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Book 228: The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates


UK Cover
Book 228: The Accursed.
Author: Joyce Carol Oates, 2013.
Genre: Period Fiction. 1900s New England. Gothic Horror. Post Modern.
Other Details: Hardback. 669 pages. Unabridged Audiobook (22 hours, 54 mins). Read by Grover Gardner.

This eerie tale of psychological horror sees the real inhabitants of turn-of-the-century Princeton fall under the influence of a supernatural power.

New Jersey, 1905: soon-to-be commander-in-chief Woodrow Wilson is president of Princeton University. On a nearby farm, Socialist author Upton Sinclair, enjoying the success of his novel ‘The Jungle’, has taken up residence with his family. This is a quiet, bookish community – elite, intellectual and indisputably privileged. But when a savage lynching in a nearby town is hushed up, a horrifying chain of events is initiated – until it becomes apparent that the families of Princeton have been beset by a powerful curse. The Devil has come to this little town and not a soul will be spared.
- synopsis from UK Publisher's website.

US Cover
I found this a magnificent sprawling work of Gothic fiction, which draws on the style and tropes of the 19th century Gothic novel yet with a post-modern twist, which serves to subvert them. The Author's Note that opens the novel claims that it was written in 1984 by MW van Dyck II, a descendant of one of the families effected by the Crosswick Curse and so peppered throughout the text are footnotes from 'the Historian' and the occasional short chapter where he explains the difficulties he faced in writing the history.

Given its length, style and density this is a quite challenging read though I found it a rewarding one. I wanted to take my time with it and so choose to both listen to its unabridged audio edition and read the print version. I don't feel that it is a novel that will appeal to everyone and this is borne out by the range of reviews on Goodreads and the like. However, it was well received in the critical reviews I read.

In terms of its cover art, I felt both were very evocative though the US one seems to stress its historical element while the UK one highlights the supernatural themes.
Tags: gothic novels, horror, literary, period fiction (20th century), supernatural
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