The Gravedigger’s Daughter

Joyce Carol Oates

‘The Gravedigger’s Daughter’ tells the tale of Rebecca Schwart, born in the late 1930s to an immigrant family from Nazi Germany, just as they are arriving to America. The family settles in a small, bleak town in upstate New York, where the only job the father can get is as the town gravedigger and caretaker of the cemetery. Soon the town’s prejudice and the family’s own emotional frailty results in unspeakable tragedy. In the wake of this loss, and in an attempt to put her past behind her, young Rebecca Schwart moves on, across America and through a series of listless marriages, in search of somewhere, and someone, to whom she can belong.

Reviews of The Gravedigger’s Daughter

  • ‘Every single Oates novel I’ve read has added to my conviction that she is a genius.’ Julie Myerson, Independent on Sunday

    ‘One of the female frontrunners for the title of Great American Novelist.’ Maggie Gee, Sunday Times

    ‘A writer of extraordinary strengths…she has dealt consistently with what is probably the great American theme – the quest for the creation of self…Her great subject, naturally, is love.’ Ian Sansom, Guardian

    ‘The Gravedigger’s Daughter is a rather nightmarish celebration of the American dream, of the transformative powers of ambition, talent and love. Its style is a fitting combination of the harsh and lyrical, and has a powerful, seemingly unconscious fluency.’ Telegraph

    ‘Unlike anything else she has ever written…A very strong and readable novel; the rivalry between the two sisters is especially well observed.’ Edmund White, Books of the Year, Times Literary Supplement

    ‘Her prose is peerless and her ability to make you think as she re-invents genres is unique. Few writers move so effortlessly from the gothic tale to the psychological thriller to the epic family saga to the lyrical novella. Even fewer authors can so compellingly and entertainingly tell a story.’ Jackie McGlone, Scotland on Sunday

    ‘Novelists such as John Updike, Philip Roth, Tom Wolfe and Norman Mailer slug it out for the title of the Great American Novelist. But maybe they’re wrong. Maybe, just maybe, the Great American Novelist is a woman.’ The Herald

    ‘Oates’s writing is frenetic and gripping, and Rebecca’s quest to find a place for herself raises important questions about identity and power.’ Psychologies Magazine

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