded me of the eccentric aunts in the black and white Cary Grant comedy, “Arsenic and Old Lace”(though this novella is no comedy or only very dark humor concerning the aunts). The aunts in the film are portrayed as sweet loving old ladies who just happen to poison lonely men to put them out of their misery. Also, the psychopath uncle from the old movie reminds me of the uncle here in Oates’ imagination. In “Cardiff” the aunts speak so rapidly, without a breath in between words, that the young woman as well as the reader can get a headache. I believe that this is a trick by the author to confuse us. This is best that I can do to get my point across without spoilers. However, I can share, while the young woman stays with her biological family she remembers her traumatic early childhood. These memories are written in a manner that reads as if they are outbursts from the young woman’s unconscious. She, nor the reader, is ever sure if they are real or fake memories. Either way, they are blood curdling scary. My least favorite and the most bizarre in the collection is “Miao Dao.” The story centers on a young teenage girl who’s one of the first in her class to reach puberty. Bad things have been happening to her as she has begun to mature. Unfortunately, her new breasts make her a target for boys who like to bully by “accidentally” bumping into her while making lewd remarks. Simultaneously her parents divorce and she now lives with a lecherous stepfather. She shuts down from all in her life and becomes almost a hermit. Her only friends are a pack of feral cats living in her neighborhood. Oates does such a good job of making us feel the girl’s loneliness, and how these cats become her lifeline. She has taken to sneaking out at night and sleeping with them. And, here is where things get weird. Her new friends become her fierce protectors. One of them grows large and turns into a ferocious cat that may or may not have killed one of the boys who tormented her. In this novella, the famous author reminds me of a modern day Kafka. In his novella, “The Metamorphosis,” did the salesman really turn into a bug, or was his transformation a psychological interpretation of his feelings towards his family and his life. In a way, the same could be said here. Did the cat magically grow strong enough to become able to kill a human or is Oates using its transformation as an analysis of her character? On the other hand, is her character the actual killer and there is nothing mystical at all going on? Damn, Oates is good. The reason I was a bit disappointed in “Miao” is that the teen is written more like a girl obsessed with feral cats than a girl expressing her feelings through them. Still, the author gets her point across. The other two stories revolve around plotlines that Oates has looked at before. One is about a female student who is obsessed with her older professor including all the crap that goes into such a relationship. The other explores motherhood when a female poet has a fatal attraction to a man whom she marries. They are both top quality reads and as always between the horrors, Oates makes you think about aggression against women by the hands of men. “Cardiff” carefully goes back and forth from psychological suspense and supernatural events, but the tales are always creepy. I do not believe that I have ever not recommended a book by my favorite author. This one is no different. As usual, when reading, “Princeton’s Dark Lady of Fiction” you will probably end up having nightmares. I received this Advance Review Copy (ARC) novel from the publisher at no cost in exchange for an honest review Find all my book reviews at: https://www.goodreads.com/review/list... https://books6259.wordpress.com/ https://www.barnesandnoble.com/review... https://www.facebook.com/martie.neesr... https://www.instagram.com/martie6947/ https://www.pinterest.com/martienreco...\ https://www.amazon.com/ https://twitter.com/NeesRecord

  12. 5 out of 5

    Bookworm

    This was the perfect read for October! Haunting, unsettling, suspenseful... Four novellas that were disturbing in nature yet written with such finesse and grace that it was easy to get swept up in the storytelling. The stories were primarily about women/girls and the trauma and victimization to which they are routinely exposed. Each story has an eerie quality about it and an impactful thought-provoking resolution. Incredibly psychological in nature with three dimensional characters that kept me This was the perfect read for October! Haunting, unsettling, suspenseful... Four novellas that were disturbing in nature yet written with such finesse and grace that it was easy to get swept up in the storytelling. The stories were primarily about women/girls and the trauma and victimization to which they are routinely exposed. Each story has an eerie quality about it and an impactful thought-provoking resolution. Incredibly psychological in nature with three dimensional characters that kept me engaged and intrigued. I listened to the audio and thought the performance was excellent. A gracious thank you from publisher and Netgalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    Four fabulous stories that read more Horror than Mystery. The darkness and foreboding had me nervous from the start. The standout was Miao Dao. I was a little worried about reading it because of my love of animals. The lives of feral cats can be harsh and I was especially unnerved by this story, hoping the cats would survive the antagonistic man. The feline received a happy ending. Wheeeee! The man? Well, you be the judge... This is my first read by this author and she set quite the portent tone. Four fabulous stories that read more Horror than Mystery. The darkness and foreboding had me nervous from the start. The standout was Miao Dao. I was a little worried about reading it because of my love of animals. The lives of feral cats can be harsh and I was especially unnerved by this story, hoping the cats would survive the antagonistic man. The feline received a happy ending. Wheeeee! The man? Well, you be the judge... This is my first read by this author and she set quite the portent tone. I Purchased a hardback copy from Barnes and Noble.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    Vintage Joyce Carol Oates. Anyone that has read a Joyce Carol Oates anthology will enjoy these novellas. These stories are filled with such foreboding that I had to put the book down on multiple occasions. I found myself wanting to yell at each protagonist as their situations worsened. To tell them to beware. To tell them to hide, to run, to wake up. Very real and surreal at the same time. By the way, my favorite is Miao Dao. What a comeuppance! Thanks to NetGalley, Mysterious Press, and Joyce Car Vintage Joyce Carol Oates. Anyone that has read a Joyce Carol Oates anthology will enjoy these novellas. These stories are filled with such foreboding that I had to put the book down on multiple occasions. I found myself wanting to yell at each protagonist as their situations worsened. To tell them to beware. To tell them to hide, to run, to wake up. Very real and surreal at the same time. By the way, my favorite is Miao Dao. What a comeuppance! Thanks to NetGalley, Mysterious Press, and Joyce Carol Oates for an ARC in return for an honest review.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Kasa Cotugno

