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.
©2013 Joyce Carol Oates (P)2013 Harper Collins Publishers Ltd
‘A thrilling tale in the best gothic tradition, a lesson in master craftsmanship…it has vampires, demons, angels, murder, lynching, beatings, rape, sex, parallel worlds, Antarctic voyages, socialism, sexism, racism, paranoia, gossip, spiritualism, and escalating insanity…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
This is a change for Oates, and I was so involved - it is whatever the audible equivalent of a "page turner" is! I couldn't stop listening to it, wanting to get to the solution to the mystery.
Grover Gardner's reading is occasionally distracting: on a couple of occasions he pronounces JOSIAH (one of the main characters) as JOSHUA. He also mispronounces "idyll".
However, his characterisation of the different figures in the book is very good, he manages to avoid the trap of some male narrators of putting on a weird falsetto for female characters.
The story is set in Princeton, NJ, in 1905, when a sequence of inexplicable - possibly demonic - events begins. This is during Woodrow Wilson's tenure as president of the university, and he turns out to be quite an irascible and petty individual, which offers some sly humor. Grover Cleveland, Upton Sinclair, Jack London, Mark Twain and other luminaries are also involved.
Ghosts, trances, outbreaks of murderous madness, and voices from the beyond: if you're a fan of the historical and gothic in fiction, get this.
With a rambling style this book left me anything but thrilled. Perhaps someone who enjoys a very dry sudo historical text would enjoy it more.
"Gothier than a vampire bat on a gravestone"
So - jealous, fat Gore Vidal famously said that the three most boring words in the English language were 'Joyce Carol Oates'. I find that truly mystifying and suspect that he envied the fact that she could be both prolific and write to such a high standard, and across a range of genres. This book is fantastic - hard going in places - but well worth listening to. The performance is pitched just right and I suspect Grover Gardner must have studied the book thoroughly to get the right tone of pedantic whingeing into his voice. It's gothic, it's comic, it's extremely entertaining. Yes, you may need to look information up on Wikipedia to get the most out of it but I like that kind of added value. Woodrow Wilson, Grover Cleveland, Mark Twain, Jack London, Upton Sinclair...marvellous pen portraits. I thoroughly recommend this book and my only caveat is that you have to be prepared to listen (for a long time) and learn, as well as enjoy.
This was a long book for not really saying anything vital until the Epilogue. You'd probably be best to give it a go yourself, but I found it very difficult to understand what was happening until the final reveal.
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