Novels,  Repeat Authors



Butcher from author Joyce Carol Oates is the latest novel to be checked off my to be read list. I am a big fan of her writing and have read multiple books she has written. It is my goal to read them all. As I publish this, I’m reading Hazards of Time Travel. 

Who are your favorite authors? Tell me about the authors you enjoy reading and why. 

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“I could see now, as no mortal man had ever seen before, what had been shrouded in darkness and mystery, the female vagina in all its complexity.” 

Butcher, Joyce Carol Oates

Have you read Butcher? Come on in and let me tell you about it! 

Butcher by Joyce Carol Oates

About Butcher 

From one of our most accomplished storytellers, an extraordinary and arresting novel about a women’s asylum in the nineteenth century, and a terrifying doctor who wants to change the world

In this harrowing story based on authentic historical documents, we follow the career of Dr. Silas Weir, “Father of Gyno-Psychiatry,” as he ascends from professional anonymity to national renown. Humiliated by a procedure gone terribly wrong, Weir is forced to take a position at the New Jersey Asylum for Female Lunatics, where he reigns. There, he is allowed to continue his practice, unchecked for decades, making a name for himself by focusing on women who have been neglected by the state—women he subjects to the most grotesque modes of experimentation. 

As he begins to establish himself as a pioneer of nineteenth-century surgery, Weir’s ambition is fueled by his obsessive fascination with a young Irish indentured servant named Brigit, who becomes not only Weir’s primary experimental subject, but also the agent of his destruction.

Narrated by Silas Weir’s eldest son, who has repudiated his father’s brutal legacy, Butcher is a unique blend of fiction and fact, a nightmare voyage through the darkest regions of the American psyche conjoined, in its startling conclusion, with unexpected romance. Once again, Joyce Carol Oates has written a spellbinding novel confirming her position as one of our celebrated American visionaries of the imagination.

Thoughts on Butcher 

“It’s true, most of my surgeries were performed without anesthesia, for the practical reason that, in the early years of my Directorship, anesthesia was scarcely known. Also, it is scientific fact, as I have explained to Brigit, that female organs have fewer nerve endings than other parts of the body, no doubt to make the rigors of childbirth less painful.”  

Butcher, Joyce Carol Oates

I have been an avid fan of Joyce Carol Oates and her writing for quite a number of years, and am quite familiar with her writing style. One of my goals is to read and review everything that she has written. I have a long way to go, but it is a goal I am excited about because I love reading so much and she is easily one of my favorite authors.

Let’s start with the fact that Butcher is not for the faint of heart. If you are squeamish or uncomfortable about dark subjects, you should probably skip this book. 

I admire the fact that Joyce Carol Oates has no trouble writing about taboo, dark, and ugly subjects that make normal people squeamish and uncomfortable. She has a special talent for doing that, and Butcher is certainly no exception. 

Butcher is even darker because it is based on true events, and Joyce Carol Oates pulls no punches or sugar coats anything within this novel. This is very standard in Oates writing style, taking something true and blending it with fiction to tell quite a story. She clearly did her research and the story is told in a language that fits the time period perfectly. 

I wasn’t entirely sure I was going to enjoy Butcher. Can you actively enjoy something so dark and grotesque? I’m not sure. But it ended up sucking me in and keeping me wanting to read more, which quite honestly surprised me. It is graphic, uncomfortable, and absolutely infuriating at times. 

It is disturbing to me how many patients died under the doctor’s “care” and it makes me wonder how many in real life died far too early in the same way? In this time period, being a doctor was almost like a trade, the same way that being a business owner was a trade, with so little education required. But I have to remind myself that little education was required because little was truly known about medicine and medical care.

I’m also curious why that Silas Weir didn’t capitalize on his successful experiments? When he discovered the way to cure fistula, for example. Why not practice more and do it to other patients who were suffering? Wouldn’t that potentially reduce the number of suicides at the asylum, and allow him more freedom to experiment? Then go on to do so in private practice as well, and make good money from it? Why only reserve that experiment for Brigit, and then just write about it for others? It seems the name and notoriety were more important than practice and making money.

