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Solstice: A Novel Paperback – October 1, 2000


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New Adult Fiction by Rainbow Rowell
Acclaimed author Rainbow Rowell's latest book, Landline, offers a poignant, humorous look at relationships and marriage. Learn more

Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Ontario Review Press (October 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0865381003
  • ISBN-13: 978-0865381001
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 5.4 x 8.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,175,342 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

A powerful beam into the dark places of the soul. -- The New York Times

Oates's novel is spellbinding, entrancing reading. -- West Coast Review of Books

About the Author

Joyce Carol Oates is one of our most important and well known writers—and one of America’s foremost writers of the short story form. She is also a regular contributor of reviews and criticism for the New York Times Book Review, The New York Review of Books, and elsewhere. She also reads and lectures widely throughout the US, at universities and bookstores.

More About the Author

Joyce Carol Oates is the author of more than 70 books, including novels, short story collections, poetry volumes, plays, essays, and criticism, including the national bestsellers We Were the Mulvaneys and Blonde. Among her many honors are the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction and the National Book Award. Oates is the Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at Princeton University, and has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters since 1978.

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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I think that this book can be read on many levels.
CrochetingGardener
The two women characters were fascinating, as well as their relationship that's constantly fluctuating, nearly causing the professional demise of both.
circus tricks
I think many people have met people like both of the characters and can relate.
cyane

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By CrochetingGardener on November 19, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This is an intriguing look at an almost obsessive friendship between two women. It's also an interesting commentary on academia, the art world. Contemporary issues such as class and rape are also explored. However, it was the story of the chilling relationship between the two women that hooked me and wouldn't let me put the book down. I think that this book can be read on many levels. I enjoyed reading it for pleasure, but it is dense enough for all kinds of literary analysis.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Angie Engles on December 7, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I first read this book in 1986 and have read it twice more since then. Joyce Carol Oates is the first contemporary American author I remember impressing me enough to linger with me long after I'd read her work. "Solstice," like other works by Joyce Carol Oates, does not paint a pretty picture. Great fiction is often about complex, sad, scary, bitter relationships. Happy relationships are better left to the Harlequins of this world. Sometimes when you're in a weird, complex mood you want weird, complex reading...catharsis and all that...
"Solstice" lingers like someone's presence after she's left the room. If you look at some reviews written about this book, there is mention of everything from stormy psyches to lesbian subtext. Whatever the motivation behind Monica and Sheila's relationship, fascination and even some kind of subtle hatred works into it. Monica is transfixed by Sheila and Sheila seems to need Monica as some kind of dumping ground. They'd probably just as soon want to walk away from each other with a clean break, but they can't. As Shelia says, "we'll be for friends for a long, long time...unless one of us dies." Probably a normal thing to say, but still sort of creepy.
They behave more like people in love than friends; what they have is not exactly chemistry, but it has drawing power. I always thought this novel was more about hatred than love, but sometimes hatred is love in confusion.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Tanja L. Walker on January 26, 2001
Format: Paperback
Don't let the fact I only gave this book three stars deter anyone from buying this book. "Solstice" is a good read in the traditional Joyce Carol Oates tradition -- lots of reflection, oblique references to past events leading to current madness, a slightly ironic tone. I enjoyed reading the interaction between Monica and Sheila, how they both seemed to need each other, yet could bring out the worst in each other. However, I never understood why Monica became so obsessed with Sheila and her work. Opposites may attract, but these two women don't even have opposites in common, other than in Sheila's dark looks and Monica's blonde radiance. They are simply two completely different women. I suspect this book is best suited to reading in a college classroom setting, with ample opportunities for discussion and feedback on what this book "means." Or perhaps as a book club selection. I admit defeat -- I alone could not decipher it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Lisa Bosman on February 20, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I stopped reading this book after 20 pages or so because I felt nothing for the characters (the two women). I returned to it after a week of bad reading (gratefully) and became hooked. I came to feel attached to Sheila and Monica, but only to a point, a very frustrating point. The author was giving me descriptions of the women's relationship instead of a direct view.

As for feeling mystified -- just a general feeling of not always knowing what in the world she was talking about. A jumble of descriptions and references on the page, and a big question mark in my head! The descriptions and references were usually psychological in nature, which is what drew me in and kept me going.

The book is weird and complex (as another reader aptly put it), in a relationship way, and will likely hold your interest if that's what you're after.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 11, 2001
Format: Paperback
I was eager to read this book because I have at times been astonished by JCO's ability to plumb the depths of relationships through her masterful writing. The quality writing is here, but the exploration of her characters seemed empty at times. I agree with the reviewer before me in that the relationship between Sheila Trask and Monica Jensen seemed to beg the question, "Why?" In a formal sense, there are things which the author uses in order to create Monica's sense of need for her connection with Sheila, such as the occasional mention of her failed marriage and a resulting facial scar. Sheila, the reslusive and eccentric painter, seems much less caring, and although the book describes their "close" friendship, none of the intimacy I expected was there. There were numerous passages describing how the two women related, and they seemed only to illustrate how uncompatable these two characters are. I had the sense that these characters could have met their needs anywhere and with anyone, not necessarily with eachother. This book is a success in the way it describes the desperation that is sometmes created by lonliness. Otherwise, I found it to be somewhat hollow. I know that JCO is capable of depth, though, and the exhilerating book _Foxfire_ is proof of that.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Mary E. Sibley VINE VOICE on June 16, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Joyce Carol Oates can do anything in literary terms. Her productivity is legion. Her presentation in this book is arch, knowing. The heroine, Monica, is self-conscious. This is a story about a succubus. It is claustrophobic by intention.

Monica has a cul-de-sac in her life. Sheila Trask, an artist, is a neighbor in Glenkill. To teach at a private boys school is perceived as a downward trend for Monica Jensen, a golden girl. In October Sheila Trask pays a visit. The two women commence to see each other. They have intense conversations. Sheila had been married to an older man, another high-flying artist. She has mercurial moods. Everyone at the school knows of Monica's friendship with Sheila.

Sheila feels that Monica is being exploited by the academy. When Sheila goes away, Monica's life fills up with other people. Later on Monica becomes a sort of household manager for Sheila as the artist readies her pieces for a show.

The author's exposition of the nature of friendship is focused, anguished, and satisfactory.
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