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A Garden of Earthly Delights (Wonderland Quartet #1)

3.8  ·  Rating details ·  1,402 Ratings  ·  140 Reviews
Joyce Carol Oates’s Wonderland Quartet comprises four remarkable novels that explore social class in America and the inner lives of young Americans. In A Garden of Earthly Delights, Oates presents one of her most memorable heroines, Clara Walpole, the beautiful daughter of Kentucky-born migrant farmworkers. Desperate to rise above her haphazard existence of violence and po ...more
ebook, 432 pages
Published March 25th 2009 by Modern Library (first published 1967)
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Larry Bassett
Feb 27, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This book was published in 1967 and is the first book of the Wonderland Quartet. That year I was a junior at the University of Michigan, married with a one year old son. I had recently avoided being drafted because I was a father. I worked almost full time at the Ann Arbor Post Office as an evening special delivery carrier. I would end up having an English major with only the slightest knowledge of Joyce Carol Oates who was 29 when A Garden of Earthly Delights was published.

In this book JCO writ
May 22, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A Garden of Earthly Delights by Joyce Carol Oates is a 2009 Random House publication.

At some point in time, I acquired a paperback copy of ‘Expensive People’ the second book in the ‘Wonderland Quartet’. It has been sitting on my shelves for several years, but recently I have been craving something different, so I took this book down, planning to read it immediately, only to discover it was part of a quartet of books, and although no one has said it was absolutely necessary to read the books in
Aug 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
L'epopea americana ripercorre gli anni 40 e 50, comincia in Arkansas e finisce nello stato di NewYork; coinvolge tre generazioni e i capitoli da cui è composto questo primo libro sono dedicati ai rappresentanti di ciascuna: Carleton Walpole, sua figlia Clara, e Swan, il figlio di lei.
Oates lo scrisse ancora giovanissima (ora rivisto e corretto), ripercorrendo a tratti la vita dei suoi genitori e dei braccianti raccoglitori che negli anni 40 si spostavano su scalcinati bus per andare a lavorare
Mar 31, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 5-star-books
Joyce Carol Oates originally wrote this book in 1965. In 2002, she decided to rewrite the book and give a greater voice and depth to the main characters in the book without changing the overall story or the characters. She ended up rewriting 3/4 of the book. I don't know what the original book was like, but this edition is fantastic.

This is the story of Clara, the young, beautiful daughter of migrant farmworkers, who is determined to get out of this nomadic life of violence, poverty and prejudi
Apr 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Janice, Belinda
After a ten year boycott on all things Oatesian, I picked up this particular Oates book on the basis that it sounded like none of the other books by her that I had read before, thus the appeal. From the beginning of this book I was not disappointed.

The first book in the Wonderland quartet, the story starts in the life of Carleton Walpole, a migrant worker who is on the road with his exceptionally pregnant wife. During an accident Carleton's wife gives birth to Clara who becomes the apple of Carl
Jun 16, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Every now and then I read a book and while reading it I think “Now, this, this is literature.” I am then usually filled with a conflict of emotions. On the one hand I am humbled and amazed and think that there is no way I will ever be able to write something like this. On the other hand I am giddy with delight and grateful that my eyes continue to allow me read things like this. Such is the case of Joyce Carol Oates’ A Garden of Earthly Delights.

Now, Oates is a bit of an acquired taste… her pros
Amante Libri
Dec 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Un romanzo dagli innumerevoli temi: la perdita dell'anima, dell'identità personale, l'essere contrapposto all'avere, il tormento del vivere, la gara impari contro se stessi e il destino che appare ineluttabile.
Un mondo che crolla e si sgretola, tutto il dolore, il tormento e l'ingiustizia esistenti nelle vite umane, la disillusione e la rabbia, l'impotenza.
Un romanzo denso, personaggi complessi e vividi, il degrado e la miseria dell'essere.
Splendido libro.

Il giardino delle delizie
Joyce Carol
Nov 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the most mesmerizing imaginative works (novels, poetry, plays, etc.) I've encountered in years. More than any novel I can recall, the prose delivers you directly into the minds of others (three generations of Walpoles, specifically). It is disturbing how subtly Oates can establish not just an identity but a frame of perception, a struggling soul's habits of mind.

That Oates manages this while always avoiding the first person narrative voice, and skipping from a father, to a daughte
Mar 14, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is not a book for the fainthearted when it comes to reading stamina. Oates is a prolific, masterful writer and A Garden of Earthly Delights comes alive with her prose.

