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A Bloodsmoor Romance (The Gothic Saga #2)

3.71  ·  Rating Details ·  392 Ratings  ·  53 Reviews
Set in a nineteenth century similar to our own, A Bloodsmoor Romance follows the beautiful Zinn sisters, five young women who refuse-for the most part-"the obligations of Christian marriage."

Full of Oates's mordant wit, and breathlessly told in the Victorian style by an unnamed narrator shocked by the Zinn sisters' sexuality, impulsivity, and rude rejection of the mores of
Hardcover, 640 pages
Published 1983 by Jonathan Cape (first published 1982)
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Feb 28, 2011 Sunday rated it really liked it
This book was 600+ pages and I still feel shocked as if a streaker ran by. What the hell just happened?

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Reviews I’ve seen on this out-of-print “miss-step” in Oate’s lush writing career don’t even scratch the surface of this glacier. It’s “Little Women” meets “Valley of the Dolls” meets “Gone With the Wind”. All I have to say about the book is summed up in a sex scene with Mark Twain, which involves a woman possessed by the Beast. Of course, I have more than just that to say, I lied.

One of the '83 review blurbs describes it thus: "A merciless send-up of the romantic a long Edward Gorey cartoon, or like Little Women as told by Stephen King."

Honestly, I can think of no better tagline. This is a long, challenging, highly layered & surreal read. It defies total categorization, but touches upon such labels as historical fiction, post-modern fiction, literary fiction, moralistic melodrama, gothic, satire, grotesque, steampunk, pastiche, fantasy,
Lolly K Dandeneau
May 05, 2012 Lolly K Dandeneau rated it it was amazing

For those who think it's an actual ROMANCE, it's not. What a satire, someone on amazon likened it to an Edward Gorey cartoon, I think that nails it beautifully!

Finished it last night, what a long journey. I can understand how there were readers that could not get through it, knowing many people like short and sweet. I do think they missed out though. It's dark and humorous and it cannot be denied Oates is one hell of a prolific writer. This novel was like walking through a labyrinth full of godl
Mar 04, 2011 Northpapers rated it really liked it
Joyce Carol Oates comes off as humorless most of the time. Not that I expect her tales of rape, hauntings, violence, isolation, infidelity, and despair to be lighthearted. But just as I expect any good humor writing to depict a kind of pain, I expect depictions of pain to have their own sense of humor. From my little worldview, it's part of being an honest writer.

In fact, right before reading JCO's sprawling epic A Bloodsmoor Romance, I told a friend that I liked everything about her books excep
May 20, 2012 Virginia rated it really liked it
JCO enriches and expands the rigid box of Victorian literature with an insidious, insistently realistic perspective.

The bones of the story are true to form, with accidents of birth and the struggle between sin and virtue at every turn, sprinkled liberally with strange events of spiritual portent. As in novels of manners from Dickens & Eliot to Madox Ford (Empire thro Edwardian) we see the middle class bougeoisie desperately trying to keep their skirts out of the mud from whence they rose by
Laura J. W.
Nov 11, 2010 Laura J. W. rated it it was amazing
Wow...well, my goodness, this one is downright odd, at times bizarre, yet delightful with language that is unique and contemplative, beautiful at the same time as grotesque, and loaded with interesting humor... it's a typical JCO novel. A Bloodsmoor Romance follows Bellefleur in the "American Gothic" Quartet, which also includes Mysteries of Winterthurn and My Heart Laid Bare. Like any book by JCO, if you read it and take it too seriously you will get into trouble with this book right away...eve ...more
Daniel Withrow
Jan 31, 2010 Daniel Withrow rated it really liked it
This wasn't the first thing I read by Oates, but it was the first that showed me her vicious sense of humor, and it started me on a many-year jag. Someone described it as Little Women as written by Stephen King, which is about right. Very weird 19th-century New England family saga.
Lori Anderson
Feb 28, 2014 Lori Anderson rated it liked it
what the hell did I just read????

and WHO was the man in the black balloon?

interesting and boring and intriguing....

