Gothic fiction is perhaps my favourite genre of all, so it feels long overdue that I recommend a few favourites. As always with this series, I invite you all to exchange your own recommendations in return.
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
This, to me, is the epitome of the gothic genre at its very best. Secrets, lies, intrigue and mystery seep from the pages, as tension builds throughout. The atmosphere is enthralling and utterly immersive, with a sense of something sinister always lurking just beneath the surface. Plot wise, we follow a newly married young woman as she arrives at her husband’s estate, to find that the presence and influence of his deceased first wife still hangs over the house. At face value, it’s a fantastically gripping story, but there’s also so much else going on thematically if you want to dig a little deeper.
We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
This book explores notions of madness, isolation, sisterhood and othering, in a subtly affecting and deeply unsettling tale of two sisters who have been shunned from society following the strange deaths of their entire family. The narrator is a fascinating character; one that is as delightful as she is disturbed. There is a brewing sense of unease and an otherworldly tone throughout, and understated fairy tale-esque parallels towards the end that are incredibly effective in ramping up the book’s sinister edge.
The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell
This fairly recent addition to the genre features many of the classic components that have made it famous, including an isolated rural setting, a grand manor house, and a heroine out of her depth. In many ways, it could thus be seen as a love letter to the genre. There’s an undertone of witchcraft, and a flirtation between outright ghost story and possible madness in the mind of our protagonist, which I thought worked really well. There’s also a literary flair to the writing and a slight sense of whimsy that suited the tone of the novel, as well as a story-within-a-story structure that was implemented very successfully.
The Book Collector by Alice Thompson
Books, fairy tales, madness and murder – what’s not to love? This tale of obsession raises questions about what it really means to be insane, and explores the warped control that men so often had over women in the narratives of classic fairy tales; all with a deliciously sinister and feminist twist. Thompson’s writing is straight forward, and the story has a good sense of momentum and inevitability, which does well to draw allusions to the masterworks of both fairy tales and gothic literature that this book draws from and celebrates.
What are some of your favourite gothic reads? Let’s chat about them!