    Impressive that this is the third book I've read by Joyce Carol Oates (JCO) in the space of eight months, each showcasing another facet of her prodigious talent. The fact that the three books consisted of a book of short stories, an 800-page novel, and this, a collection of four novellas only proves that she is equally at home with every form (she also has a book of poetry due out later this year). The theme uniting these four novellas of psychological suspense is women of different ages in dang Impressive that this is the third book I've read by Joyce Carol Oates (JCO) in the space of eight months, each showcasing another facet of her prodigious talent. The fact that the three books consisted of a book of short stories, an 800-page novel, and this, a collection of four novellas only proves that she is equally at home with every form (she also has a book of poetry due out later this year). The theme uniting these four novellas of psychological suspense is women of different ages in danger, but such is her talent that these examples are unique in situation and outcome. She has been writing about the survivor of family mass murder ever since her earliest days, but due to her ability to create individuals, each is remarkable and memorable.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kat

    I've never read any of Joyce Carol Oates' other works, so I came into this book, a collection of four of her novellas, with a blank slate of expectations. The title itself suggests that they will have suspense, and in the most technical way possible, I suppose you could say that, but it isn't very exciting. While the writing is good - she's particularly talented at communicating the inner monologue of someone experiencing chaotic, confused thinking - the stories, for me, bordered on dull and one I've never read any of Joyce Carol Oates' other works, so I came into this book, a collection of four of her novellas, with a blank slate of expectations. The title itself suggests that they will have suspense, and in the most technical way possible, I suppose you could say that, but it isn't very exciting. While the writing is good - she's particularly talented at communicating the inner monologue of someone experiencing chaotic, confused thinking - the stories, for me, bordered on dull and one-note, with each story featuring a woman in various states of psychological and/or physical distress caused either, past or present, by one or more male figures in her life. I get it. There are some men out there who behave badly toward women. As a woman, I'm sympathetic to the situations these women find themselves in. I'm just not sure I prefer spending 400 pages dwelling on it, or demonizing maleness in the process. By displaying many of the male characters as domineering, manipulative, predatory, selfish, or cruel, depending on the story, it also has the effect of making all the female protagonists look weak, pathetic, desperate and dependent, or worse - placating the men who victimize them. I always feel a little confused when that kind of portrayal is written by a woman, because I'm not sure what my take-away is supposed to be. Regarding the four novellas, I liked the second one, Miao Dao, (it had cats - bonus) and the final one, The Surviving Child, best, as the stories had more sense of resolution. The first one, the titular, Cardiff, by the Sea, was bizarre and confusing to me, but I liked the way Oates wrote the manic back-and-forth conversations between the two great aunts. The third story, Phantomwise: 1972, was interesting, but some aspects of it could come straight out of many current crime shows, so it wasn't particularly suspenseful. All in all, I liked the writing, just not the themes. I'd honestly rather read a book these days that lifts me up. ★★★

  17. 5 out of 5

    Vonda

    Beautifully written suspense like only Joyce Carol Oates can. 4 novellas in this book that will send shivers up your spine. A quick read that is hard to put down. Put this one on your Halloween list and make sure you turn down the lights.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Christina

    One of our greatest living authors, Joyce Carol Oates truly captivated me with these four novellas. It’s rare that I read a short story collection where there is no “filler” or weak link - but each of these stories is better than the next. They are, like all her work, beautifully and lyrically written; and also like much of her other work, deeply unsettling. This collection especially appealed to me as a mystery and suspense fan, and was more accessible and easily digested than some of her other One of our greatest living authors, Joyce Carol Oates truly captivated me with these four novellas. It’s rare that I read a short story collection where there is no “filler” or weak link - but each of these stories is better than the next. They are, like all her work, beautifully and lyrically written; and also like much of her other work, deeply unsettling. This collection especially appealed to me as a mystery and suspense fan, and was more accessible and easily digested than some of her other work. It would be a good introduction to Oates for a suspense fan who has never read her work. I also really enjoyed the feminist, but very dark and disturbing, bent to all of the stories. Perhaps the most shocking story that stays with me the most is “Miao Dao,” which is (and isn’t) about feral cats. This story is incredibly disturbing in the best way, a way that stays with you that you can’t shake. Will probably read it again in the next few days. That story flows seamlessly into the somewhat related Phantomwise: 1972, which is equally haunting. Cardiff By the Sea is the perfect story to start with - and to think it gets even darker from there! I had not read Oates in awhile and this book made me rediscover her all over again, like the time in college when I first read Foxfire. I would love to see another collection like this from Mysterious Press in the future - I for one never knew Oates had published in Ellery Queen mystery magazine, so I am hoping there are even more undiscovered haunting mystery gems of hers out there for me to discover. Thanks to NetGalley, Grove Atlantic and Joyce Carol Oates for the chance to read this extraordinary book early in exchange for my honest review. The book deserves ten stars, but since I don’t have that capacity, here are the five biggest stars I can give. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  19. 5 out of 5

