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Bellefleur (The Gothic Saga #1)

3.73 of 5 stars 3.73  ·  rating details  ·  1,406 ratings  ·  95 reviews
A wealthy and notorious clan, the Bellefleurs live in a region not unlike the Adirondacks, in an enormous mansion on the shores of mythic Lake Noir. They own vast lands and profitable businesses, they employ their neighbors, and they influence the government. A prolific and eccentric group, they include several millionaires, a mass murderer, a spiritual seeker who climbs i ...more
Paperback, 592 pages
Published September 13th 1991 by Plume (first published 1980)
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95th out of 366 books — 1,892 voters
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Community Reviews

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BELLEFLEUR by Joyce Carol Oates is ranked as one of my most favorite novels of all time...I love this book! I savored this gothic tale cover to cover and didn't want it to end. It possesses a life of its own, the characters became ghosts that would haunt me after setting it aside after a short reading and I would look forward to picking it up again. After I finished it, I felt homesick in a peculiar way that no book has ever done to me before; it is very likely that I will revisit the pages of B ...more
Kurt Reichenbaugh
One of those long reads that most either seem to love or hate. I finished it this summer after picking it up in a yard-sale. I'd only read short stories by Oates before taking this one on.

My advice to anyone planning on readng it is to abandon the thought of a linear structure as a novel and take it as delivered; a series of episodes or short stories as chapters of several generations of the Bellefleurs in their castle above Lake Noir. Forget about timeline, forget about historical perspective.
"The living and the dead. Braided together. Woven together. An immense tapestry taking in centuries."

A little over 100 pages into this novel I stumbled across the above lines, and even though I had another 500+ pages to go, I instinctively sensed that I had discovered the key to this immense, sprawling narrative, a description of what Oates was attempting to accomplish with Bellefleur. Literally spanning centuries, seven different generations and involving dozens of distinct characters, this is
I really enjoyed this epic by Joyce Carol Oates, the first of her Gothic Saga novels. If anyone was wondering, the books are not sequential and do not contain the same cast of characters (except if a historical figure pops up in more than one which I believe might be the case). They can be read in any order.
Bellefleur tells the story of the Bellefleur family, a prominent and wealthy line who own a large amount of land in the Adirondacks as well as a large mansion. The novel jumps back and forth
In my English class junior year, we had a choose an author and write a critical paper about several of their books. My 8th grade English teacher highly recommended Joyce Carol Oates, so I decided to read some of hers for this paper.

Why I chose this tome is beyond me... maybe the story sounded interesting from the blurb on the back? The writing style she adopted for this novel was so long-winded--I'm talking parathetical thoughts that go on for three pages. The time frame of the novel was weird t
Dixie Smith
This book is a long one, but is classic Joyce Carol Oates style. The story jumps from place to place, from one point in time to another, from character to character, none of it in any particular order. She describes some things in great detail and while only hinting at others. She doesn't always prescribe to conventional uses of punctuation and will continue a thought for line after line after line, but there is a strong flow to her stories that I find addictive.

I enjoyed this book a great deal.
Let me start by saying I'm a HUGE fan of JCO, but this was my second attempt at this book, and I finally just gave up. To my mind it's like a great byzantine workshop where ol' Joyce trots out lots of ideas that will later become full books in their own right. I recognize so many short stories, so many themes... Perhaps this is an ambitious younger writer's attempt at something 'War and Peace'-ish. There are compelling strains of story, characters full of promise, but I just can't find my way th ...more
This is probably one of my top books of all times. You could call it a saga or an epic, and it is lush, sweeping and fantastic, often blurring the lines between sanity and lunacy, the real and the supernatural. Oates never quite makes the distinction between what is perceived and what is truly there, leaving the reader to decipher the reality of the Bellefleurs through their eyes. This book is long. This book is wordy. If you don't like intriguing, labyrinthine writing that's a journey into itse ...more
So atmospheric! I vividly remember Leah throwing open the door in a rainstorm that wildly blows and soaks her peignoir and lush hair for a cat named Mahalaleel! I remember a huge drum on the stair landing made from a man's skin. I remember a spinster sister visited my creatures resembling vampires. I remember Mink Pond, debt, despair, the grinding away of love. I remember too many children, too many kittens on an overgrown stone patio. It was sort of like experiencing an opera.
Ode to joyce. This is literature as it's meant to be.

