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Review: the Assassins – a Book of Hours by Joyce Carol Oates

By Pamelascott


The Assassins: A Book of Hours by Joyce Carol Oates

Fawcett Crest Books (paperback) 1975

544 pages  


He was the bright star of a famous family, and a respected political leader – but suddenly he was dead, shot down by an assassin.

With Andrew Petrie’s murder, the lives of three persons were forever changed.

Yvonne – his wife. A strange, lovely woman with a hidden past. Her future careened wildly off course with the catastrophe.

Hugh – Andrew’s brother. An artist whose macabre, self-destructive drives bore a bizarre connection to Andrew’s murder.

Stephen – the youngest of the Petries. A religious mystic. His brother’s death brought him face to face with terrifying truths about himself. 


Part One: Hugh

I was born. It was born. So it began. It continues. It will outlive me. People whisper, stare, giggle. Their eternal privilege. My eternal curse. I am in a tiny place without walls. It is stifling here – but the walls are gone.


I have mixed feelings about The Assassins: A Book of Hours. On the one hand I like it a lot but there are things that just left me cold. The Assassins: A Book of Hours is a difficult book to get on board with. The Assassins: A Book of Hours is a very bleak book, much bleaker that other JCO novels. Nothing good happens to anyone in this novel. The characters are all pretty awful even Andrew the man who was assassinated. Hugh is insane and his section of The Assassins: A Book of Hours was extremely hard to follow. Yvonne is quite an abrasive person and I found it hard to sympathise with her or care that she was also murdered in the woods (unless it was a dream or a hallucination and who cares). I didn’t much like Stephen either. JCO does not have anything good to say about anyone or anything in The Assassins: A Book of Hours. She managed to tear family, sex, politics, art and religion into shreds. Despite this I did like The Assassins: A Book of Hours a lot. I liked the multiple first person narrators though I found it odd that even though each character experienced the same events at times the stories never really jelled together. I like her use of stream of consciousness style even though I’m not a great fan of this type of narration. The Assassins: A Book of Hours is the first novel I’ve read (to my knowledge) that deals with the world of politics so I found this interesting. The Assassins: A Book of Hours is not a great novel but I think it’s a brave novel and worth a read.



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