    Bandit

    The day I chose to read this book Joyce Carol Oates was actually in the news. Quite random, quite a coincidence, really. And what she did to get in the news is post a stupid tweet. Now I’m not going to turn this review into a tirade about the evils of twitter, because while, like most social media, it is absolutely an evil thing that gives platform to the levels of stupidity that not so long ago were private and /or geographically restricted to the stupids’ immediate radius and yes twitter is on The day I chose to read this book Joyce Carol Oates was actually in the news. Quite random, quite a coincidence, really. And what she did to get in the news is post a stupid tweet. Now I’m not going to turn this review into a tirade about the evils of twitter, because while, like most social media, it is absolutely an evil thing that gives platform to the levels of stupidity that not so long ago were private and /or geographically restricted to the stupids’ immediate radius and yes twitter is one of major signifiers of civilizations’ backwards tumble into abyss and all that…it doesn’t actually seem to preclude anyone from twittering away. Apparently everyone needs a soap box, a platform for their ignorance and vitriol to spew forth into the world. Such as a respected author who took it upon herself to post an obnoxiously rude snippy comment on something as innocuous as Anderson Cooper’s son’s birth announcement. The reason being Oates’ specific kind of feminism got offended by Cooper omitting to mention the surrogate mother. Seriously. Because it’s her business. Seriously. For me it’s like this…the wealthy, the famous, the 1% seem to buy nice things all the time without mentioning their provenance, I wouldn’t expect Cooper to announce who incubated his baby for him any more than I would expect him to announce who build his mansion for him or who cooks his meals. I don’t even know why he needs to announce he bought a baby, but privacy is dead and people can’t shut up about themselves, so there we are. Plus there’s also a fact that surrogacy is to my understanding a private matter and someone might not want to be known as the baby incubator for pay. So then why does Joyce Carol Oates have such a need to defend this woman who must likely needs no defending? Because Oates seems to be practicing a very specific kind of feminism, the toxic kind. Am I coining toxic feminism here? Seems unlikely, but would be awesome if that’s the case. Mind you, I’m not in any way against feminism, the kind that promotes equality and recognition and all that, but when it gets perverted into a manhating one track minded obsessive sort of mission to find real or imaginary oppression in every single place…that’s disturbing. Offputting. Wrong. And it is exactly this kind of feminism that informs Oates’ literary output and so, as much as I actually like her as an author, it does circumspect the enjoyment of her work. These novellas are as well written tales of dark psychological drama as you can find, but they all have a certain similarity in the way the gender politics are presented. And so whether her protagonist is an adopted woman coming to Cardiff to discover her biological family or a young girl, barely a teenager, dealing with puberty and her creepy peado stepdad or a college age woman getting involved with her professors or a woman marrying a wealthy older man with a son who survived being murdered by his own mother…the theme is the same, the message is the same, men are predators, women are victims. Every single time. Men are rapists, liars, murderers. Women are raped, lied to, murdered. It’s a very disturbing sort of one note eulogy for the genders. At least Oates only deals with the two traditional (cisgender) ones, who knows what sort of a gory feast she’d have with the gendermultiverse of the modern day. Or maybe she wouldn’t, maybe that would be too complex and she seems to prefer the simplicity of the wicked perpetrator/victim duality of her imaginings. Shame really, because she’s such a talented author and has a real knack for profoundly disturbing and occasionally psychologically terrorizing the readers. It’s just difficult to enjoy something so bluntly message driven when a message is so…well, this. And there’s that quality to Oates’ writing too, it’s difficult to describe, but it’s viscerally unpleasant at times, like walking through a cobweb. Not necessarily a terrible thing, in fact it proves her effectiveness as an inventor of psychological disturbances of the mind, but still, it’s there. These aren’t easy books to love, there are books I don’t think I can ever love, admire, like, appreciate, sure, but never love. The second story was actually a revisit for me, I previously listened to it through Amazon shorts audio series and though I remembered most of it, it was still good the second time around. Oates definitely can write. Just imagine how good she might have been had she done her writing away from the soap box. And yes, I realize I spent much of this review on stating a personal opinion decrying the evils of a platform for personal opinions, but hey…if you can’t tell a difference between a handcrafted thought laden eloquent (one hopes) thought included in a review that is meant mostly for me (personal reading records) and whoever might enjoy it in this relatively small reading community of ours, but addressed to no one and a creatively spelled 280 character idiocy launched into the world at large and so often as a personal attack at random people…well, than, let’s face it, you might belong on twitter. For all others, thank you for reading and have a lovely day. Despite some enjoyment reading of this book might provide to the right audience in the right mood, it isn’t an easy one to recommend. Use your own discernment, as you always ought to anyway. Thanks Netgalley.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Tanya