The story revolves around the beautiful Clara, and her life and circumstances that are shaped by the three men in her life- her father, her husband, and her son. It was difficult for me to get through the first third of the book, about Clara and her wilful father Carleton, because the writing was so harsh and choppy, it requi
William Baker
A wonderful story of losing one's soul, in an atheist's narration. I'm looking forward to reading the other volumes of the quadrilogy.
May 22, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I wanted to like this book more than I did. In a way it's like an old Appalachian folk song, with gothic overtones: you can see the bad ending a mile away.

Oates evidently did extensive revisions for this edition, and the book does get better as it goes along. Yet though she claims to have added complexity to the characterizations, they still seemed very much to be types to me. Not exactly stereotypical, but predictable enough to keep from really surprising me as a reader. Hopeless migrant worker
Mar 13, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Based on such high ratings and the fact that I enjoyed another book by this author, I thought this book would be a winner. Instead I found it much too wordy. Character development was choppy and in the end I didn't like a single character in this book. The author began developing the main character, Clara, as a young girl who escaped a harsh life but before long I felt like I didn't know this character at all. Conversations between characters would drone on for pages at a time. I found myself sk ...more
Jul 04, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
An interesting book but I can't say I enjoyed reading it. the first half was better than the last half. the overall story was so depressing. You just felt so bad for these people and their sordid lives. I was a little disappointed with her writing, at times she just goes on and on and is hard to follow. Too wordy, I never thought I would say that about JCO but...... I will take a JCO vacation for awhile.
Mariano Hortal
Publicado en

“Un jardín de placeres terrenales” de Joyce Carol Oates. La génesis de una gran escritora

Cuando empecé con “Un jardín de placeres terrenales” no me fijé demasiado en el título ni en la portada del libro; para nada, mi referencia era la escritora, Joyce Carol Oates, a quien conocía bastante bien; lo segundo que tenía en cuenta era empezar a conocer desde sus inicios a la norteamericana con todos sus libros incluidos en Mi proyecto literario (qu
Aug 28, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned
I found this book from an article in which famous authors named their favorite books. I can't remember who recommended this, and she's lucky because I would probably quit reading her books in protest.