I found the end to be fascinating and irritating at the same time. I wasn’t a fan of Silas Weir’s son, Jonathan. Without giving too much away, I don’t think his relationship with Brigit would have ever had a happy ending because Silas Weir was still alive, and cutting ties with family wasn’t really a thing at that time. Not the same way it is now. So family dinners would have been a bit awkward. I found myself annoyed that he was trying to form that relationship and continue it. 

I also really wanted to know more about Gretel, and where her story took her once her time at the asylum was done. I know she wasn’t the main character in this book, but I also find myself wanting to know so much more about the secondary characters much of the time. Like, they could have a total spinoff and be amazing. Yet in the book, her voice is heard loud and clear. In the end, so was Brigit’s.

Butcher was infuriating through the majority of it, because it completely degrades women as second class citizens, to be looked down on as hysterical and crazy. It really made me think, how many of us right now, if living in that time, would be declared “insane” and sent off to a mental hospital to be experimented on? It infuriated me the same way The Yellow Wallpaper did, in the sense of minimizing women and their struggles. But also women standing up for themselves or being sexually active was deemed insane and hysterical.

I find myself grateful to be living in the time I do, when I generally don’t have to worry about that, where I have a voice, despite the fact I am a woman. Yet I know that we as a society have so much farther to go, even today. This novel is a good reminder of both. To see how far society has come, but also realize we still have have farther to go, and I hope people focus on striving to be better.

I like how the reader gets the chance to know Silas Weir, and see the evolution in him from younger boy trying to find his place and a suitable wife, to learning about being a doctor and struggling, to making a name for himself, and then the full blown descent into both madness and being narcissistic. Looking at it past being grotesque and dark, it is an interesting evolution in his personality. 

In the classic Joyce Carol Oates way, we see both the good and bad in Silas Weir, and how no one person can truly be either good or bad, it is always a mix of both. Generally speaking, we all start out with good intentions, and somewhere along the line, that changes into either more good or bad, and the scales tipped. Which is exactly the case in this book.

Butcher by Joyce Carol Oates

Final Thoughts on Butcher 

“In addition to ordinary unease, Weir seems to have felt, like many men and boys of his time, a particular repugnance for female ‘private parts’; an undeniable attraction, in the way that one is attracted to the forbidden and obscene, but overall, a visceral dislike, mounting to outright disgust.” 

Butcher, Joyce Carol Oates

I’m calling Butcher a four star read. I ended up liking it a lot more than I expected to, and that was a very pleasant surprise. It will certainly stick with me long after I’ve moved on to other books. But I can’t see myself reading it again, nor buying it for friends and family, which is one criteria for a five star read for me. 

Joyce Carol Oates clearly does her research before she writes a book, and she writes in such a way that it not only makes the reader think about other things, but her books always stick with me long after I am done. I am always impressed with her style of writing and what she has to say within her books. They teach me something every single time I pick one up.

I highly recommend it though, because it really is something that will stick with you for a long time after, and that is something I highly respect about Joyce Carol Oates and her writing. 

Butcher by Joyce Carol Oates


Have you read Butcher or any other writing from author Joyce Carol Oates? Are you a fan? Let me know your thoughts in the comments! 

About the Author 

Joyce Carol Oates, author of Butcher

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. 

Joyce Carol Oates, author of Butcher

Purchasing Butcher 

If you are interested in buying the hardcover version of Butcher, click here.

Click here for the Kindle version.

Click here for my favorite Kindle I currently own.

More from Joyce Carol Oates 

Did you enjoy my review of Butcher? Need another great Joyce Carol Oates novel to read? Here are my favorites! 

We Were the Mulvaneys 

Black Water

My Life as a Rat 

American Melancholy 

The Rise of Life on Earth 


48 Clues into the Disappearance of My Sister 

Hazards of Time Travel

Extenuating Circumstances

Evil Eye

Amazon Notice 

The Reading Wife is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com, at no added cost to you.

Butcher by Joyce Carol Oates

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