    Thematically, the four stories collected here all deal with different types of predatory men, and the ways in which they corrupt or control women. I've discovered Oates, an exceptionally prolific writer, this year, but after two massive novels, these were my first exposure to her short(er) form writing, and I'm glad to see that she apparently excels here, too. I just love the crisp yet hauntingly raw and often uncomfortably intense way she writes about feminist issues. These novellas didn't only Thematically, the four stories collected here all deal with different types of predatory men, and the ways in which they corrupt or control women. I've discovered Oates, an exceptionally prolific writer, this year, but after two massive novels, these were my first exposure to her short(er) form writing, and I'm glad to see that she apparently excels here, too. I just love the crisp yet hauntingly raw and often uncomfortably intense way she writes about feminist issues. These novellas didn't only go well together thematically, but they also had a very uncanny atmosphere in common, without it ever feeling recycled—each story managed to evoke its own special kind of oppressive, quiet dread. A rounded up 3.5 stars! Cardiff, By The Sea · ★★★ An art historian who'd been adopted when she was barely three years old receives a call saying that her biological grandmother has left her a bequest. She travels to Cardiff, Maine, to sort things out, but the past and layers of hidden trauma she dredges up in the process make her wish she'd never answered the phone. This titular story makes up almost half of the collection, and while I loved the beginning, it sort of lost me the further we went along. It is reasonably suspenseful and gave me some strong Shirley Jackson vibes in that there is a vague but strong sense of distress permeating the narrative, but the bickering great-aunts irritated the hell out of me and drained the story of all enjoyment whenever they were in a scene. Despite being someone who enjoys open endings, the utter lack of resolution left me dissatisfied; maybe it went over my head. Miao Dao · ★★★★½ Mia, a lonely pubescent girl dealing with her parents' divorce, her mother's new marriage, and school boys bullying her for her changing body, finds some comfort in visiting and putting out food for a colony of feral cats in her neighborhood. When the colony gets eradicated by the department of public health, she rescues a kitten, which becomes her protector from the increasing predatory male aggression she faces. I read this story in one sitting with my own two kittens purring on me, and I just wanted to kiss them all over, and felt the silly need to tell them that I'd protect them from all harm; I love the way Oates writes about kitties, she's a cat lady after my own heart! There were parts in this story—which is essentially about the power and control men enact upon women and other living beings—that were hard to read, but the ending was chillingly satisfying while also remaining utterly ambiguous in a way that I loved. Phantomwise: 1972 · ★★★★ A smart but shy college student has an affair with a professor, and gets pregnant. Distraught at her lack of options, she decides to confront the state she finds herself in with denial, and welcomes it when a distinguished older professor takes her under her wing as his archivist, even though he clearly has more in mind. Yet another tale about the type of control men in powerful positions can exert over women that still resonates today, even though life on a college campus in the early 70's was quite different, as was the state of women's reproductive rights. Considering this, I felt more sympathy for the somewhat helpless protagonist than I would've felt if this tale had been set in contemporary times. The line between reality and nightmare is thin here, and the ending was eerie and heartbreaking. The Surviving Child · ★★★½ A famous feminist poet killed herself and her daughter, leaving no suicide note, and evidently decided to spare her eldest son from the same fate. A couple years later, the surviving child's father remarries and moves the young wife into the house where the tragedy happened. She desperately wants to connect with the shy, elusive child, but finds herself haunted by his dead mother's poetry. This story had something almost archetypal about it—Bluebeard comes to mind. I found it predictable (or maybe inevitable is the better word), which however doesn't mean that I didn't enjoy the story's unfolding. Out of the four included, it's the one with the most obvious supernatural influence. Note: I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. ————— All my book reviews can be found here · You can support me here

  21. 5 out of 5

    Cody | CodysBookshelf

    Try to contain your surprise: I’m giving yet another Joyce Carol Oates book 5 stars? Yeah, I’m convinced she’s our greatest living writer and would happily debate anyone on that. Oates is unafraid to break convention and explore any/all boundaries of the story form. I was ecstatic when I found out Cardiff, by the Sea (due out from Ecco in October) is a collection of novellas, as I feel some of JCO’s very best works are in the short form. Does this new release live up to this writer’s 60-year leg Try to contain your surprise: I’m giving yet another Joyce Carol Oates book 5 stars? Yeah, I’m convinced she’s our greatest living writer and would happily debate anyone on that. Oates is unafraid to break convention and explore any/all boundaries of the story form. I was ecstatic when I found out Cardiff, by the Sea (due out from Ecco in October) is a collection of novellas, as I feel some of JCO’s very best works are in the short form. Does this new release live up to this writer’s 60-year legacy? Yes, simply yes. What Oates managed to do was trick me, pull the rug out from under my feet in every story. She purposefully directs the reader one way, only to push the reader somewhere else. This collection is Oates nearly in Gillian Flynn territory, exploring exceedingly dark subject matter with razor-sharp prose and smart, well-written unlikable (yet wholly sympathetic) people. Oates has been doing this for decades, yeah, but it’s very much on display in all four of these stories. As for my favorites: I loved all four of the tales collected here, but I think I’ll have to give the edge to “Miao Dao”, a winning combination of feral cats (I just love when Oates writes about kitties!), menacing stepparents, and the confusion of puberty. I also quite loved “The Surviving Child”, a tastefully gothic-esque chiller that explores a fractured psyche—and a beautiful ending up for much interpretation. My favorite author still has it, and I can’t recommend this book enough. Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for granting me an advance review copy.

  22. 4 out of 5

    4cats

    Joyce Carol Oates is one of the great writers of our time. It is as if instead of taking a breath she has to write a sentence. She is prolific yet the quality of her writing remains solid, challenging, relevant and intense. She certainly can't be pigeonholed into a particular genre and has more than one string to her writing bow so to speak. Cardiff, by the sea is a collection of 4 novellas with a strong sense of feminism running through all 4. The truly outstanding one of the collection is the C Joyce Carol Oates is one of the great writers of our time. It is as if instead of taking a breath she has to write a sentence. She is prolific yet the quality of her writing remains solid, challenging, relevant and intense. She certainly can't be pigeonholed into a particular genre and has more than one string to her writing bow so to speak. Cardiff, by the sea is a collection of 4 novellas with a strong sense of feminism running through all 4. The truly outstanding one of the collection is the Cardiff, by the sea. A young woman is contacted by a solicitor to inform her she has inherited some property. She knows little of her past as she was adopted as a young child, she returns to her birth family only to find a dark family history. There are mulitiple layers to the story tellling and it is an absolute joy to read. We then have Mia Dao which deals with a young girl trying to protect herself from the male predatory gaze, it has a quality of supernatural to the writing, as does the next novella Phan-tomwise 1972. Finally we have The Surviving Child which has at it's centred a young woman who has become the stepmother to a boy whose mother was a famous poet, he survived her attempt to kill herself and her children. These are dark, psychological novels, relevant to the lives of women past and present. A must read for anyone who thrives on great writing and great fiction.

