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The Doll-Master and other tales of terror by Joyce Carol Oates

The Doll-Master and Other Tales of Terror

Author: Joyce Carol Oates

Publisher: Grove/Atlantic

Expected publication: 3rd May 2016

Genre: Horror, Short-Stories

Source: Edelweiss

Date read: 6th January 2016

I received an advanced readers copy of this book from Edelweiss and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

From one of our most important contemporary writers, The Doll-Master and Other Tales of Terror is a bold, haunting collection of six stories.

In the title story, a young boy becomes obsessed with his cousin’s doll after she tragically passes away from leukemia. As he grows older, he begins to collect “found dolls” from the surrounding neighborhoods and stores his treasures in the abandoned carriage house on his family’s estate. But just what kind of dolls are they? In “Gun Accident,” a teenage girl is thrilled when her favorite teacher asks her to house-sit, even on short notice. But when an intruder forces his way into the house while the girl is there, the fate of more than one life is changed forever. In “Equatorial,” set in the exotic Galapagos, an affluent American wife experiences disorienting assaults upon her sense of who her charismatic husband really is, and what his plans may be for her.

In The Doll-Master and Other Tales of Terror, Joyce Carol Oates evokes the “fascination of the abomination” that is at the core of the most profound, the most unsettling, and the most memorable of dark mystery fiction.

My Thoughts:

I will write a sentence or two about each story in the book but not too much as I don’t want to give anything away and spoil your enjoyment of the book.

The Doll – Master:  Robbie’s cousin Amy passes away from Leukemia at a very early age. Stealing Amy’s doll is the start of his obsession and begins collecting more throughout his life. His collection includes china, wooden and even barbie dolls which he keeps in a deserted part of the house, however they are not just any old dolls.

I gave this story 3 stars, it was eerie and disturbing and more of a psychological read but for me this one just wasn’t the best. It seemd too predictable

Soldier:   Brendan Schrank is up on trial for shooting a black teenager, his story is that it was self-defence. There are gangs that roam the streets and he has stolen his Uncle’s shotgun for security reasons. This story follows Brendan, the trial and his journey.

I also gave this story 3 stars –  I liked this story, it was thought-provoking and I am so glad that gun’s are not really a thing in the UK. It also shows how people can become paranoid about going outside with teenagers and gangs. This story is controversial as it deals with racism.

Gun Accident:  This is Hanna’s story told 26 years after the gun accident. Hanna was asked by her teacher to house and cat sit whilst she went to her husband’s bedside. The teacher lives in a well to-do part of town with a large house and pays Hanna generously for her troubles, however not everything goes to plan when she gets an unexpected visitor.

This was a 4 star read for me, I really enjoyed the writing and the story. I would class this more of a thriller than a horror story though. I also felt a connection with the character, who likes being home alone? Especially when it’s not your familiar surroundings and your sense are elevated,  you hear every little thing and your imagination runs wild…. Just me? Ok then…moving on.

Equatorial:Audrey is currently on holiday with her husband in the Galapagos islands, the trip involves hiking which she is not so keen on but does it for love. Her husband is older but adventurous and likes to travel. Audrey feels like she is constantly letting her husband down as this isn’t really her thing. During the trip Audrey gets this niggling suspicion her husband doesn’t want her there and that there is a possibility there is another woman

This was a 4 stars for me, I really connected with Audrey –  I felt sorry for her, clearly grief stricken that her husband no longer loves her and is having an affair. She was a very likeable character.

Big Momma: Violet is the new girl in town and is trying to make friends, This town has a bit of a reputation for animals and children going missing, however undeterred  Violet befriends Rita Mae and starts going round her house for dinner. Violets mum is hardly at home, either working or out drinking so she spends a lot of time with the family. She feels like she fits in and would rather love with them but they are not what they are made up to be.

5 stars – best story in the book for me. It was very creepy, the father in this story made me cringe a lot. Violet just wanted to fit in, being overweight and the new girl in school she was happy to be excepted by Rita Mae’s family.

Mystery Inc: A young tradesman comes across an elegant bookshop with rare books and antiques, he  falls in love with the shop and must find a way to be the next proprietor.

4 stars –  who doesn’t like a story about books and bookstores? I know I do! It was slow-paced but interesting and gripping read.

These stories were truly gripping, I have never read anything from this author before and was not let down. These are not so much as horror but definitely eerie and individual. The pace of the stories are slow, so if you want something quick with lots of action these are not the stories for you. If you are looking for reads with endings that will shock you this is not the book for you!  Oates writing is amazing, as the stories went on I became more accustomed to her style and ended up really enjoying myself. All the stories are open-ended, I am not usually a fan of these sort of stories, I like closure and knowing what’s what. But then I started to think about the story and the characters for myself and realised that I could end the story how I wanted to it to end.

I will definitely be reading some more of Oates works, if anyone has read any that they recommend please let me know as I would be really interested.

Overall I rated this book 4 out of 5 stars.