"Bellefleur Manor was a horrific place - it was so inhumanly large - he hadn't remembered how large it was: ah, what a horror to contemplate! What sort of mind, driven by an unspeakable lust, had imagined all this into being? The castle ... the castle's grounds ... the lightless choppy immensity of Lake Noir ... the thousands upon thousands of acres of wilderness land ... the mountains in the distance: a terror to contemplate: and beyond them
If you like meandering gothic tales this is for you. While I do enjoy gothic tales sometimes Oates is a hard writer to follow, and then I feel rather dumb because I feel like I am missing an important point. I did not feel like I engaged with any of the characters, as there were a lot of them, spread over a vast amount of time, sometimes with the same first name. The narrative jumped around chronologically from chapter to chapter, which also adds to the cognitive confusion. The writing is rich a ...more
Seems to me that you either do or do not like Joyce Carol Oates and your reasons are as varied as the temperaments of her abundant books. (Perhaps no reason is more fitting than poet Michael Chapman's, who liked her because she was always holding a ball-point pen in her cover shots.) This was my first Oates adventure and it was a consuming experience. If you delight in vacationing in exotic books, have a taste for the gothic and other-wordly, then this is a must-read.
I really enjoyed Bellefleur. This story of the Bellefleur family covers about 7 generations of crazy-brilliant nutjobs. Oates moves back and forth between generations and I was dizzily flipping between pages and the family tree in the front of the book at first. But then the Bellefleurs become your crazy, wealthy, mentally unstable family and who doesn't love that? The ending was crazy and not really in a great way, but the book was, overall, really quite good.
Marne Wilson
It took me the whole summer to read this book, but that was not necessarily because of the length. (Although 558 pages of very tiny print was a lot to get through, definitely.) Rather, I tried only to read this book when I was not distracted or rushed, which means I put it away for weeks at a time when my young stepson was visiting. The reason I gave this book such hallowed treatment is because Oates is writing in very heightened prose here, and it definitely keeps you on your toes. Some of her ...more
Acabo de caer en la cuenta de que aquí dice que esa edición de "Bellefleur" tiene 560 páginas... la mía tenía más de 900, y de ahí la dilatación en el tiempo :P