  23. 5 out of 5

    ʚϊɞ Shelley's ʚϊɞ Book Nook

    4.25 Stars All four novellas are vintage Joyce Carol Oates, classic literary fiction. These stories are perfect for a cold, rainy night or a Halloween read...I highly recommend them...and that cover is so beautiful and haunting. The theme here seems to be that males are predators and the females have had enough...how very timely. Cardiff, by the Sea: ☆☆☆☆ This is the way a story should be...creepy, suspenseful and entertaining. I love everything about the novella...creepy house, weird relatives, b 4.25 Stars All four novellas are vintage Joyce Carol Oates, classic literary fiction. These stories are perfect for a cold, rainy night or a Halloween read...I highly recommend them...and that cover is so beautiful and haunting. The theme here seems to be that males are predators and the females have had enough...how very timely. Cardiff, by the Sea: ☆☆☆☆ This is the way a story should be...creepy, suspenseful and entertaining. I love everything about the novella...creepy house, weird relatives, bumps in the night. I could see it in my head happening in every chilling detail. Great story with great writing, excellent plot and characterization. I was completely immersed in this one. Miao Dao: ☆☆☆☆☆ This story is narrated by 13 year old Mia. Her parents have divorced, her father has moved away and she is developing into a young lady. She is being bullied at school and becomes friends with a bunch of feral cats. Someone complains about the cats and they are removed but for one white kitten, that Mia rescues and takes home. I felt so bad for Mia as her story is so similar to my own. My heart was breaking for her. This story read like poetry and I loved it so much, maybe is it because I felt the connection but the story was so beautiful in it's sadness. Phan-tomwise, 1972: ☆☆☆☆ I read this story in one sitting. Interesting characters with unusual motivations. I liked the style of writing and storyline and I was completly engaged through the end. Makes you think...does anyone ever really win in situations like these? The Surviving Child: ☆☆☆☆ Fantastic story, and the characters instantly became alive to me through the author's writing, I felt emotionally connected with all of them, and at times wanted to shout at them, console them, encourage them but always felt part of them. A very dark and thought provoking tale, and a story that I would definitely read again. Thank you NetGalley, Joyce Carol Oates and Grove Atlantic/Mysterious Press for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an impartial review; all opinions are my own. #CardiffbytheSea #NetGalley

  24. 4 out of 5

    Mary Eve

    Depression is hell. I'm normally an upbeat chick. I think so anyway. But, I do have bouts of depression that take the wind outta my colorful sails. In this state, consider me the equivalent of flotsam and jetsam. Yep. That's me - good Ole Flotsam. I don't even have the energy to be jetsam. Just a flot, flotting about. When I'm in this dead zone I try to stick to light reads - mood boosters. What to do when I begin a book, cheery as Mary Poppins, and depression strikes? Once I become as dreadful Depression is hell. I'm normally an upbeat chick. I think so anyway. But, I do have bouts of depression that take the wind outta my colorful sails. In this state, consider me the equivalent of flotsam and jetsam. Yep. That's me - good Ole Flotsam. I don't even have the energy to be jetsam. Just a flot, flotting about. When I'm in this dead zone I try to stick to light reads - mood boosters. What to do when I begin a book, cheery as Mary Poppins, and depression strikes? Once I become as dreadful as Bloody Mary, well, there's no turning back. I blame the reading material for this unfortunate turn of events. I hate to fault Joyce Carol Oates for my recent black mood. We usually get on rather well. To be fair, I was chomping at the bit for publishers to approve my NetGalley request. Once I got the go ahead I dove right in. I was a happy girl. I like novellas and short stories. Ya get so much bang in one book, right? Listen, it fell apart for me with the first story, CARDIFF BY THE SEA. So, there's this woman hankering to discover her roots. She ends up at an old creepy home of even creepier great aunts. Had this been an audio version, I would have plugged my ears and sang lalala. Their conversations were Irrational (with a capital I) and nonsensical. Clare, the woman seeking her biological beginnings, is a thirty+ woman of intelligence. She becomes a fainting, blabbering idiot in the presence of the not-so-great aunts. Honestly, I was hoping the aunts would poison her and the story would end, yet it drones on. The conclusion? I haven't a clue. Written really odd. She sees things. She doesn't see things. They're there but not. A few moments of suspense that led me to believe maybe I'm the crazy girl for not enjoying a story by JCO. Next story, MIAO DAO . A bullied young girl finds comfort in a bevy of stray cats, one in particular. Nope. I'm a cat lover. I have two Ragdolls that offer me immense comfort. Scientifically, it's proven that cats can lower blood pressure and assist with their person's anxiety levels. Lets just say that my sweet fluffalumps did nothing to improve my faltering mood during this story. Again, just odd. PHANTOMWISE is the third story. I've got nothing intelligent (or stupid) to say. I skimmed through it. If it had a yearbook title it would be "MOST UNLIKABLE". And, finally... THE SURVIVING CHILD. Maybe this hit too close to home for me. My youngest child died at the tender age of eight. My grief almost took me with her. At this point in the book, my depression had reached its peak. I finished what was supposed to be a suspenseful, psychological thriller-esque. However, it was either my mindset (i started in a skippity-doo-da mood) or this clearly missed the mark. Don't get me wrong. I dig Joyce Carol Oates. I own plenty physical copies of wonderful books she's written. I just didn't mesh with this dark novella. It was, dare I say, kind of flaky. Glad to have it behind me. Had this not been an ARC, it's safe to say I would've DNF'd at the sea. *E-copy courtesy of Grove Atlantic and NetGalley.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Cheryl

    Four novellas of psychological suspense. They all have the theme of violence toward / domination over women. Reading them back to back was just too much, and it left me feeling psychologically beat up. The writing was good, but I can’t say I enjoyed reading this. Very disturbing.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Kathy

    Thanks to Netgalley for the opportunity to review this collection. Four novellas are all quite good. Miao Dao is my favorite, followed by the ghost story, The Surviving Child. Cardiff by the Sea had some enjoyable twists but they didn't shock me when they were revealed. Phan-tomwise was my least favorite. All are dark and creepy (but not always in a good way)!

