Cardiff, by the Sea by Joyce Carol Oates
Publishing: October 6, 2020 by Grove Atlantic (Mysterious Press)
Reason(s) I Chose to Read this Book: I have always wanted to read something by this rather prolific author, and thought an anthology would be a great way….figuring shorter stories might be better in case I didn’t like her work.
Cardiff, by the Sea by Joyce Carol Oates is an anthology of four novellas.
First, let me thank NetGalley, the publisher Grove Atlantic (Mysterious Press), and of course the author, for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
My Synopsis and Opinions:
I will break my thoughts down into the four novellas.
Cardiff By the Sea – Clare was adopted when she was a toddler, and was never interested in anyone but her adoptive parents. But a phone call from a lawyer in Cardiff Maine, changes all that. Her “grandmother” has passed away, and she is the beneficiary of a house and some land. She has aunts who want to get to know her. Clare decides she wants to know them as well, but what she discovers about her past may not be what she had in mind. I admit to struggling with the length and prose of this story, although the premise was sound. It was a little boring. (2 stars)
Miao Dao – Mia is a rather lonely young girl who is adjusting to her parents divorce and her mother’s dating. She adopts a feral cat who becomes rather protective. This was a rather dark story, but I did enjoy the ending. (3 stars)
Phantomwise 1972 – Alyce, a shy college student, gets pregnant but is unsure she should even tell the father, who is suddenly ignoring her. An older professor thinks he has a solution to her problem. Another rather dark tale with a rather surprising ending. It was okay. (3 stars)
The Surviving Child – Elisabeth is almost 20 years younger than Alexander, but thrilled when the wealthy aristocrat asks her to marry him. His first wife, a renowned poet, killed herself and her daughter 3 years ago. Stefan, their son, was spared, and he is now 10. Elisabeth is living in the dead poet’s shadow, and struggling to understand both the boy and her husband, not to mention the woman who came before her. This one I really enjoyed. (5 stars)
Overall, I enjoyed the plots of all of these stories. All of them feature a woman protagonist, and most have a dominant/abusive male figure. They are all dark, depressing tales. Although her prose is good, it took me a while to get into her writing style. I will probably be in the minority as I know this author is very popular, and I know her literary prose is supposedly one of the best. Perhaps I picked the wrong book to be introduced to her work. I think I might try a full-length novel next time.
Read: October, 2020
About The Author: Joyce Carol Oates (June 16, 1938 – ) is an American author who has published well over 50 novels, as well as a number of plays and novellas. Then there are all the short stories, poetry and some non-fiction. Her awards are numerous. Pseudonyms … Rosamond Smith and Lauren Kelly. You should really check out her website: https://celestialtimepiece.com/
I have also reviewed this book on GoodReads: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3530357523
Have you read it? Do you plan to? Tell me your thoughts…do you agree or disagree with my assessment? Either way, I’d love to know.