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The Accursed (The Gothic Saga #5)

3.09 of 5 stars 3.09  ·  rating details  ·  2,823 ratings  ·  778 reviews
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 wit...more
Hardcover, 688 pages
Published March 5th 2013 by Ecco (first published January 1st 2013)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Maya Lang
I really wish I could have observed that moment when Joyce Carol Oates was like, "You know, maybe I'll write a Gothic with demon bridegrooms that brings together Woodrow Wilson and Upton Sinclair. Something spooky that also sheds light on turn-of-the-century issues of race and class. Oh, and I'll do it from the perspective of a male historian who's the son of one of the characters and thus implicated in the whole story. Just, you know, to stretch myself a little."

It speaks to the nearly freakis...more
While I managed to get through it there were many parts that reminded me of the lonely person all retail/public service people have dealt with. The one that rambles on about things that have no relevance to the current situation, to you, or to anything important. There were many parts like this where I found myself saying get on with it, huffing and wanting to stop reading, but continuing on in the hopes it would get better. It did not.

The writing was beautiful but disconnected, wondering about,...more
I’m a big fan of Joyce Carol Oates, so when I discovered she had a new book out, I was excited. I was even happier when I found that it was another volume in the gothic family saga series she started many years ago with ‘Bellefleur’, which is one of my favorite books. The 660 page length didn’t bother me; she’s an author who, at her best, can fill that many pages with brilliance. I greeted the book like it was a big box of candy.

I’m afraid I was disappointed. There are a lot of good things in t...more
This is not an easy book to categorize. I have written and destroyed three reviews before settling on this uneasy summary.

The Accursed is a sort of Gothic novel set in Princeton, New Jersey at the turn of the century. It is a novel disguised as a narrative history written by a descendant of one of the principal actors some eighty years after the main plot lines. But here, the thin line between narrative fiction and the supposed objectivity of this historical account blurs yet further.

The stage s...more
Ron Charles
‘The Accursed” is the latest addition to Joyce Carol Oates’s boundless body of work, and it’s spectacular — a coalescence of history, horror and social satire that whirls around for almost 700 mesmerizing pages. Oates started the novel in 1984 but set it aside to steep in its own febrile juices for three decades. Now “The Accursed” arises in full bloom, boasting as much craft as witchcraft.

The book comes to us framed as a work of amateur history, the pet project of M.W. van Dyck, a member of one...more
The Accursed is trippy, in the best, most all-consuming sense of the word. I read it like an obsessed maniac--it's that much of a page-turner. That is to say, once you get into the unreliable narrator's pedantic/perverse voice. It took me about 60 pages to orient myself in his world and after that I hated to leave the world of the book for real life. The setting--Princeton, NJ, when Woodrow Wilson was president of the college, not the country--is very evocative and I totally bought into all the...more
Cora Linn
What did I just read?

I think it's safe to say that this is NOT my cup of tea. I did not get on well with this book at all.

I'll be honest and say that this could very well be your cup of tea. I just didn't like the writing style.

I couldn't grow any relationship with any of the characters - and without any relationship between me (the reader) and the characters, I found the book rather dull. When you don't (can't?) care for a character (or any at all) I find it very hard to engage with a book.

No matter how great a book is, I am antsy. That's one of the reasons I have a hard time with longer books, in particular this one, because it takes many pages for very little to happen. Joyce Carol Oates is somewhat intimidating to me because she has such a large body of work that I don't know where to start. I started with The Accursed not intentionally, but by default--I love spooky stories. It's obvious that Oates is a fantastic writer. She created the world of Princeton, NJ in the early 20th...more
Phew. What a slog this was. And how it pains me to give it only two stars, 'it was [barely] okay', as I am a huge fan of the supremely talented Joyce Carol Oates.

Never afraid to experiment, The Accursed has been touted as her take on the horror genre, with Stephen King hailing it as "the first postmodern Gothic novel". Huh?

Horror novel it ain't. All it is, basically, is a novel focusing on Princeton in the dim and distant past, and how it was a microcosm of the racism and general prejudice, espe...more
Andra Watkins
This book is what is wrong with publishing.

Forget the argument about traditional versus indie, because this was a traditionally published book that could not have seen an editor for more than fourteen seconds. I understand what Oates was trying to do, but it turned into one long, rambling mess. I slogged on, thinking it would HAVE to get better, because this is Joyce Carol Oates, after all. The book was on the cover of the NY Times book review, lauded by Stephen King.