  27. 5 out of 5

    Justine

    Thanks to NetGalley and Mysterious Press for providing an ARC! So excited!! _____________________________________ 4.5 stars When I saw this book on NetGalley, I was SO glad, I immediately requested it ... and was so excited when I got an ARC! Joyce Carol Oates is one of my favorite authors; my favorite books of hers are Bellefleur and The Accursed , but I also loved A Bloodsmoor Romance or Blonde ! In Cardiff, by the Sea, the reader gets back to Oates' writing-style: dense but great, Thanks to NetGalley and Mysterious Press for providing an ARC! So excited!! _____________________________________ 4.5 stars When I saw this book on NetGalley, I was SO glad, I immediately requested it ... and was so excited when I got an ARC! Joyce Carol Oates is one of my favorite authors; my favorite books of hers are Bellefleur and The Accursed , but I also loved A Bloodsmoor Romance or Blonde ! In Cardiff, by the Sea, the reader gets back to Oates' writing-style: dense but great, immersive. It won't be read in a day or two: you have to soak in it and it gets to you. You start, you think you won't get in easily, and then, there you are and you're trapped in the story: you want to know! Before writing about each story individually, I have to say each one is clever and each ending is striking. That's also what I really like in Oates' stories, and what I look for in short stories: I want to remember it and to be left gaping at the end of it! The subjects broached are often hard, and imply violence of some sort. Each one focuses on a woman: something happens to her and the story unfolds from there. That's also what I love about Oates - but I guess you understood I practically love everything about her books! Finally, every story in this book is unsettling: what is real? what is imagination? is the narrator reliable? is it really happening? what is really happening? I loved that, because it helped provide these surprising endings! - "Cardiff, by the Sea" This story deals with family and adoption. I think I never read a book/story about this topic in particular. It was both striking and ... deeply sad. The narrator, Ellen, can't help but think she wasn't wanted by her biological parents, and that her adoptive parents kind of think they "bought" her: she has to be grateful and can't go against the grain, she has to be just as her parents want her to be. So, she has no anchor and doesn't feel like she belongs anywhere. Until something happens: her biological grandmother dies and Ellen is in the will. From there, she'll have to decide if she wants to connect with her biological family or if she'd rather not. As I said before, the reader can't be sure if the narrator is reliable - we're in a third person narrative, but the point of view is internal - and so he tries to guess what's truth and what's just speculations. I loved this treasure hunt! I had multiple theories, and nothing says which one is the best... or which one is the right one! Because, yes, there is something to discover there for Ellen and the reader, a shameful family secret nobody told her. Of course, this story deals with bonds, family and what it means, trauma - I thought the way of showing how Ellen was traumatised was great because it was subtle (view spoiler)[she doesn't bond with anyone because nobody's reliable for her, as even her parents didn't want her in their lives according to her (hide spoiler)] -, adoption and how the child involves can live the situation. Really gripping at some point! - "Miao Dao" This one gets a little "fantastique", a little paranormal, if the reader wants to tread this path. As her parents divorce, a little girl is drawn to cats. I don't want to say too much but this story deals with the relationship of this girl with her father and with men in her mother's life. (view spoiler)[She didn't feel loved by her father, she thought it was her fault he went away and divorced her mother, that she wasn't enough. (hide spoiler)] She wanted her mother to be happy (view spoiler)[but she couldn't help but understand she wasn't happy with her new companion... and she doesn't know how to deal with his unwanted attention... I was disgusted by some scenes in this story, but I loved that the girl doesn't let the man get the upper hand! (hide spoiler)] This story also deals with violence, but I can't say too much about it without spoiling it. It's not physical violence, but psychological. Nearly harrassment at some point. Because it also deals with growing-up, puberty, how the body and the eyes on it change, mostly on the female body. How the girl feels shame because of these changes, how she feels unloved and dirty because of it... mostly because of others, what they might think, how they speak of this body or look at it. The ending was great!! I really didn't expect it!! (view spoiler)[I was convinced that the cat was killing men that threated the young girl! And I really loved the relationship of the girl with her cat. And that the mother seemed to know what her daughter was doing and was like: "Okay, I'll just help her clean!" (hide spoiler)] - "Phantomwise 1972" This one follows a young woman, Alyce, in university. In the opening scene, the reader gets to understand that she is a brilliant student and that she has an affair with one of her professors. She encounters an old poet and her life changes. I particularly loved this story, even if it was as unsettling as the other ones. It deals with heavy topics like (view spoiler)[unwanted pregnancy, abortion - illegal in 1972 in the US -, what this young woman considers because of this situation, be it performing the abortion herself, arranged marriage or suicide. (hide spoiler)] It also deals with the relationship that grows between two people from different generations. (view spoiler)[The poet calling Alyce his "Alice", refering to Alice Liddell, was a bit creepy at times! (hide spoiler)] The ending completely got me by surprise, I wasn't expecting this AT ALL! (view spoiler)[I was also deeply sad after reading it: she died because of him. He got away with it. And does the scene just before the article mean that the poet died just before her and greets her after she died? (hide spoiler)] - "The Surviving Child" This last story felt, to me, like a mix between The Turn of the Screw (view spoiler)[because Stefan, the young boy, seems to be able to disappear and reappear out of the blue and without adults seeing it, and he is traumatised by what he did/saw; he acts strangely sometimes, like he knows things he shouldn't, a bit like Miles in the short story - and they both have a housekeeper called Ana/Hannah (hide spoiler)] and Rebecca (view spoiler)[because Elisabeth is slowly getting obsessed with N.K., the first wife and wants to be better, to be chosen by both her (now) husband and his child. The house also seems to be haunted, whereas it is not the case in Rebecca but the feeling was alike: Manderley is cosy and immense, just like the house on Oceanview Avenue! (hide spoiler)] ! Elisabeth gets to meet the surviving child of her fiancé: Stefan, whose mother killed herself and her daughter while sparing his life for no apparent reason. Elisabeth wants to get accepted by this child while being slowly interested in his mother's life, the great poet N.K. I loved that this story played even more on the paranormal/fantastique vibe! The reader can choose to believe that there is something paranormal in all that, or that it is just normal stuff. Once more, the author deals with violence here: the act of the mother, of course, but also (view spoiler)[Alexander's behaviour and, mostly, the diary Elisabeth discovers at the end of the story and which reveals that her husband pushed N.K. to commit suicide knowing she had mental issues - and because the second child wasn't his. (hide spoiler)] It also deals with female writers and the way they are portrayed, mental health and how it is "glamourized" sometimes when it is really such a pain to live through. I won't say I guessed the ending but I was on the right track! So, I really loved this book! Took me a while, but I got immersed and I should definitely read Oates at least once a year! She's clearly one of the greatest!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Lolly K Dandeneau

