Bellefleur by Joyce Carol Oates

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A wealthy and notorious clan, the Bellefleurs live in a region not unlike the Adirondacks, in an enormous mansion on the shores of mythic Lake Noir. They own vast lands and profitable businesses, they employ their neighbors, and they influence the government. A prolific and eccentric group, they include several millionaires, a mass murderer, a spiritual seeker who climbs into the mountains looking for God, a wealthy noctambulist who dies of a chicken scratch.

Bellefleur traces the lives of several generations of this unusual family. At its center is Gideon Bellefleur and his imperious, somewhat psychic, very beautiful wife, Leah, their three children (one with frightening psychic abilities), and the servants and relatives, living and dead, who inhabit the mansion and its environs. Their story offers a profound look at the world's changeableness, time and eternity, space and soul, pride and physicality versus love. Bellefleur is an allegory of caritas versus cupiditas, love and selflessness versus pride and selfishness. It is a novel of change, baffling complexity, mystery.

Written with a voluptuousness and startling immediacy that transcends Joyce Carol Oates's early works, Bellefleur is widely regarded as a masterwork—a feat of literary genius that forces us "to ask again how anyone can possibly write such books, such absolutely convincing scenes, rousing in us, again and again, the familiar Oates effect, the point of all her art: joyful terror gradually ebbing toward wonder" (John Gardner).


About Joyce Carol Oates

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Joyce Carol Oates is a recipient of the National Medal of Humanities, the National Book Critics Circle Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award, the Chicago Tribune Lifetime Achievement Award, the National Book Award, and the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction, and has been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. She has written some of the most enduring fiction of our time, including the national bestsellers We Were the Mulvaneys, Blonde, which was nominated for the National Book Award, and the New York Times bestseller The Falls, which won the 2005 Prix Femina. She is the Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at Princeton University and has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters since 1978.
Published June 25, 2013 by Ecco. 755 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction, Romance, History. Fiction

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There are recurring motifs (revenge, sin, God, modes of transport), a stream of surreal creatures (a knowing dwarf, powerful cats and dogs, rats all through the mansion, a black bear who married a 19th-century Bellefleur), and an apocalyptic finale--in which Gideon, still philandering but sick of...

Oct 02 2011 | Read Full Review of Bellefleur


Oates has written a dozen novels (including Them, which may be the closest approximation to the Great American Novel), 11 books of short stories and eight more of criticism and poetry.

Sep 08 1980 | Read Full Review of Bellefleur

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