Oates has written a Gothic whodunit loaded with historical wonderings, romantic intrigue psychological pondering and more than a little humor - even a bit of slapstick from Jack London, Upton Sinclair and Teddy Roosevelt, all done with the charm and nuance that make Oates one of the best of the best. “Our lives can only be interpreted in retrospect, yet must be lived from day to day, blindly.”: So says Josiah Slade, the intrepid hero of the tale seeking to avenge the honor of his sister or know the reason why. It is Princeton, New Jersey, 1905, and the new industrialism is creeping up like women’s hemlines when Annabel Slade is carried off by a toad-like yet compelling lothario named Axson Mayte who seems to have cast a spell over the entire community. Mayte takes her to the murky Bog Kingdom where demons dance a merry dance, Annabel suffers and people wonder what happened. Did demons really help found Princeton University? Eventually it is made clear in true melodramatic style that will keep you guessing until the end.— Richard, Pittsburgh
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-twentieth-century Princeton, a cultural crossroads of the powerful and the damned
Princeton, New Jersey, at the turn of the twentieth 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 universityand 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.
“[The Accursed] is in addition to being a thrilling tale in the best gothic tradition, a lesson in master craftsmanship...The story sprawls, reaches, demands, tears, and shrieks in homage to the traditional gothic, yet with fresh, surprising twists and turns... Oates has given us a brilliantly crafted work .”
-Publishers Weekly (starred review)