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A Garden Of Earthly Delights (VMC) [Paperback]

Joyce Carol Oates
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

6 July 2000 VMC (Book 126)

An epic novel of the rough, tough and wild 'garden' of America - the back country which hosts a brutal way of life for immigrants. This is the jungle where men are violent and goaded to kill, where women have to learn to look after themselves, and where love is something to be wary of...

'This savage account of the child Clara...is impressive in its truth and power...where THE GRAPES OF WRATH was angrily sentimental, Miss Oates is calmly bitter...A powerful narrative engine drives the story along' - SUNDAY TIMES

'Joyce Carol Oates is a good novelist in the ranging, naturalistic American tradition...but A GARDEN OF EARTHLY DELIGHTS is inward-looking enough to bring Miss Oates home to the novelist's true concern...it is this human reality that makes the book so valuable' - THE GUARDIAN



Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Virago; New edition edition (6 July 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1860494838
  • ISBN-13: 978-1860494833
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.4 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,620,643 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Joyce Carol Oates is a recipient of the National Book Award and the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction. She has written some of the most enduring fiction of our time, including 'We Were the Mulvaneys', which was an Oprah Book Club Choice, and 'Blonde', which was nominated for the National Book Award. She is the Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professor of Humanities at Princeton University.

Product Description

Review

Virtuosity is a word often used of Miss Oates's work by critics, and it applies here (TLS)

The subtleties in the construction and symbolism of the book are remarkable ... This is a highly serious and imaginative book (OBSERVER)

A story of a brutal way of life told with considerable force (DAILY TELEGRAPH)

Book Description

* A powerful American novel of immigrants in the great Steinbeck tradition of storytelling

