Kayla reviews A FAIR MAIDEN

Rating: 4 out of 5.
  • Genre: Literary fiction
  • Format: Audiobook
  • Length: 6hrs
  • Buy: A Fair Maiden


Sixteen-year-old Katya Spivak is out for a walk on the gracious streets of Bayhead Harbor with her two summer babysitting charges when she’s approached by silver-haired, elegant Marcus Kidder. At first his interest in her seems harmless, even pleasant; like his name, a sort of gentle joke. His beautiful home, the children’s books 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 lighthearted endeavor it once was. What does he really want from her? And how far will he go to get it?

In the tradition of Oates’s classic story “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” A Fair Maiden is an unsettling, ambiguous tale of desire and control. 

My Take:

As with anything by Joyce Carol Oates, this book was beautifully written. Her descriptions, figurative language, and distinctive prose are absolutely mesmerizing. Oates is one of those authors I read because I think reading her work makes me a better writer. She’s brilliant.

However, like the classic novel that this one seems to emulate—Lolita—the taboo subject matter is difficult to read through. I see too many young women used and abused in real life to want to read about them on the page, personally. 

Should this subject matter be something we should think about as a society, sure. And I think Oates handles it all realistically. Was I occasionally disgusted? Yes.

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