The Doll Master & Other Tales of Terror

Written by Joyce Carol-Oates

Review written by Gwen Moffat

Gwen Moffat lives in Cumbria. Her novels are set in remote communities ranging from the Hebrides to the American West. The crimes fit their environment, swelling that dreadful record of sin in the smiling countryside cited by Sherlock Holmes. The style echoes this: rustic charm masking horror.


The Doll Master & Other Tales of Terror
Head of Zeus
RRP: £18.99
Released: May 5 2016
HBK

Award winning literary writer, Joyce Carol Oates presents the reader with a collection of tales of terror, mostly quite long. 

At first reading the eponymous story is convoluted yet predictable and anticlimactic. A feeling of having missed the point persists through The Soldier and Gun Accident: nasty, violent, implausible pieces – but then there’s Equatorial: informative on the ecology of the Galapagos Islands and a refreshing slant on the ethics of conservation. At which point the reader becomes conscious of a shift in her own perspective: a glimpse of the author’s hidden agenda, of symbolism. The first stories are recalled – but they must wait for a second reading– and one goes on to Big Momma, appreciating the juxtaposition of elegant writing and a pseudo-resolution that is so outrageous as to be ridiculous. But it’s haunting, and in the small hours the ultimate horror surfaces. In another context there’s a term for it: collateral damage.

Oates leaves her readers hanging, perhaps feeling cheated of an outcome which she never elucidates. She has no need to; she has prepared the ground with exquisite artistry, has sown the seed, and leaves some noxious thing to fester in the reader’s mind.

These stories are horror rather than terror, and not to be read before falling asleep.

 

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