* A new addition to the Virago Modern Classics


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First Sentence
On that day many years ago a rattling Ford truck carrying twenty-nine farmworkers and their children sideswiped a local truck carrying hogs to Little Rock on a rain-slick country highway. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAME TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
This book has recently been rewritten by Ms. Oates. I am reviewing the original version. I suggest that you begin with this one, and move on to the revision if you like this edition.
A Garden of Earthly Delights looks at life's challenges as seen by an exploited, powerless woman who lacks a religious foundation . . . but has a crude beauty and appeal that are irresistible to men. Through her eyes, we see the importance of being self-confident and focusing on the main chance . . . whatever that might be. In the process, her heart is darkened and her life damaged by the hard choices she has had to make. That darkness and damage seep out of her to contaminate those around her. In the end, a fresh young beauty leaves behind her a morass of rotting vegetation.
The book has three parts. In the first part, we meet Clara Walpole who is the much-loved daughter of her father, Carleton Walpole, who is a rough and tumble migrant farm worker who drags his wife and family behind him like torn cobwebs as he focuses on his own pleasure. The family gradually disintegrates under the pressure of the hard living and Carleton's inability to provide loving support. In the second part, Clara develops relationships with two other men as a teenager after she leaves her family. In the third part, Clara devotes her life to her son, Swan (aka Steven), who must stake a life for himself in Clara's husband's family. Each of these parts is written like a novella, but the three are connected through Clara.
The first part struck me as extremely fine writing of the sort that reminded me of John Steinbeck's novels about migrant farm workers. Unlike Mr. Steinbeck, Ms. Oates has a way of capturing only moments and events that crystallize our understanding of her characters and their lives.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Embittered Gardens 13 Nov 2002
Format:Paperback
This is Joyce Carol Oates' second published novel. It is where she proved her ability to write a powerful epic as she would later do again in novels such as Bellefleur. It follows the life of Clara, a woman born to migrant workers in the midst of the Depression. She is born appropriately in the middle of a violent accident. Here we see the delicacy and terrifying indifference of human life swept up in a sea of natural transformation. Children, parents and friends die in this bleak Darwinian environment. It is part of the course and they must accept it as they move to the next field where labour is required. Clara grows into a defensive and powerful woman bent on carving a safe space for herself in this harsh world. She falls in love with a man named Lowry who is independent and intelligent. Through him Clara establishes a new life for herself. Only after the birth of their son, Swan (Steven), must she make the decision whether to join with a wealthy restricted life with a man named Revere or lead a life of tumultuous romance with Lowry. Through Swan, Clara attempts to realise all the desires for living which were denied to her in her restricted upbringing. However, Swan, intelligent and emotional, has desires of an entirely different sort. This is a compelling novel that knowledgably explores the multifarious stages of life: the tense exploration of childhood, the embittered compromises of adulthood and the difficult choices we must make to survive. It is a beautifully crafted work.
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Was this review helpful to you?
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAME TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
This book has recently been rewritten by Ms. Oates. I am reviewing the original version. I suggest that you begin with this one, and move on to the revision if you like this edition.
A Garden of Earthly Delights looks at life's challenges as seen by an exploited, powerless woman who lacks a religious foundation . . . but has a crude beauty and appeal that are irresistible to men. Through her eyes, we see the importance of being self-confident and focusing on the main chance . . . whatever that might be. In the process, her heart is darkened and her life damaged by the hard choices she has had to make. That darkness and damage seep out of her to contaminate those around her. In the end, a fresh young beauty leaves behind her a morass of rotting vegetation.
The book has three parts. In the first part, we meet Clara Walpole who is the much-loved daughter of her father, Carleton Walpole, who is a rough and tumble migrant farm worker who drags his wife and family behind him like torn cobwebs as he focuses on his own pleasure. The family gradually disintegrates under the pressure of the hard living and Carleton's inability to provide loving support. In the second part, Clara develops relationships with two other men as a teenager after she leaves her family. In the third part, Clara devotes her life to her son, Swan (aka Steven), who must stake a life for himself in Clara's husband's family. Each of these parts is written like a novella, but the three are connected through Clara.
The first part struck me as extremely fine writing of the sort that reminded me of John Steinbeck's novels about migrant farm workers. Unlike Mr. Steinbeck, Ms. Oates has a way of capturing only moments and events that crystallize our understanding of her characters and their lives.
Read more ›
Comment | 
Was this review helpful to you?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  15 reviews
23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Embittered Gardens 7 Aug 2002
