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The Accursed

(The Gothic Saga #5)

3.21  ·  Rating details ·  5,761 ratings  ·  1,165 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 with ...more
Hardcover, 688 pages
Published March 5th 2013 by Ecco
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Randy Souther Stephen King has answered your question:

"The reader’s job is also difficult because “The Accursed” asks a lot of him or her. All I can say is, don’t l…more
Stephen King has answered your question:

"The reader’s job is also difficult because “The Accursed” asks a lot of him or her. All I can say is, don’t lose your courage, and wait for the sermon at the end."

It really is worth it.(less)

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Average rating 3.21  · 
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 ·  5,761 ratings  ·  1,165 reviews

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Maya Lang
Jul 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 25, 2015 rated it really liked it

This book - a (pseudo) historical, supernatural, mystery horror story - is supposedly written by M.W. van Dyck, descendant of one of the most prominent families of Princeton, New Jersey.

Princeton circa 1905

Claiming to have access to newly decoded journals and other materials available only to himself van Dyck unspools the story of the "Crosswicks Curse" that took a horrific toll on some wealthy, influential Princeton families in 1905 and 1906.

The first conspicuous manifestation of the curse oc
Apr 21, 2013 rated it it was ok
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,
Jan 11, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Apr 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I finished this book last night, came to Goodreads to write my thoughts on it, and had no idea where to begin, what it is I wanted to say. I scrolled through some reviews others had posted, which varied wildly and were interesting to read, but I was still unable to work out my own response, so I left it, hoping I would find it easier in the morning. It's simple for me to say, "I loved this book" but trying to expand beyond that is the challenging part!

I will admit to a slightly embarrassing over
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
Apr 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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 Tea Party Princess
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.

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
Apr 02, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction, 2013
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
Andra Watkins
May 20, 2013 rated it did not like it
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
Althea Ann
Apr 16, 2015 rated it it was ok
Quite disappointed in this one.

I've read a fair amount of Oates' short fiction, so when this was suggested as a book club selection, I was enthusiastically in favor. However, I enjoyed this book less than anything else of Oates' I've read thus far.

Don't get me wrong - the book is crafted with consummate skill. If someone told me they absolutely loved it, I couldn't argue that their feelings were wrong, or that the work is undeserving. A convincing case could easily be made that this is an excel
Jul 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: general-fiction
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
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
Susan Rits
May 05, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
Feb 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
This is a long, sprawling Gothic novel, with a mix of both fictional and historical characters, set in turn of the century, Princeton, United States. It's a mass of ideas, details, genres and political commentary, and, honestly, I found myself utterly overwhelmed at points. Part of me thinks that this novel needed a damn good edit, another thinks that perhaps if I was bit more well-versed in American political history then I would have done a little bit better at decoding the puzzles and mysteri ...more
Mar 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction-literary
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
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 th
Roman Clodia
Sep 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Woodrow wanted to protest: he was a friend to the Negro race, surely! He was a Democrat. In every public utterance, he spoke of equality. Though he did not believe in women's suffrage - certainly... So long as Negroes - darkies, as they were fondly called, in Woodrow's childhood - knew their place, and were not derelict as servants and workers, Dr Wilson had very little prejudice against them, in most respects.

No-one, but no-one, other than JCO could have pulled off this baroque spectacular
Jun 25, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
To be frank, I find the use of historical figures as fictional characters to be something of a cheat. I also think it tampers unduly with the suspension of disbelief and makes it harder to immerse into a story. I think it strains a boundary that really shouldn't be taxed for anything less than a clear and compelling artistic reason. And there is so rarely a reason. I didn't find one in Beautiful Ruins, I didn't find one in Loving Frank, and I don't find one here. Perhaps someday, fifty years fro ...more
Heidi Garrett
Apr 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: paranormal
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
Terri Garey
Mar 21, 2013 rated it did not like it
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
Alyce (At Home With Books)
Jun 01, 2013 rated it did not like it
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
Mar 12, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: vampire
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
Oct 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
There is no easy way to review this book just like there is no easy way to read it.

The reader has a lot of work to do - it is up to you to decide exactly what happened here.

Set in 1905-1906 in Princeton, New Jersey it follows the misfortunes of the Slade family with significant input from other families that surround them and including Woodrow Wilson who is president of Princeton University at the time and Upton Sinclair who had just achieved success with his book 'The Jungle'.

The prose is meand
Apr 11, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 10, 2013 rated it did not like it
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
Sarah Mac
Long, dense, & challenging...but worth the effort if you're a fan of hardcore pastiche lit-fic. Be warned: this book deals irreverently with the 'hallowed past' & mocks those involved, whether real or fictional. It also pokes fun at an audience who expects the shiny veneer of a glorified past, as well as (obliquely) showing how little things have changed in the past century. If you're familiar with Oates' BLOODSMOOR ROMANCE, you'll know what to expect. Though the two aren't related, ACCURSED fee ...more
Mar 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I come and go on Joyce Carol Oates. That's fair. She's far too prolific to hit a homerun every time. And I've long since accepted that for every one of her books I like a lot , there will be ten more that I'm (at best) indifferent to. She's ambitious and sometimes this absolutely works in her favor (I thought "Blonde" was pretty great, even if it did occasionally read like Oates had been reading Delillo). I like it when people try something weird. Even if they fail, it's usually more interesting ...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

Other books in the series

The Gothic Saga (5 books)
  • Bellefleur
  • A Bloodsmoor Romance
  • Mysteries of Winterthurn (The Gothic Saga #3)
  • My Heart Laid Bare

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