Book Review: Do With Me What You Will by Joyce Carol Oates

do with me

Do With Me What You Will By Joyce Carol Oates

Fawcett Crest Books (Paperback), 1974

541 Pages


Three men wanted Elena Howe… and shaped her life. Her alcoholic, obsessive father. Her husband, a brilliant and successful lawyer twenty years her senior. And the dynamic young lover who tried to consume her.

DO WITH ME WHAT YOU WILL is a drama of Elena’s marriage and infidelity. It is also the story of her liberation through love.


Premeditated crime: the longer the meditation, the dreaming, the more triumphant the execution.


This was my first time reading Do With Me What You Will. I love the title by the way.

This was actually my second attempt to read Do With Me What You Will. I started reading JCO’s novel a few weeks ago. However, I didn’t read it for a few days and when I picked it up I’d lost the thread of the novel so had to set it to one side. Thankfully, I didn’t experience the issue the second time I picked Do With Me What You Will up. This is not a novel you can pick up and put down whenever you fancy. You need to keep reading it every day.

I enjoyed Do With Me What You Will but it could have been much better. JCO’s novel held my attention from the dramatic opening when Elena, only a toddler is kidnapped by her estranged father. The main issue with Do With Me What You Will was the character, Elena. I really didn’t like her at all. I found Elena very bland and insipid – she was very passive and this started to grate on me after a couple hundred pages. At times she seemed incapable of responding or reacting to anything and I wanted to give her a good slap. How she managed to motivate herself to have an affair is beyond me. I felt Do With Me What You Will was a slow read and felt more like 1000 pages. I did enjoy it but wanted to put my foot up Elena’s butt. I thought JCO was bold to have such a bland character as the centre of her novel, someone weak who is shaped by the people around her. Do With Me What You Will isn’t my favourite JCO but I did enjoy certain things about it.




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