I faithfully read every word of the relentlessly depressing first third of the book, and kept thinking it was like someone decided the Ewells were the best part of "To Kill a Mockingbird," and they needed their own spinoff. Trust me, they don't. The first third of the book takes us into the filth of
Elise Barker
May 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I can't believe I'm already done with this. It was a hard read, emotionally, but also quick because it is so engaging. I might need to get some distance to give a real review because I'm still reeling from it. I am feeling under the weather and was closing my eyes earlier and just started crying because I couldn't stop thinking about it. It isn't despairing or a feeling of victimhood but this book is undeniably about deep loss. I hope to edit this review later when I'm feeling less raw.
Jun 17, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Heavy, prolific and moving. Clara is a character I could relate to and at times could not understand at all. Her life and her character are so defined and altered by the men in her life, which was troublesome, but also makes her more sympathetic - despite her best efforts she has so little control. It's the kind of story you know comes from a very real place because the characters are constantly being disappointed. Clara's struggles, her actions, have a great effect, not just on her, but on the ...more
Aug 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I legami che annunciano la disfatta e taglienti scenari metaforici.
Ecco di cosa è fatto questo primo volume dell'Epopea americana della Oates. Il sogno americano che si sgretola in una città piccola, e prima ancora nei campi dove lavorano i braccianti, si sgretola in una maniera evocativa, in un modo così brillante da far male agli occhi.
The first book in Oates's Wonderland quartet and the third of them that I've read (now just need to read Expensive People to finish up); A Garden of Earthly Delights is, like its sister novels them & Wonderland, beautifully and at times harrowingly written. Oates captures the lives of her careworn, desperate, bewildered characters with deep empathy and zero sentimentality or condescension. Her brief author's afterward in this revised and partially rewritten edition is a real bonus: fascinati ...more
Kaye McSpadden
This was Oates' second novel, originally written in 1966 and then significantly revised in 2002. I found the first third of the book, which focused on Clara's childhood in a migrant farmworker family, to be quite compelling. However, I could not quite connect with the latter parts of the story -- I couldn't quite understand Clara's adult character. Neither could I figure out her son, Swan. The 2002 Afterword, in which Oates shares her more mature reflections on this early work and what she attem ...more
Alina Rios
Nov 21, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is my first ever Joyce Carol Oates book and i am stunned at how talented she is. The subject matter didn't interest me at all. I picked up this book because it was the only one i found used that day at the bookstore and because i've been meaning to read something of hers. I have to say that from the first chapter i was hooked and couldn't put it down. It is very interesting to me, as a writer, how she switches narration, telling it from different characters' point of view. It is even more i ...more
May 10, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This was my first Joyce Carol Oates novel and it's a difficult read beginning with the lives of "white trash" migrant farmworkers in the United States. Teenager Clara somehow escapes this depressing life and finds herself torn between her unreliable saviour Lowry and lover Curt Revere. Her son Swan cuts a tragic figure. Protagonist Clara is a strong yet almost unlikeable character in a novel that takes a harsh look at the difference between the social classes. I would have given it more stars an ...more
Midnight Blue
Aug 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the story of Clara Walpole, a beautiful young girl born to migrant farm workers during the depression. It is the story of how she is neglected and raised in poverty, learns to manipulate men, becomes one of the richest women in her town....and then proceeds to raise her bastard son in an entirely different but no less devastating kind of neglect. A very good tale that reflects how the mistakes of a parent can become a vicious cycle that repeats itself.
Mar 30, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
My first exposure to Joyce Carol Oates and I will be reading more of her work. I found this one hard to get into at first, and later, hard to put down. This is an epic story of a woman's life, from the time she was born in a muddy ditch to her demise as a wealthy woman. I did not find Clara to be a particularly sympathetic character, and we did not get close enough to her. I felt like we were observing her and the family through a window. Still an engaging book and fab writing style.
Apr 20, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ironic title. Just know this.
This is an illuminating look at the life of a migrant worker, how she gets out of that lifestyle but is still haunted by it.
Helen Jacoby
Aug 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I bought the Kindle edition of this book on a whim because it was on sale. I've not previously read anything by Oates, so I don't know entirely how this book fits with her other works, but I really did enjoy and appreciate it. Although the book's sections are narrated each from a different character's point of view, the novel is really the story of Clara Walpole from the moment of her birth until a time near the end of her life. I actually found Clara a very sympathetic and fascinating character ...more
Lisbeth Solberg
One from the stacks: I'm glad I read it. Did I like it? Hmm. It was interesting, and I wanted the characters to figure things out and get happy for a minute, but that never really happened. Well, maybe for a minute. The story began during the Great Depression and definitely from an era before women (or men either, for that matter) had many options--or access to birth control. It sometimes felt like Steinbeck a little, but the characters weren't very sympathetic, or if they were, they quickly did ...more
Francesca Maccani
Jun 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
Traduttore: F. Crescentini

Editore: Il Saggiatore

Collana: La cultura

Anno edizione: 2017

Pagine: 520 p., Brossura

EAN: 9788842823490

Questo libro meraviglioso è il primo dei 4 volumi che compongono la quadrilogia dell'epopea americana di Joyce Carol Oates. Una scrittrice che, inutile dirlo, è un mostro sacro della letteratura statunitense.
Pochi libri credo mettano d'accordo i gusti dei lettori.
Questo è uno di quei romanzi che ti fanno rimanere attaccato alle pagine come se fossi seduto sui seggiolini
Martha Alami
Oct 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am a big fan of Joyce Carol Oates and somehow missed this quartet of books, written in the 1960s. I am so glad I found this one and am looking forward to reading the other three! Oates has such a deep ability to describe and write about characters and in this novel she does not disappoint. Clara is one of the most enigmatic characters I think Oates has ever created. Her background and life as the daughter of a sharecropper, her life as a mistress and the wife of Revere, and most of all her rel ...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

Wonderland Quartet (4 books)
  • Expensive People (Wonderland Quartet, #2)
  • Them (Wonderland Quartet, #3)
  • Wonderland (Wonderland Quartet, #4)
“Like the philosophy credited to Jack Dempsey: The more punches a man takes, the closer he is to the end. Because a man has only a fixed number of punches he can take in his lifetime. “Pa?” 2 likes
“Of course, a literary work is a kind of nest: an elaborately and painstakingly woven nest of words incorporating chunks and fragments of the writer's life in an imagined structure, as a bird's nest incorporates all manner of items from the world outside our windows, ingeniously woven together in an original design.” 0 likes
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