I still don't know what the hell I just read...
Mar 31, 2014 Emily rated it really liked it
This is not a book for an impatient reader; it's massive and detailed and layered and written in Victoriana. It lumbers along at times, and often feels like you are listening to an old lady telling tales of her youth, and just when you begin to wonder where on earth this story is going and hmmm, I think there is a piece of cake calling me...the story gets a little shot of sordidness and gossip and you almost can't believe you are reading what you are reading. Hilarious.

Perhaps I'll try another day, but the bloated writing and over-long sentences are just not my cuppa tea.
Oct 11, 2009 Kathleen rated it really liked it
Shelves: benicia
This could be made into a fascinating mini-series, it's a gothic romance as only Oates could envision. Through delicate Victorian language we share the lives of individuals striving toward their disparate goals and the realization of their conflicting desires. You will experience elements and issues that would never have been acknowledged in any of those old-fashioned novels: substance abuse, gender identification issues, women's suffrage, the American spiritualist movement, sexual aberration, p ...more
Nov 18, 2010 Marilyn rated it it was amazing
I don't know if it's necessary to have a familiarity with books of the past that were called romances (as all fiction was at one time), like the Victorian era especially, but I think it would help one catch the incredible number of humorous references in this book. Besides having an intriguing story and lots of lovely characters, it is so very, very funny. I found myself grinning and/or laughing in public many times as I carried this book around. It was very hard to stop reading it. I'm surprise ...more
Mar 04, 2016 Lynne rated it really liked it
Shelves: tfb
Why use one sentence when you can use seventeen? If Stephen King channeled the spirit of Charles Dickens to write Little Women, this is what you'd get.
Jun 16, 2007 Tracey rated it really liked it
I've never forgotten this book, because of the setting and the transgender twist. Historical fiction a la queen.
Dec 20, 2014 Martina rated it did not like it
didnt finish...blech... ...more
Mientras Leo
Jan 13, 2017 Mientras Leo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Muy divertido, realmente divertido y corrosivo

Molly Ringle
May 27, 2016 Molly Ringle rated it really liked it
This was my second reading of this novel; my review from the first reading, almost 20 years ago, is copied at the end of this one.

This book is insane and weird and difficult to get through, and I kind of love it. Or at least, I love that it exists and that Joyce Carol Oates took the time to create such a crazy thing.

It's huge and dense and full of meticulously chosen late-1800s-style-prose, and you would think it would take 20 years just to write and that whoever wrote it probably couldn't hav
Bruce Arthurs
Mar 01, 2014 Bruce Arthurs rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Joyce Carol Oates has been turning out novels and short stories on a prolific basis for decades, frequently enough that she's been criticized for writing too quickly, while at the same time being highly regarded in literary circles. Somehow, except for a few short stories, I'd never read any of her work until recently.

A Bloodsmoor Romance was first published in 1982 and is part of the "Gothic Quintet" (concluded in the recent The Accursed). Judging from some of the reviews I've read, it has a re
May 11, 2015 Jerry rated it it was amazing
This is a great novel that I'd only recommend selectively. It's long (752 pages) and written in a precious mid-1800s tea-party diction. It took me about a hundred pages just to realize that this wasn't merely a tour-de-force of stylistic mimicry, but also a parody of the style so subtle that it does a balancing act from beginning to end, never falling into dismissive or belittling lampoon. Its narrator ("the authorized chronicler of the Zinn family") loses track of her narrative, hops around in ...more
A really long book but interesting. Oates has a wonderful way of writing and her characters linger. Started and stopped reading this book several times and always could get right back into it without rereading anything. A couple twists at the end made it worth my while.
Oct 15, 2013 Syd rated it really liked it
This title is the second book written in Oates' Gothic Saga. Before starting the review I want to point out, as I do at the beginning of all of the Gothic Saga novels, that these books follow the same gothic style setting and sometimes the same historical figures popping up but do not need to be read sequentially nor do they, as far as I know, reference each other in any way.

