The Accursed

  • by Joyce Carol Oates
  • Narrated by Grover Gardner
  • 22 hrs and 54 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

A major historical novel from "one of the great artistic forces of our time" (The Nation) - an eerie, unforgettable story of possession, power, and loss in early-20th-century Princeton, a cultural crossroads of the powerful and the damned.
Princeton, New Jersey, at the turn of the 20th century: a tranquil place to raise a family, a genteel town for genteel souls. But something dark and dangerous lurks at the edges of the town, corrupting and infecting its residents. Vampires and ghosts haunt the dreams of the innocent. A powerful curse besets the elite families of Princeton; their daughters begin 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, and who spreads his curse upon a richly deserving community of white Anglo-Saxon privilege. And in the Pine Barrens that border the town, a lush and terrifying underworld opens up.
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 Grover Cleveland, fresh out of his second term in the White House and retired to town for a quieter life, to soon-to-be commander in chief Woodrow Wilson, president of the university and a complex individual obsessed to the point of madness with his need to retain power; from the young Socialist idealist Upton Sinclair to his charismatic comrade Jack London, and the most famous writer of the era, Samuel Clemens/Mark Twain - all plagued by "accursed" visions.
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 supernatural elements to stunning effect.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Not for the typical Horror fan

What made the experience of listening to The Accursed the most enjoyable?

The story. It was incredibly multi-faceted, and made me feel more connected to characters that are otherwise unattainable in our present. Upton Sinclair, Mark Twain, Teddy Roosevelt, Jack London, Woodrow Wilson are just a few people who appear in Oates' book. I loved that I was listening to canon-worthy gothic novel.


Who was your favorite character and why?

Puss and Upton Sinclair were the stars of the book for me. Though, Puss doesn't last though the whole book. Upton Sinclair provides a sense of moral concreteness in line with what most of us believe in today, and acted as the voice of reason for the present day readers, as well as serving as a contrast to the conservative bigotry of the early 20th century.


What three words best describe Grover Gardner’s performance?

Odd, uncanny, imperfect


Who was the most memorable character of The Accursed and why?

Upton Sinclair, mostly because he is a powerful (yet meek) voice in the novel. Perhaps I just "heard" him more because I fall in line philosophically more than other characters.


Any additional comments?

If you are looking for a horror novel, this is not it. However, if you enjoy well-written literature that is rich with history and meaning, but also delves into the gothic, this is the book for you. To get through this book you must possess more than a desire to be frightened. If you are intrigued by dysfunction, love history, and get a kick out of the mystical (in addition to possessing some literary prowess) then read this book. I personally loved it, and even found myself frightened at times (like the violent scene featuring Copplestone). I implore you, if you are a true literature lover (not book lover, but literature lover) read this book. It is incredible, and worth the decades of effort Oates put into it.

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- Amanda

Social Issues Abound in Mixed Genre--

Looking for a spooky vampire/ghost book? This isn't it.

How about an easy book to listen to that flows smoothly? Nope.

Anyone who reads Joyce Carol Oates knows that isn't what she is about. Nothing is ever really black and white. This is a massive undertaking by Oates which took decades of research and writing (it apparently was developed over 30 years.) Still, I think it kind of fell flat.

I don't even know if I could really call this work by Oates enjoyable. I loved some prior novels like We Were the Mulvaneys and The Falls. This one takes work to get through.

SOCIAL INJUSTICE is front and center - social issues which still exist today. Racism, sexism, (lots of sexism) class hostility, and issues with the meat processing industry thrown in for good measure.

The "meat" of the book:

There is a Curse raging in Princeton, NJ against the elite blue-bloods. Told from the point of view of an amateur historian, the main character throughout is Rev. Winslow Slade and his family. His children are picked off one by one as they fall prey to demons or spirits. Of course, they are not the only casualties of the vampire/ghost things. All told with a metaphorical slant.

Although the book is basically historical fiction, there are real people involved in actual events from that time (1905-1906) -along with fictional characters to round out the drama.

Some of the real people involved were Woodrow Wilson, Upton Sinclair, Jack London, Grover Cleveland and Theodore Roosevelt. Mark Twain and Sherlock Holmes even make appearances. What do all these people have to do with each other? Not a lot.

There was an interesting exchange between Upton Sinclair and Jack London after Sinclair wrote The Jungle and he tried to engage London to help him with his social causes. London had also just written a best seller, and came to speak at a book event at the request of Sinclair--which didn't turn out as Sinclair had hoped.

Also, a lot of political maneuvering- some involving Woodrow Wilson and his mentor, Rev. Slade. Wilson was the President of Princeton University at the time, and had a lot of problems with the staff and students. He felt there were underhanded challenges to his authority, and looked to Slade for suggestions.

I found the spiritual/demon sprinkling throughout to be unnecessary and not very effective.

At times I was frustrated and disappointed with the sections that dragged (60%)
I found some of it interesting, when I would have a "finally" moment (20%)
Some of the novel could have been eliminated without losing content (20%)

I got through the whole thing partly due to the excellent narration by Grover Gardner.

Even so, I don't think I could give this a favorable recommendation unless you are a complete Oates die-hard fan--and are prepared to be bored a large part of the time.


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- Jacqueline

Book Details

  • Release Date: 03-05-2013
  • Publisher: HarperAudio