Eso y que, igual que difícil fue la escritura de esta novela, como así confiesa la autora en el epílogo, difícil es la lectura por momentos. Ciertamente, estamos ante una de esas obras magnas ante las cuales el lector tiene que poner de su parte: magistral en su construcción y estilo, así como en su capacidad para crear un ambiente con s
this is one of those books that I was really looking forward to reading -- I gave up about a third of the way through -- and this experience really soured me on her writing
I haven't finished this, but it will be a while before I get back to it.
Rob Errera
Reading Bellefleur by Joyce Carol Oates is like slipping into a fever dream. It’s all dark winter mood and brooding atmosphere in this novel.
Bellefleur covers three generations of the Bellefleur family over the course of more than 200 years. Ms. Oates builds this long, sprawling novel with long, sprawling sentences filled with parenthetical asides and a boatload of commas. In its way, each sentence in Bellefleur is like a tiny fairytale waiting to be unwrapped. The result is a finely crafted no
My Inner Shelf
À travers six générations JCO nous tisse un destin familial riche et dense. Les Bellefleur sont une famille peuplée de personnages romanesques, depuis Jean-Pierre Bellefleur, aristocrate français arrivé à l’aube du XIXe siècle, à Germaine, dernière née de la famille, une petite fille bien étrange. Oates nous perd et nous rattrape sans cesse au fil de ses flashbacks, son avertissement nous met en garde, le temps n’a pas beaucoup de sens et la vraisemblance n’est pas de mise dans ce récit. L’auteu ...more
Renee M
I read Bellefleur as a young woman, and all I remember about it now is that I worked really hard to stick with it, in spite of the fact that I found it confusing, disturbing, and interminable. Perhaps if I read it now, I'd be more forgiving, as a more experienced reader, but the imprint of my keen disappointment is still with me. It may have been my first experience in finding that I could admire the writing in a book without actually liking it.
I am only a few chapters in, will check back later
It took me a long time to read this book. It was nearly 700 pages long, and just not my cup of tea. The reason I picked this book up was because it was listed as a gothic novel. There were too many characters to keep up with. I never really got a good read on the main character in the novel and at two or three times I felt the urge to just stop reading this book and pick up another one instead. That is something I NEVER do. But, I forced myself t
There is so much to say about this book. First of all, this was the most epic, involved, complicated, and brilliant thing I've read in a long time. This book is a difficult read. So many times I felt like giving up because I was overwhelmed by how much as a reader there is to remember, keep track of. Second, this book epitomizes magical realism. No other book weaves magical realism in so well you barely notice it because it completely compliments the writing. Finally, the book is also an amazing ...more
Reading this book was a strange experience. I do not appreciate sentences that require road maps to navigate. If I have to edit the book myself, by removing unnecessary clauses and descriptors to tease out the meaning of the sentence, then the writing is too flamboyant for me. The story is dark and gothic and muddled. There were brief passages that would hold my interest just long enough to keep me reading, but in the end I finished it out of sheer stubbornness. I didn't like any of the characte ...more
This book was long and witten in short episodes that were stitched together all out of sequential order. Because there were numerous people in the Bellefleur family, and the books spanned several generations, it was difficult for me to figure out exactly who each chapter was talking about. It didn't help that they were all related and family names were reused, so several characters of different generations had the same name. There IS a family tree at the beginning of the book, and it might have ...more
Lydia Thomas
I can’t really give Bellefleur by Joyce Carol Oates a rating. Even the idea of doing that seems absurd to me. (I mean, it’s Joyce Carol Oates). Instead, I will just say I enjoyed this work of literary fiction immensely.

And it is literary fiction. When pregnant with her youngest, Leah gets the idea to restore the Bellefleurs to their former glory, and consequently, we learn about the Bellefleurs who built the empire, the Bellefleurs who lost it, and the Bellefleurs who don’t want any part of it.
Lisa Greer
This could have been great! Why did Oates ruin it by the fantastical stuff. I like her, but she can be a frustrating author for me, too.
Lauren Hartney
great stuff. darkly gothic, but brilliantly alive with fascinating characters who do insane things.A memorable read.
The best thing I've ever read by JCO. A lush, gothic, absorbing tale.
Absorbing novel with peaks and troughs. Didn't hold me totally.
Julia Lyon
In a modern, experimental context, Oates' Bellefleur is certainly a Gothic tale. As typical for Oates, the narrative voice and the landscape created plunge the reader into a rich, visceral and disturbing world which is fetid and sometimes repulsive but ripe with emotion and psychological reality. This book is full of symbolism, foreboding and terror, much like any traditional Gothic story but it has a distinctly American and self-righteous sensibility to it which places this in a similar genre-s ...more
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Joyce Carol Oates: Bellefleur or A Bloodsmoor Romance 2 7 Jul 27, 2014 12:09PM  
You'll love this ...: Bellefleur 25 34 May 30, 2014 01:03PM  
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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
More about Joyce Carol Oates...

Other Books in the Series

The Gothic Saga (5 books)
  • A Bloodsmoor Romance
  • Mysteries of Winterthurn
  • My Heart Laid Bare
  • The Accursed
We Were the Mulvaneys The Falls The Gravedigger's Daughter Blonde Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang

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