Joyce Carol Oates is one of those highly acclaimed literary authors whose books I’ve been meaning to read for a long time. However, since I tend to favour speculative fiction over literary fiction, it was only when I saw The Accursed, an “eerie tale of psychological horror” that combines both types of fiction, that I jumped at the chance to start reading Oates’s work. This novel marks a departure from her usual style, so it might not be the best place to start, but I’m looking forward to it nevertheless.
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 neighbouring farm, muck-raking novelist Upton Sinclair, enjoying the success of The Jungle, has taken up residence with his family. Grover Cleveland, fresh out of his second term in the White House has retired to town for a quieter life. Meanwhile, the elite families of Princeton have been beset by a powerful curse—their daughters are disappearing. A young bride on the verge of the altar is seduced and abducted by a dangerously compelling man—a shape-shifting, vaguely European prince who might just be the devil. In the Pine Barrens on the edge of town, a mysterious and persuasive evil takes shape.
When the bride’s brother sets out against all odds to find her, his path will cross those of Princeton’s most formidable people, from presidents past to its brightest literary luminaries, from Mark Twain to Jack London, as he navigates both the idyllic town and the Dante-esque landscape of the Barrens.
An utterly fresh work from Oates, THE ACCURSED marks new territory for the masterful writer–narrated with her unmistakable psychological insight, it combines beautifully transporting historical detail with chilling fantastical elements to stunning effect.
The Accursed will be published on 5 March 2013 by Fourth Estate, an imprint of HarperCollins UK.