Aaaaaaaaand, it only got w...more
Susan Rits
Let me begin by saying I am a fan of Joyce Carol Oates. She is one of the great American authors. But this particular book was badly in need of an editor. Or perhaps the editor it had needed to have enough guts to tell one of America's great authors that she didn't have a plot, and needed to cut 350 pages.

It rambles, it has too many characters that aren't well fleshed out and also aren't kept track of for the reader.

Things happen, but there is no plot. It's difficult to even pin down what the bo...more
Heidi Ward
The tale of a mysterious and deadly "Curse" that ravages the upper crust of Princeton society in 1905 and 1906, Joyce Carol Oates' newest novel plays with Gothic conventions masterfully. An attempt to patch together the story of those dark years, The Accursed is the manuscript of amateur historian (and descendant of a "Cursed" family) M.W. van Dyck II. He presents a series of excerpts from journals, letters, newspapers, even a coded diary, written during the time of the "Curse," in an attempt to...more
A local historian narrates this eerie tale of events in Princeton, New Jersey in 1905. The sleepy university hamlet is peopled by great figures--Woodrow Wilson (university president), Grover Cleveland (ex US president), Upton Sinclair (young Socialist writer)--as well as by the brahmins of New Jersey (the Slades, the FitzRandolphs). They are all intertwined in this ghost story starting with the abduction of a young Slade daughter from the altar at her wedding. People sight ghosts of loved ones g...more
This is not a modern 21st century novel. To read this book, you must put yourself mentally into the style of the book. If you read it this way, you will enjoy it. All the bad reviews are from people who couldn't do that.

The book is the story of the mysterious supernatural events that took place in Princeton, New Jersey in 1905 and 1906, told from the point of view of one of the descendants of one of the families. He writes as if he were discovering all of this information through accounts, note...more
Mar 30, 2013 Judy rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: readers who enjoy creepy stories
Joyce Carol Oates!!! She is a force to be reckoned with. I haven't read her for several years but I grew up in Princeton, NJ. When I learned that her new novel was historical fiction set on and around the campus of the Ivy League University where she has been a professor of creative writing for over 30 years, I knew it was time to revisit both the author and the town.

I first read JCO in the late 1980s. Languishing in Los Angeles, where I was involved in an attempt to "go straight" after years of...more
Barks & Bites
Why do I continue to torture myself this way? I’m now on disk 13, that’s over 13 hours of my life lain to waste, and still I continue to wait for something interesting to occur, for a main character to make him or herself known, for, for . . . someone to love, dammit. Hell, I’ll even settle for someone that I slightly like at this point. Everyone just seems so stuffy and vaguely unpleasant and/or tediously long-winded.

The book plods on with footnotes and side plots and ramblings. Hundreds of tho...more
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...more
Heidi Garrett
I'm giving this 5 stars for the same reason I gave The Autumn of the Patriarch 5 stars. Some books are just works unto themselves, and I think that is worth acknowledging. However, if you've never read Joyce Carol Oates before, I wouldn't recommend The Accursed as an introduction to her fierce, intellectual style of writing. I would however strongly recommend that you pick up one of her books, she's definitely worth reading if you consider yourself a reader.

The Accursed is a paranormal, sort of...more
Since no one will probably read this I can say what I really want to say about this is probably the most sterile story about New England being invaded by Vampires ever written.
if you like the Jane Austin style of nothing ever happening for 400 pages at a time, then this should be your kind of it was my kind of hell!
its like being forced to read a post mortem on a person you don't know or even care about because your degree depends on you being able to remember one small detai...more
OK, this work deserved a much higher rating for the evident craft with which it was constructed. Or at least it seemed this way to me, after I endured 100 plus pages of truly excruciatingly painful reading. But enough was enough, the pain was too much, the evidence of the craft insufficient reward for the pain. A truly horrible narration by a historian with totally unexplainable insight into the details of the innermost thoughts and intimate actions of desperately unredeemable, but sadly believa...more
Alyce (At Home With Books)
What an incredible waste of time. This book is written with great detail, and in the style of the period in which it is set. I thought I saw the ending coming a mile away, but it was far more ridiculous and far-fetched than I could have imagined, and not at all satisfying.

Goodness knows why I forced myself to continue reading this tedious story, but I had hoped there would be some redeeming qualities. I get that the story is a metaphor, but was the intended meaning that all of the beliefs of the...more
Terri Garey
As much as I adore Joyce Carol Oates, I'm finding this one hard going. This has happened to me before on a few of hers (My Heart Laid Bare, for instance - which turned out to be one of my all-time favorite novels in the end), so I'll keep going. The narrator's constant side-tracking into minutia is extremely distracting, and I really hope to get to the meat of this story soon, and stay there.

