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A Bloodsmoor Romance by Joyce Carol Oates

A Bloodsmoor Romance

by Joyce Carol Oates

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201458,418 (3.95)56



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Wow...well, my goodness, this one is downright odd, at times bizarre, yet delightful with language that is unique and contemplative, beautiful at the same time as grotesque, and loaded with interesting humor... it's a typical JCO novel. A Bloodsmoor Romance follows Bellefleur in the "American Gothic" Quartet, which also includes Mysteries of Winterthurn and My Heart Laid Bare. Like any book by JCO, if you read it and take it too seriously you will get into trouble with this book right away...even I had to adjust to it, at first I didn't like it as well as other JCO books, but it grew on me as it chugged along with the power of a long, long, long freight train hauling boxcars loaded with trunk loads of human baggage and fuel for the fire of the human spirit, and it became a dear friend (who I will miss). I learned about the book through reading The Journal of Joyce Carol Oates 1973-1982 and loved learning about her writing process, and how much she loved writing this book (which I totally relate to) and found a battered used copy somewhere in my travels, and decided to give it a whirl. Much like Bellefleur, it possesses a life of its own and at its heart beats the drum of the American Dream as it rises and falls in the rhythm of life as it is lived by the individuals in this multi-layered tale. There is a stunning realism that is blended with the wild fantasy of a “gothic romance”...a rogue peddler's son becoming a distinguished gentleman/inventor; runaway daughters finding their way in the world by breaking free of the constraints of familial expectations and traditions of the time. I could keep writing more...but I don't want to give it all away! Give it a chance, and come to it with an open mind. ( )
1 vote LauraJWRyan | May 21, 2011 |
I did not like this book. It was so contrived with respect to language and the sarcastic tone of the narrator. Could not finish it and ended up skimming most of it. ( )
  lindawwilson | Sep 16, 2010 |
A Bloodsmoor Romance is set in the last half of the 19th century in a fictional area outside Philadelphia called the Bloodsmoor Valley. It is a chronicle of the Zinn family: father, John Quincy Zinn; mother, Prudence of the esteemed Kiddemaster family; biological daughters: Constance Phillipa, Malvinia, Octavia, and Samantha, and adopted youngest daughter Deidre.

Our chronicle is narrated by a virginal, moral, Christian woman of "hallowed years" and delivered in an appropriate elevated language as befitting our narrator's standing in society. She becomes, over the course of the novel, another character in the book—indeed—I do believe she is a bit shell-shocked by the end of her tale.

Our tale begins with the hot air balloon kidnapping of young Deidre. I say "begins" for we are told that it happens, but it takes our narrator 75 pages of delightfully frustrating digressions to actually get to the details. In the meanwhile, we have been introduced to the whole family of marriageable daughters.

It is no accident that JCO has chosen a family of daughters which reminds us of Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. The character of the parents are drawn somewhat from the very real Bronson and Abigail Alcott, parents of Louisa May, who so heavily drew on her own family for her "Little Women."* That book is an American classic but here JCO gives us all the great stuff that a 19th century American novel like "Little Women" couldn't tell us.

Besides the delightful language which the reader cannot help but chortle over at times, especially when our narrator is attempting to tell us something about sex (referred to as "the unitary act") and the wild, passionate and erotic undercurrents in the story,—some of which I just had to read out loud to my husband—there is almost every possible Victorian literary trope included: illegitimate children, fallen women, inheritance plots, scandals, money, spiritualism and ghosts, time machines...etc. It's hard not to think of various novels of the 19th century from both sides of the pond while reading this spectacular book.

I have purposely chosen not to given you details of the plot, which I'm sure you can find elsewhere if you must, but I think you will enjoy having the story revealed to you as I did. A Bloodsmoor Romance is part satire and part homage, a delightful send-up of societal mores and a must read for those who adore the 19th century literature, both British and the more moral American, and particularly the Victorian romance. It is wryly witty and a great joy to read. ( )
2 vote avaland | Jul 21, 2010 |
Very enjoyable! ( )
  bookheaven | Aug 14, 2006 |
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Chronicles the notable departures made by the 5 daughters of the house from Broadsmoor Valley, beginning with adopted daughter Deirdre Zinn, who is abducted in broad daylight.

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