I enjoyed this tale of a family of five daughters, each of which chooses a very different fate as they leave home. What Oa
Jul 14, 2015 Locturne rated it it was amazing
A great book, beautifully written (the mimicry of 19th-century prose style is amazing) and... last but not least, very entertaining. I devoured it!
I loved the detailed historical background. It was nice to learn about the America of the late 19th century (I was surprised to see that Madame Blavatsky really existed and had really been investigated by the Society for Psychical Research!)
The mock-19th century spinster's perspective was really fun. Like when the narrator explains that she's a virgin
Dec 20, 2014 Mira rated it really liked it
Shelves: gothic-fiction
This book is the chronicle of a well-off (though not quite well-off enough) American family in the late 1800s. The narrator (a celibate maiden, as she continues to remind us whenever her natural feminine frailties interfere with the telling of the story) would like to extract from them a tale of moral inspiration and instruction, but how can she? While the Transcendentalist father and thoroughly respectable mother are beyond reproach, the lives of their five daughters shock her sensibilities. Th ...more
Book Lover's Boudoir
I really enjoyed A Bloodsmoor Romance. JCO offers a huge, multi-layered epic gothic novel. A Bloodsmoor Romance touches on almost every gothic plot you can think of. There’s romance, of course. Murder. Madness. Mayhem. Ghosts and things that rattle in the night. A sweeping family saga with a little touch of betrayal, lost love and regret. A Bloodsmoor Romance reminded me to an extent of Little Women. I found the Zinn sisters and their various fates fascinating. Deirdre’s abduction sets in motion ...more
Melina O.
May 30, 2014 Melina O. rated it really liked it
What can I say about this book?

It is set in the 19th century and written about a genteel family centered in Philadelphia's elite society. The characters of the book are all part of the Zinn family consisting of Mr. John Quincy Zinn, his wife & five daughters that include an actress, a spiritual medium, a transsexual/transgender(?), a housewife and inventor. The story is so vast and imaginative I couldn't stop reading, wondering where Joyce Carol Oates was taking me.

If you're looking for a r
Dec 08, 2015 Kristi rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015-list
I really enjoyed this quirk-ily written tale of the Zinn family in Bloodsmoor, PA during the 19th century. I would probably rate it 3.5 (vs. 4) as it's definitely better than average, but I recognize that it's not for everyone either and was a pretty lengthy read. I thought the conceit of the narrator (as an observer, but somewhat participatory? It was never totally clear) was an interesting way to tell this story. The Zinn women are varied and lead unconventional lives - it led to some amusing ...more
Jan 31, 2014 Mycala rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Have you ever read a book where there is such a shocking and starting discovery that you are tempted to pick it back up and start all over again to see if you might have missed a nuance somewhere that would have given you a clue you might have missed? (I'm not talking about the Constance Phillipa part -- that was pretty obvious.)

I loved this book. I hadn't read anything by Joyce Carol Oates in nearly twenty years and this was a wonderful surprise. I enjoyed watching the story unfold and mysterie
Feb 21, 2015 Robert rated it it was ok
I can not believe I am giving a Joyce Carol Oates novel 2 stars but...
This book was out of print until after the publication of Oates, The Accursed, and I think I know why. It seems like A Bloodsmoor Romance was a test for what she perfected in The Accursed. To say this novel was an arduous read is an understatement...perhaps torturous would be more apt, or maybe it was just the time and place that I was in that made it an unsatisfying read, (read would not be apt task seems to suit better). May
Mar 02, 2014 Stacey rated it really liked it
Melodramatic story lines. Unbelievable plot twists. A great way to tell the tale of the tremendous changes taking place at the end of the 19th century. I love the use of a narrator (unrelated to anyone in the book) - a genteel woman who has taken on the task of telling the story of the Zinn family. It's all juuuust enough over the top to be funny (and occasionally hilarious), as Oates takes on women's rights, executions, warfare and Spiritualism (among many others). As an added bonus, Oates remi ...more
Pomme de Terre
My attempts to write this review all started out with a lot of "I really appreciated . . .", "I thought it was neat that . . ." and "Oates very adeptly combines the genres of . . .", but in the end all came down to this: this book did not need to be seven hundred and fifty-two fucking pages long. There was a good story buried inside, then Oates took it and stretched it out to twice its size. I can't care how brilliant your satire and genre-twisting is when I have to push through pages upon pages ...more
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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)
  • Bellefleur
  • Mysteries of Winterthurn
  • My Heart Laid Bare
  • The Accursed

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