UPDATE: Contains SPOILERS! Sadly, there was no real meat, and I feel like I deserve a medal for persisten...more

My head is spinning.

I could never quite decide while reading this MASSIVE novel (#5 in the Gothic Saga) set in 1905-1906 Princeton whether I wanted to laugh in lunacy-like hysterics, squirm away from vividly distasteful social history (mob lynchings, bloody murders, anti-suffrage debates, class snobbery), yawn from the dense and intense verbiage, groan with the burden of following yet another character (including historic figures such as Woodrow Wilson, Upton Sinclair, Jack London, Mark Twain,...more
Deon Stonehouse
Oates latest is a campy gothic tale set in quiet Princeton New Jersey mixing very real, quite prominent figures from history with demons and devils. The story opens with future US President Woodrow Wilson upset about a rival for his position as president of Princeton University. He fears former US President Grover Cleveland is siding with his opponent. Into this bucolic community evil seeps. Yeager Ruggles appeals to his august relative, Woodrow Wilson, for justice when a white mob hangs two bla...more
Deborah Harkness
review coming on NPR.
Close to three stars, but I can't bring myself to give that extra star. A major weakness of the novel is its lengthy, rambling style. Written as a history of the "Crosswicks Curse", a series of supernatural events in the lives of Princeton's elite during the early 1900's, the narrator tends to add asides and footnotes that more often than not, do little to add to the reader's understanding of the story. However, Joyce Carol Oates does many things right in this book. It is truly a creepy, gothic...more
Sam Sattler
In the early 1980s, Joyce Carol Oates wrote several novels in styles reminiscent of the late nineteenth century: gothic novel Bellefleur, a mystery titled Mysteries of Winterthurn, and period romance called Bloodsmoor Romance. At that point, it seemed that Oates was done with those styles. But, as it turns out, Ms. Oates also completed an early draft in 1984 of a second gothic novel, The Accursed, which she did not finally complete until 2012.

Set in Princeton, New Jersey, during parts of 1905-0...more
Betsy McTiernan
If you're a fan of Joyce Carol Oates's political perspective, this is the novel for you. The one-year curse that strikes Princeton goes after all the right bad guys--the rich capitalists and their (less guilty) families. The year is 1905-06. Woodrow Wilson, President of Princeton, is embroiled in a power struggle with a university dean. After a KKK lynching in a nearby town, a stranger appears to the favorite granddaughter in the yard of the prominent Rev. Slade. Soon mysterious, macabre events...more
In short, The Accursed is Joyce Carol Oates does vampires. The full picture, though, is of course much more complex.

In the university town of Princeton, New Jersey, Woodrow Wilson is a nervous wreck. Grover Cleveland and his much younger wife are around causing trouble, and the Slade family is preparing to marry off their oldest daughter. The drama of a university town escalates from petty collegiate squables to something more supernatural, something more dangerous and nefarious than thought. Th...more
Nanci Svensson
Just recently, I became extremely fascinated by the paradox of sir Arthur Conan Doyle; in his Holmes stories deductions and logic are the guiding stars, while Doyle himself actively spoke and wrote about his belief in spiritism. This fascination lead me into the godawful writings of Swedenborg, besant and mme Blavatsky, and had I been the least inclined to believe in synchronicity the coincidence of my just picking up this novel without even reading the cover (considering Oates novel's many over...more
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A bit of this and...: Feb/March 2014 The Accursed 3 16 Jan 08, 2014 05:53AM  
Joyce Carol Oates 12 48 Aug 27, 2013 08:53AM  
Gothic Literature: July: The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates Finis! 2 27 Jul 15, 2013 12:35PM  
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Goodreads Librari...: Fix The Accursed 5 46 Mar 23, 2013 06:14AM  
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Joyce Carol Oates is a recipient of the National Book Award and the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction. She is also the recipient of the 2005 Prix Femina for The Falls. She is the Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at Princeton University, and she has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters since 1978. Pseudonyms ... Rosamond Smith and Laure...more
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“I'm sure all that you've heard is just the usual gossip, invented to injure feelings rather than illuminate truth.” 14 likes
“Our lives can only be interpreted in retrospect, yet must be lived from day to day, blindly. What folly, the human condition!” 5 likes
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