First edition cover
|Author||Joyce Carol Oates|
|ISBN||0-525-06302-1 (first edition)|
|LC Class||PS3565.A8 B44|
|Preceded by||Unholy Loves|
|Followed by||Angel of Light|
Bellefleur is a magic realist novel by Joyce Carol Oates about the generations of an upstate New York family. It is the first book in Oates' "Gothic Saga" and at the time of publication represented a major departure from the modern-day themes about which Oates had written up to that point. In this somewhat dense and frequently meandering novel, Oates takes readers into the imagined lives of seven generations of a single, often inbred American family, the Bellefleurs, all of whom reside on an estate in New York that is roughly the size of a small nation. (At times it is hinted that the dimensions of the Bellefleur property defy both logic and normal rules of time, place, and boundaries, as it seems to contain within its reaches towering mountains, great forests, sites of industry, rivers, fabulous formal gardens, and a mansion of strikingly immense proportions.) In this initial volume of Oates' Gothic series, the author makes significant use of magic realism, and in so doing is freed up from the restrictions of both linear and physical reality. Themes within this epic novel include self-imposed isolation, redemption, telekinesis, prophecy, family curses, the effect of limitless wealth on individual and collective morality, and whether or not a set structure may be maintained in the face of the pressure exerted by the forces of seemingly inevitable change. Often found to be a challenging read, Bellefleur was, at the time of its release in 1980, among the more commercially successful novels Joyce Carol Oates had written up to that point. The praise it garnered has been cited by many as an impetus that encouraged Oates to expound upon Gothic themes further in her subsequent novels A Bloodsmoor Romance (1983), Mysteries of Winterthurn (1984), My Heart Laid Bare (1999), and most recently in The Accursed (2013).
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