Saturday, January 9, 2010

A reworking of Barbara Allen?


"A Fair Maiden: A Novel of Dark Suspense by Joyce Carol Oates is published by Quercus, priced £12.99.

Arguably one of Joyce Carol Oates's lesser works, A Fair Maiden: A Novel of Dark Suspense is a novella intricately linked to the anonymous Ballad of Barbara Allen about a young boy who dies of unrequited love for the callous young beauty, extracts of which are quoted in the text.

Infusing the novel with a mythical resonance, Oates weaves a different kind of tale, wherein 16-year-old nanny Katya Spivak from South Jersey is wooed by 68-year-old painter Marcus Kidder, a silver-haired member of posh Bayhead Harbour's established elite.

At first, his interest seems innocuous, even irreproachable, but then he insists they are "soul mates" and invites her to be his model and muse, eventually asking from her more than what she had bargained.

This brisk suspense is a story of intrigue, an examination of class differences and the complex permutations of love, revealing the curious results that stem from Katya and Mr. Kidder's unlikely relationship."

5/10 Review by Trisha Andres

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