    via my blog:https://bookstalkerblog.wordpress.com/ 𝐒𝐡𝐞 𝐰𝐨𝐧𝐝𝐞𝐫𝐬 𝐢𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐠𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐭-𝐚𝐮𝐧𝐭𝐬 𝐡𝐚𝐯𝐞 𝐬𝐩𝐢𝐞𝐝 𝐡𝐞𝐫 𝐟𝐫𝐨𝐦 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐮𝐩𝐬𝐭𝐚𝐢𝐫𝐬 𝐰𝐢𝐧𝐝𝐨𝐰𝐬. 𝐅𝐚𝐭, 𝐝𝐢𝐦𝐩𝐥𝐞𝐝 𝐬𝐩𝐢𝐝𝐞𝐫𝐬 𝐥𝐮𝐫𝐤𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐢𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐢𝐫 𝐰𝐞𝐛 𝐰𝐚𝐢𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐢𝐫 𝐬𝐩𝐢𝐧𝐝𝐥𝐲 𝐥𝐢𝐦𝐛𝐞𝐝 𝐢𝐧𝐬𝐞𝐜𝐭 𝐩𝐫𝐞𝐲. The atmosphere is always as alive as Joyce Carol Oates’s characters and it is much the same in 𝘊𝘢𝘳𝘥𝘪𝘧𝘧, 𝘉𝘺 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘚𝘦𝘢. The aunts- ‘fat, dimpled spiders lurking’ sent chills up and down my spine because there is always the suggestion of a threat in the sentences, by deftly describing the peopl via my blog:https://bookstalkerblog.wordpress.com/ 𝐒𝐡𝐞 𝐰𝐨𝐧𝐝𝐞𝐫𝐬 𝐢𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐠𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐭-𝐚𝐮𝐧𝐭𝐬 𝐡𝐚𝐯𝐞 𝐬𝐩𝐢𝐞𝐝 𝐡𝐞𝐫 𝐟𝐫𝐨𝐦 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐮𝐩𝐬𝐭𝐚𝐢𝐫𝐬 𝐰𝐢𝐧𝐝𝐨𝐰𝐬. 𝐅𝐚𝐭, 𝐝𝐢𝐦𝐩𝐥𝐞𝐝 𝐬𝐩𝐢𝐝𝐞𝐫𝐬 𝐥𝐮𝐫𝐤𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐢𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐢𝐫 𝐰𝐞𝐛 𝐰𝐚𝐢𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐢𝐫 𝐬𝐩𝐢𝐧𝐝𝐥𝐲 𝐥𝐢𝐦𝐛𝐞𝐝 𝐢𝐧𝐬𝐞𝐜𝐭 𝐩𝐫𝐞𝐲. The atmosphere is always as alive as Joyce Carol Oates’s characters and it is much the same in 𝘊𝘢𝘳𝘥𝘪𝘧𝘧, 𝘉𝘺 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘚𝘦𝘢. The aunts- ‘fat, dimpled spiders lurking’ sent chills up and down my spine because there is always the suggestion of a threat in the sentences, by deftly describing the people. In the title story, when an ‘academic in Pennsylvania’ (Claire) discovers she, an adoptee, has inherited a house in Cardiff, Maine it sets off fireworks of emotions. Someone cared enough about her, she who was discarded and unwanted by her unknown, biological parents, to put her in a will. The shock of it, the possibility… but she cannot imagine the nightmare that awaits her, the horror of the past, nor the peculiar, eccentric family hungry for her arrival. Do they long to welcome her into their warm arms or do they have something far more sinister planned? I could smell the house as I read the story and feel her struggle between passivity and resistance. Clare is a capable, intelligent woman who has had little thought of her origins or ancestry but suddenly feels content to slip into the ‘childish comfort in sleepiness’ despite her fears, the alarms beneath her skin once she is within the walls of her family home. What will she discover? What bones, family skeletons await? 𝘔𝘪𝘢 𝘋𝘢𝘰: The ground shifts beneath twelve-year-old Mia’s feet when her father leaves the family. Warmth, comfort and love is found with ‘wild kitties’ , a feral colony of cats living on a vacant lot next to her family home. Through them she learns the art of ‘hiding in plain sight’, a necessary strategy for surviving school and the tortuous realities of the body’s physical maturity. Secrets bloom inside of her, secrets from her mother who concerns herself more with her little brothers and their pain over father’s abandonment. Aching with loneliness, hurt by her father’s departure, she craves connection. A new man enters Mia’s mother’s heart, lifting the cloud of bitterness and misery, but for Mia it is a’ stricken kitten’ that claws its way into hers. The furry creature shields her from every threat, particularly the violence of the male species, sleeping beside her every night so Mia never feels alone. Miao Dao (the kitty) and the new man are not friends… not all animals, nor people, can be domesticated. Resentment mounts, but will it all end in blood? 𝘗𝘩𝘢𝘯𝘵𝘰𝘮𝘸𝘪𝘴𝘦: 1972 That ‘he’ noticed her leaves nineteen-year-old Alyce exhilarated. Through a slow, smooth seduction, her life will finally begin and her lover is not Philosophy 101, as all the other students could attest too. It is charming Simon. How easy love, desire can slip into shame. She didn’t know love would be like this, not as tender as she had imagined. Impregnated and terrified of what to do next, salvation arrives in the form of a true gentleman, visiting professor and acclaimed poet- as she begs, “God help me. Even if You don’t love me”, he throws her a lifeline. But is the old bachelor too late? A tale of haunted hearts and brutality. 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘚𝘶𝘳𝘷𝘪𝘷𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘊𝘩𝘪𝘭𝘥 is lucky to have slipped out of the hands of death, a delicately boned, beautiful boy of ten. Though he is wounded and disturbed by his mother’s suicide and murder of his little sister, Elisabeth (his father’s fiancé) longs to warm the boy’s cold hands and fill his broken, empty heart upon their first meeting. Not a trace of her fiancé’s dead wife (N.K.-the famous poet) remains, unless you account for the boy. Surely this should give her comfort moving into the home of Alexander Hendrick, ‘distinguished man and director of a wealthy arts foundation”. Older, formidable, the exact type of man she has been longing for since her youth, ‘who could intimidate her and yet make her laugh.’ Now she is his wife, being there, in this house where N.K. wrote ‘her most savage poems’ unsettles her. Soon, the garage, the scene of untold horror and brutality carried out by N.K.’s very own hands lures Elisabeth. In truth lies the darkness of one’s heart and the dead wife is alive in the mysteries. I came to the end wanting to read more stories. My experience reading this book of four novellas is akin to hiding in a closet while bad things happen. The main characters are always the one’s caught suspended in web’s spun by those with darker souls. Their desires, dreams, and naiveté always cost them a pond of flesh because despite one’s goodness the world is full of sharp teeth, even for kind, sweet people who deserve better. Deserve, what a loaded word. I’m a huge fan of Oates’s work, no one writes like her! No matter how serene the surroundings may be, she is aware of the freshly disturbed earth… Read it, yes! Publication Date: October 6, 2020 Grove Atlantic

