With the temperature taking a dive and the leaves continuing to drop off the trees, this week is the perfect time to curl up inside with a good book and lose yourself in a story. For Halloween season, I’ve put together a list of the best Gothic literature to get your fangs into and keep you on the edge of your seat!
Frankenstein– Mary Shelley
Penned by the mother of science fiction herself, Frankenstein is probably the perfect novel to read on Halloween night. We all know the story, but have you read the original? Years ahead of her time, Shelley’s novel follows an ambitious Victor Frankenstein as he succeeds in doing what no-one else has: creating a monster. Often greatly simplified in translation, themes such as the danger of knowledge and ambition run through this book, framed by the narrative tool of letters. A must-read for a suitably dark and stormy night.
The Bloody Chamber– Angela Carter
A collection of deliciously dark and gripping short stories, The Bloody Chamber is Angela Carter’s own gothic retellings of traditional fairy tales. She takes the bare bones from the original stories collected by the brothers Grimm and reworks them into subversive, largely feminist pieces. My personal favourites include ‘The Company of Wolves’, a reinvention of ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ that turns the traditional power dynamic on its head, and the ‘The Bloody Chamber’ itself, a story about a girl who suspects the worst about her new husband.
Dracula– Bram Stoker
Dracula is surely one the most fitting reads for the spooky season. It follows young lawyer Jonathan Harker as he makes his way to Transylvania to meet a nobleman called Count Dracula. Harker soon realises that something is amiss with the Count and finds himself trapped in the castle. This novel has supernatural occurrences hovering around every corner and features well-known characters like Van Helsing, the vampire slayer. This is gothic horror at its best, and is a must-read for lovers of the genre.
The Distant Hours– Kate Morton
The most modern book on this list, The Distant Hours is an atmospheric, dreamy story that flicks between the past and the present. It follows Edie, who receives a mysterious letter in the post one day and finds herself travelling to a run-down castle in search of her mother’s secrets. Traditional Gothic elements, such as forbidden love, madness and familial secrets, are woven into a gripping plot with rich, evocative language. This is one for those who aren’t a fan of traditional Gothic literature!
Rebecca- Daphne Du Maurier
With that said, if you want a good ghost story, then look no further. Daphne Du Maurier’s best seller hasn’t been out of print since it was published in 1938. It tells the story of a new bride who feels she’s being haunted by the memory of her husband’s deceased first wife. Mysterious, tense and with a dream-like atmosphere, this is a classic that can’t be beaten.
Wuthering Heights- Emily Brontë
Doomed love, tempestuous relationships and wild, unforgiving moors; what’s not to like! Emily Brontë’s only novel is one of the most celebrated of all time. It follows the spirited Heathcliff as he seeks revenge on those who wronged him and tries to get back the woman he loves. Set in the uncontrollable Yorkshire moors and full of longing and loss, this is a great one for when it’s raining outside, and the wind is blowing.
Pet Sematary- Stephen King
Many a Stephen King book could’ve made it onto this list, but Pet Sematary is one of his best. After a boy’s cat is hit by a car, his father Louis is compelled to bury it in the mysterious ‘Pet Sematary’ and is surprised to find it alive and well the next day! When a family member tragically dies, Louis goes against warnings and decides to try the same thing again, which results in disastrous consequences. Stephen King has called this book one of his most disturbing creations and even initially refused to publish it, so be prepared for some serious scares!
Get in your dressing gown, light a candle or two and settle in for a cosy evening. Just make sure you don’t forget to lock the door!