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Publisher's Summary

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.

©1980 Joyce Carol Oates, Inc. (P)2020 Tantor

What listeners say about Bellefleur

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Old School Gothic Literature (Not a beach read)

If you are a light reader looking for a fast paced thriller, dont look here. This is a slow burn of a disturbing family saga that is not for those with short attention spans or a propensity for less lengthy reads. It is a long tale of love, loss, darkness, destruction, decay, and madness. If you don't want a creepy slow burn, don't attempt this book and then complain about its pacing or story. Its literatally the likes of dracula or frankenstein in prose (especially later in the series). Look no further if you want a 28 hour and 750+ page print listen and read resepctively, because this is a tale for the time of less serious works that seem to resemble every other that came before it (cough cough, domestic thrillers where the ending is the same or someone assumes anothers identity, blah blah blah. THIS IS A FANTASTIC READ AND LISTEN FOR GOTHIC HORROR.FICTION LOVERS.

8 people found this helpful

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Bellefleur

First, I have a confession. The reason I bought this audible was because Xe Sands was doing the narration. She has the perfect voice for audio.

Another confession.

I was lost as to who all the characters were. The family lineage was long and hard to keep track of. Once I understood who everyone was, I could enjoy the ride. So much strife and heartache in one family. There was a lot of back and forth in history. Knowing how long (27 hours and 28 minutes) I still plan to re-listen to find out what I missed. This was my first Joyce Carol Oates book.
Was it worth a credit? Did I mention Xe Sands? Yes

7 people found this helpful

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Already reviewed it BUT

Already wrote a review in Goodreads, but i just wanted to come here and say I LOVED THIS NARRATOR ! Idk why, I’ve never come here and said something like this about a narrator before, I don’t even know them! I just wanted to say it because it fit PERFECTLY with the novel! The kinda soft, airy, silky voice, mysterious, whispering most of the novel! Wow. I think i came and said this because at first I wasn’t convinced, but then WOW! Loved her

3 people found this helpful

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  • M
  • 04-26-20

So Good!

I adore this book....such a detailed, strange family saga. The narrator is perfect. Highly recommend and will listen again.

3 people found this helpful

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Mixed feelings

Let me start by saying the narrator was exceptional and her voice was such a pleasure to listen to. The book at times dragged on and I felt like was maybe going into detail about characters that really didn't pertain to story. Although it was a great book, there was to much violence towards human life and especially toward animal life. There were parts that was to dark for me. I don't regret listening to it, but would prefer less violence.

2 people found this helpful

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Emphatic 5 stars; Oates’s love letter to the Gothic

This book is for anyone who loves the Gothic (the novel’s influences are plainly on display, including Mary Shelley, Charlotte Brontë, Irving, Poe, James, and many others) or is interested in America’s very strange tumultuous 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries.

The narrative chronicling an aristocratic (as far as that word can apply to Americans) family’s modulations as it rises, falls, rises, and falls again is at once deliberately disjointed and punctuated with parallels and a continuity that adheres to a surprisingly plausible logic of its own. Whether it is indeed the “Bellefleur curse” as the more superstitious of the clan believe, or the natural ruptures of space-time as outlined in Bromwell Bellefleur’s monograph on anti-matter, some force either fantastical or natural (or likely somewhere in-between) unites and determines the lives of the denizens of Bellefleur manor and environs of Lake Noir.

Numerous Bellefleurs wax regrettable in their actions and beliefs, from unlikeable to downright despicable, but even so the prose is so unyieldingly beautiful that their very flaws are rendered poetic in ways both simple and infinitely complex. As the crumbling opulence of Bellefleur Manor leaves mere ruin in its wake, a heavy sadness permeates and perhaps unifies the narrative; the reader’s heart will break at the traumas experienced by even the most vulgar among the Bellefleurs, a truly haunted family.

Though this novel is an absolutely wild ride with innumerable, labyrinthine twists and turns, Oates avoids and actively shuns relying on cheap or superficial shocks and surprises, with of course some well-timed exceptions. She knows what she’s doing and broadcasts every move — in fact many of the beats of the episodes contained in this novel feel deeply familiar as they are firmly in step with the generic conventions of the Gothic novel. This is Oates’s clear and unapologetic love letter to the Gothic, offering a study and survey of the literary mode by lovingly treating its tropes with reverence.

Bellefleur is also highly American. Not only does it explore the ethos of amassing wealth, power, and prestige in the new world; and situate the racial and class division irreducibly part of the republic’s story sometimes front-and-center, always as contextual backdrop; but Critic Leslie Fiedler argued that American fiction ends in catastrophe, and this novel pulls out the stops with its catastrophic conclusion. I’m fact, my sole gripe is that the over-the-top apocalyptic ending felt, for such a tightly-written and intentional work of literature, without enunciation and somewhat thin. Because this choice left me fairly baffled, I’m interested to see what others make of the ending — but at the same time I fully acknowledge that this is often a hallmark of an excellent read… and besides, endings to great novels rarely suffice where the only thing that would is more novel.

Xe Sands’s breathy performance brings the ghosts of Bellefleur to vivid, haunting life. The novel is brilliant, but the performance is a masterpiece.