  29. 4 out of 5

    Joelle Egan

    In four previously unpublished novellas, Joyce Carol Oates delivers a collection of stories that evoke a sensation of lurking threats and inevitable menace aimed toward women. Cardiff, By the Sea: Four Novellas of Suspense, a new release this Fall from Mysterious Press, contains writings composed during various phases of Oates’ long and illustrious career. All four showcase her ability to inspire creeping horror with a slow build of calculated tension. Each featured woman and girl in the novella In four previously unpublished novellas, Joyce Carol Oates delivers a collection of stories that evoke a sensation of lurking threats and inevitable menace aimed toward women. Cardiff, By the Sea: Four Novellas of Suspense, a new release this Fall from Mysterious Press, contains writings composed during various phases of Oates’ long and illustrious career. All four showcase her ability to inspire creeping horror with a slow build of calculated tension. Each featured woman and girl in the novellas experience repression and abuse, until a breaking point is reached—erupting in a jolting realization, vengeance or violence. In the titular story, a young woman inherits a house from a family she has never met but finds that some pasts are better left unexplored. Her search for identity and sense of connection culminates in a realization that the cost of knowledge can sometimes be too high. The second tale, “Miao Dao” centers around a young girl whose extreme loneliness and abuse leads her to an unhealthy obsession and desire for vengeance. “Phantomwise: 1972” is about a young undergraduate whose dependence on men and longing for acceptance draw her into two relationships, both becoming predatory in their own way. The final tale, “The Surviving Child” most closely resembles a classic gothic ghost story in which a step-mother is haunted by a first wife whose murder/suicide is not as it first appears. The women Oates depicts are constantly on the cusp of crisis, filled with thwarted potential with promising futures that are cut short by the men in their orbit. She portrays an ingrained and skewed power dynamic, particularly within academia with all its insidious subtlety and outright entitlement. The collection in Cardiff, by the Sea addresses the tragic consequences that result when innocence and blind naivete are corrupted by the carelessly callous. It is another example of Joyce Carol Oates’ brilliance as a writer who can capture such complex ideas with gorgeous prose. Thanks to the author, Mysterious Press and Edelweiss for an advance copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Lynne

    I really enjoyed these intriguing and thought-provoking stories. All four are well-written and captured my interest. The ending of the last ones was a bit too open, I’m not sure what happened so hoping to discuss with book clubs and other friends who read this. Thank you NetGalley for the ARC.

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