By Eric Anderson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is Joyce Carol Oates� second published novel. It is where she proved her ability to write a powerful epic as she would later do again in novels such as Bellefleur. It follows the life of Clara, a woman born to migrant workers in the midst of the Depression. She is born appropriately in the middle of a violent accident. Here we see the delicacy and terrifying indifference of human life swept up in a sea of natural transformation. Children, parents and friends die in this bleak Darwinian environment. It is part of the course and they must accept it as they move to the next field where labour is required. Clara grows into a defensive and powerful woman bent on carving a safe space for herself in this harsh world. She falls in love with a man named Lowry who is independent and intelligent. Through him Clara establishes a new life for herself. Only after the birth of their son, Swan (Steven), must she make the decision whether to join with a wealthy restricted life with a man named Revere or lead a life of tumultuous romance with Lowry. Through Swan, Clara attempts to realise all the desires for living which were denied to her in her restricted upbringing. However, Swan, intelligent and emotional, has desires of an entirely different sort. This is a compelling novel that knowledgably explores the multifarious stages of life: the tense exploration of childhood, the embittered compromises of adulthood and the difficult choices we must make to survive. It is a beautifully crafted work.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great writing and great storytelling 1 Sep 2003
By Patricia A. Powell - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Joyce Carol Oates revised and rewrote The Garden of Earthly Delights; this new version was just published in 2003 under the Modern Library 20th century rediscovered. (This was the author's second novel originally published in 1966.)
The novel follows the life of Clara Walpole, born in a ditch to migrant workers during the Great Depression. She grows up moving from camp to camp, picking when children are allowed to pick, and going to school when required. There are four important men in her life, and no important women.
There's her father. He loves Clara, but not her brothers, and not her mother. Her mother is worn out and dies leaving Clara to take care of her brothers. Her father brings Nancy into the household. He needs to have a woman. Clara learns about incest when her friend Rosalie's father is taken by the KKK. Terror reigns in the camp. The men think that they can do nothing, perhaps because they think it is a just punishment for getting his daughter pregnant, or perhaps because they fear the Klan.
Shortly after that incident, Clara goes into town and meets Lowry, who takes her away with him. Joyce Carol Oates does the unexpected. She makes Lowry a decent sort of chap. Lowry sets Clara up in his home town. He gets her a job, and a place to stay. Lowry tells Clara that she needs to lie; she must tell everyone that she is sixteen years old. Otherwise, she will end up in an orphanage. Of course Clara is in love.
Then there is Revere, both wealthy and married. And finally there is Clara's son, Swan.
Interwoven with these men are four Claras. There is Clara the child, Clara the teenager, Clara the woman, and finally, Clara as worn out as her mother was when she died.
I love reading Joyce Carol Oates. Although she is unique, sometimes she reminds me of Steinbeck, and sometime she reminds me of Stephen King. But, in The Garden of Earthly Delights, she reminds me of Barbara Kingsolver. If you enjoy great writing, and a terrific story, you will enjoy this book.
I highly recommend The Garden of Earthly Delights.
14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of her best 15 May 2003
By Randall Neustaedter - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book combines the best of all things Oatesian. If released as a new work today, it would blast through the awards committees faster than a Philip Roth masterpiece. This reworking of Oates's second novel seamlessly integrates the fire of her yuthful writing, full of her own personal experiences, with the seasoned mastery of her later writing style. This completely rewritten book is ultimately satisfying because there is nothing to overlook due to inexperienced enthusiasm (like many of her early works). If anyone is considering an Oates novel to explore her for the first time, to bring into a summer reading program for youth, or to round out a high school curriculum, this is your book. For anyone who already loves her unique style and phenomenal skill, going back to this early novel will satisfy your cravings like nothing else in the world. This is Oates at her best. Though her murder stories (Zombie and the Rosamond Smith serial killer series) and child abuse novels (First Love, Beasts, and You Must Remember This) provide more of her famous poignant horror, Garden of Earthly Delights carries the weight of John Steinbeck's East of Eden. You can't get better than this for mastery of the classic mid 20th century novel form.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent quality of writing 27 July 2004
By drenchedinwine - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The plot was all right, but I was most impressed by Ms. Oates's lyrical use of language. She has the ability to transform the most mundane actions, feelings, or settings into something that seems really unusual or noteworthy just by describing it a certain way. I love the way the the main character, Clara, sees the world...it is very refreshing and unusual. I can't really tell if the awesome descriptions throughout the book are because of Clara's candid and innocent way of seeing the world, or because of Oates's special way with words. It's nothing big really. Throughout the book, she notes the little things, like how the migrant farm workers don't care how they look while picking fruit, and how they make weird faces as they think things to themselves or how they mumble sorta as they replay conversations that theyve had in their minds. But for me, it's the little things like that that make a book really come alive. This novel is full of really sweet quotes, and the language just really blew me away.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Riveting Read...A Wonderful Book!!!! 16 July 2007
By Monica Krieger Faria - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I believe I read this book some years ago, but forgot that I had, as Joyce Carol Oates has rewritten it. It is a wonderful story about migrant farm workers living during the depression, and what one of the characters, Clara, the daughter, does to get away from this miserable existence to a place where she feels she has some power. In essence, this book is the story of a woman who is realized by the company she keeps (the men in her life)...all of them are interesting characters, and bring out both of her worst and best values ...The ending is devastating, profound...and a surprise...Joyce Carol Oates has written a riveting story in her 30s, and has rewritten it so well, and so profoundly that you can't imagine not being part of the people and places she takes you into...
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