The Accursed

The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates
Published by Fourth Estate
Published 5 March 2013
669 pages

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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 his family. This is a quiet, bookish community – elite, intellectual and indisputably privileged. But when a savage lynching in a nearby town is hushed up, a horrifying chain of events is initiated – until it becomes apparent that the families of Princeton have been beset by a powerful curse. The Devil has come to this little town and not a soul will be spared. ‘The Accursed’ marks new territory for the masterful Joyce Carol Oates – narrated with her unmistakable psychological insight, it combines beautifully transporting historical detail with chilling fantastical elements to stunning effect.


It was at this moment that the young women made their discovery that Todd and Thor were nowhere in sight; though the boy’s shouts and laughter, and the dog’s wild barking, seemed to be echoing from all directions of the forest.


Oh boy, am I glad to have finished The Accursed. I did not get on with this one at all. I’ve enjoyed the other books in her Gothic series especially Bellefleur and The Mysteries of Winterthurn so was really looking forward to this one. I really disliked it. I found the book boring and tedious at times, like watching paint dry R E A L L Y S L O W L Y. The Accused is written in a very old-fashioned style reminiscent of traditional gothic horror novels written in the 17th or 18th century and did not work for me. I felt like I had to wade through the book. The plot makes the book sound quite a gruesome horror read and something enjoyable (like Dracula) but the prose is so dense it got on my nerves. I swear I nodded off a few times. I have no idea what JCO was trying to do with The Accursed but she failed miserably. I felt cursed having to read pages and pages of tedious rambling. I have a migraine now. This book shows that even great writers get it wrong sometimes. I did not enjoy The Accursed and would not recommend it. I did try to read the book before and got a similar impression after a few chapters but thought I’d take another shot at it. Clearly my first impressions were right. It may be me; I generally dislike books written in old-fashioned, dense prose. If you like that sort of thing knock yourself out,




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