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The Accursed [Paperback]

Joyce Carol Oates
3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
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Book Description

26 Nov 2013

An eerie, unforgettable story of power, loss, and family curses in early 20th-century Princeton.

Princeton, New Jersey at the turn of the 20th century: soon-to-be commander-in-chief Woodrow Wilson is president of Princeton University. On a neighbouring farm, muck-raking novelist Upton Sinclair, enjoying the success of The Jungle, has taken up residence with his family. Grover Cleveland, fresh out of his second term in the White House has retired to town for a quieter life. Meanwhile, the elite families of Princeton have been beset by a powerful curse – their daughters are disappearing. A young bride on the verge of the altar is seduced and abducted by a dangerously compelling man – a shape-shifting, vaguely European prince who might just be the devil. In the Pine Barrens on the edge of town, a mysterious and persuasive evil takes shape.

When the bride's brother sets out against all odds to find her, his path will cross those of Princeton's most formidable people, from presidents past to its brightest literary luminaries, from Mark Twain to Jack London, as he navigates both the idyllic town and the Dante-esque landscape of the Barrens.

An utterly fresh work from Oates, THE ACCURSED marks new territory for the masterful writer – narrated with her unmistakable psychological insight, it combines beautifully transporting historical detail with chilling fantastical elements to stunning effect.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 688 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate (26 Nov 2013)
  • Language: French
  • ISBN-10: 000749422X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007494224
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 13 x 5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 329,724 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


‘Oates has written what may be the world’s first postmodern Gothic novel… dense, challenging, problematic, horrifying, funny, prolix and full of crazy people. You should read it …feverishly entertaining’ Stephen King, New York Times Book Review

‘A belated candidate for the Great Oates Novel … a big, mad, colourful romp, respectful of the literary traditions in which it participates, leavened with a piquant humour. It may not be the definitive work to crown the singularly fascinating Oates oeuvre but, for the uninitiated, it is a great place to begin’ David Evans, Financial Times

‘Enthralling … it is both a commentary on the art of Gothic fiction, and a marvellously sustained piece of Gothic writing itself. We await the next novel with renewed excitement’ Stephen Abell, Sunday Telegraph

‘Oates is not a genre writer, but like most writers sincerely engaged in the job of telling stories, she isn’t afraid of genre motifs, and ‘The Accursed’ is packed to the gills with them …a large number of the narrative riffs are powerful and absorbing…it’s clear throughout these six hundred-plus pages that, as always, Oates intimately knows her characters and the worlds they inhabit’ Literary Review

‘This is Postmodern Gothic at its most supreme, a riotous yet scholarly ride through turn-of-the-20th century Princeton … Oates is having great baroque fun here, but the scholarly range of her tale is astonishing as she again makes the combination of research and risk-taking look natural and easy’ Lesley McDowell, Independent on Sunday

‘A thrilling tale in the best gothic tradition, a lesson in master craftsmanship…The story sprawls, reaches, demands, tears, and shrieks in homage to the traditional gothic, yet with fresh, surprising twists and turns… Hang on for the ride’ Publishers Weekly

‘Gothic, macabre epic’ Observer

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.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Gothic delight... 11 April 2013
Centring on a supernatural curse affecting the immediate vicinity of Princeton University `The Accursed' is the latest instalment of Oates Gothic saga that began with `Bellefleur' published in 1980. The story runs through the period of 1900-1910 this impressive tome deals with the issue of the moral hysteria that begins to wreak havoc within this claustrophobic community.

As is usual with the wonderful Joyce Carol Oates this reading experience is akin more to a marathon than to a jog, and is all the more satisfying for it. Running at over 600 pages prepare to be immersed in a sprawling literary journey that is both breathtaking and masterful in its scope skilfully intergrating real life figures from American history, and unashamedly drawing the reader in to the less savoury sides of their characters. Many major themes of racism, sexism and mysoginism loom large throughout the book and Oates tackles these with aplomb and adopts a deliberately controversial viewpoint at times with the authorial voice resonating strongly. Oates is never one to shy away from the more controversial aspects of the characters she portrays and dares to challenge our preconceptions. Figures such as Woodrow Wilson, Grover Cleveland, Mark Twain, Jack London and Upton Sinclair himself move in and out of the plot, with Oates bluntly turning her pen, so to speak, on the less likeable characteristics particularly in relation to the political figures and within the greater context of the social issues of this period.

The plot is far too expansive to even begin to attempt to dissect in a review, but suffice to say that if you relish writing that reflets the Gothic tradition of the finest exponents of American fiction there is more than enough to sate your appetite.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
By Blue in Washington TOP 500 REVIEWER TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Wow. Hard to do justice to this sprawling (667 pages) and shape-shifting saga. Two days after finishing "The Accursed" and I'm still thinking about this juggernaut of crime and punishment in the late Gilded Age. Actually, the theme of crime and punishment doesn't even get close to the elements of good and evil that author Joyce Carol Oates has woven together in this genre-bending novel that starts as historical fiction and quickly begins to shift toward science-fiction/horror, with a general "sins of the fathers" overhang. Along the path there is an in depth look at social history--including a chilling sub-story of northern lynchings, racial discrimination and casual abuse of Blacks and other non-WASP citizens that become a moral legacy that must be reckoned with as the book progresses. .

What could be called a rage against the patriarchy is also a central theme of "The Accursed", where great men of the time--Woodrow Wilson, Grover Cleveland, Jack London, Upton Sinclair, Samuel Clemens and their male sidekicks and relatives are shown to be among the worst of misogynists of the period; dependent upon their female partners in all ways, but ungrateful, self-absorbed and completely insensitive in their relationships with their better halves.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is an imaginative blend of historical fiction, social commentary and the supernatural. Ms. Oates has created very well developed characters and comments beautifully and subtly on the snobbery, racism and chauvinism of the US ruling classes at the start of the 20th century. This is epitomised by the puritan Anglo-Saxon “elite” of Princeton. As a comedy of social manners of the time alone it would work well. The character of Woodrow Wilson (President of Princeton University at the time) is particularly well drawn and his vanity and ingrained racism and sexism are very skilfully portrayed. Indeed there are a number of other “real life” historical characters including Jack London, Grover Cleveland (also a US President) and Upton Sinclair. Above all though it is a compelling if unusual supernatural drama. The depiction of the bog kingdom is superb and the paranormal reminds me of “Jonathan Strange & Dr. Norrell”. The evil of the devilish interlopers is also brilliantly evoked. The book is long, probably 100 pages or so too long but highly recommended if you like such a concoction of social comedy, horror and fiction. A great writer. Surprised at mediocre reviews but it's a matter of taste.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Awful 10 Mar 2014
By Ollie
I usually like Joyce Carol Oates but this was dreadful read 200 pages before giving up. What a waste of time.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing read 27 Dec 2013
I love Joyce Carol Oates but she can be hit and miss. This was a miss for me, unfortunately. The story just rambled on and on and on... I lost interest in both the characters and the plot and didn't finish it.
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