It’s time for my second seasonal writing challenge! Over the summer I attempted to tackled an enormous amount of Southern writers’ work that I had never gotten to before, and even though I wasn’t able to reach my goal, the books I did read were awesome. Now it’s time to move on to a genre that I am better versed in: Gothic literature!
I took a Gothic lit class in college, and we hit the classics like Poe, Jane Eyre, and The Castle of Otronto, but there are so many good ones out there. I even allowed some flexibility to bring in some more recent gothic literature, because sometimes the old stuff can get, well, old. Please don’t be turned off by that, we should all be reading Gothic literature.
I chose Gothic novels for the fall (October through December) because obviously the fall is a dark and spooky (yet beautiful) time of year. You feel naturally inclined to curl up under a blanket with a cup of tea and a creepy book. And obviously there’s Halloween. Next fall I will probably pick more modern horror novels (because I have a couple of holes in that genre as well), but this year I wanted to get back to the basics.
Here are the Gothic novels in (flexible) order of how I will read them:
• The Romance of the Forest (1791, Ann Radcliffe): I have not read any Ann Radcliffe, which is shameful, as she is the Big Mamma Bear of gothic literature and a pioneer for female authors. Trying to decide which Radcliffe to read was basically torture, but I decided on The Romance because it was her first big hit and is also reference in Austen’s Northanger Abbey constantly (as are all of Radcliffe’s novels, actually), and Northanger is my favorite Austen.
• The Vampyre (1819, John William Polidori): Technically a novella, this precursor to Dracula is usually considered the first romantic vampire novel. It’s the novel that took all the folklore and tales about vampirism and crafted coherent rules and a world for it to exist in. This one seems to lean a bit more on the horror side, which should be fun and lively!
• The House of the Seven Gables (1851, Nathaniel Hawthrone): I have heard wildly conflicting things about this novel, which goes through the history of a house belonging to Hawthorne’s relatives and dates all the way back to the Salem witch trails. Apparently, there’s some creepy shit in said house. I guess we shall see. If Hawthorne’s Young Goodman Brown is any indication, I think I’m going to like this one.
• The Phantom of the Opera (1909, Gaston Leroux): Originally viewed as a trashy novel, this more tantalizing story has really stuck with our culture throughout history. I’ve been dying to read it, and am hoping it provides me with some light-hearted ridiculousness. I’m going to need a bit of fluff.
• Wuthering Heights (1847, Emily Bronte): This was one of the classics that I was never assigned in high school or college, so I never got around to it. It’s been one of those novels that has sat on my shelf, calling to me, for years. I’m excited to have a reason to pick it up finally.
• We Have Always Lived in the Castle (1962, Shirley Jackson): I have read zero Jackson outside of The Lottery and am so excited to get some in. My Mom lent me a copy of this years ago, I doubt she even remembers I have it, and I wanted to throw it on this list so a) I could read more Jackson and b) I could compare 19th century gothic with 20th century gothic.
• The Monk (1796, Matthew Lewis): Talk about a fucked up gothic novel. This 1796 classic follows the demented Ambrosio, a Capuchin superior, who becomes obsessed with a young woman and spirals into all kinds of debauchery. This book was a massive scandal when first published. I was assigned it in my gothic lit class in college, but because it was college I was unable to read the entire thing. I just skimmed through the important parts and read what I could when I could. I’ve really wanted to reread it for a while now, so if I have time during this challenge I’ll get back to it!
• The Woman in White (1860, Wilkie Collins): This is a hybrid novel, and will act as my transition into my winter genre (mystery/detective novels). Considered one of the first true mystery and detective novels, The Woman in White follows young art teacher Walter Hartright as he tries to identify a mysterious woman he met on a dark road who turns out to be an escaped patient from a local asylum. This is one that I’ll try to read in the fall, but it works just as well (if not better) with my winter reading list.
As always, I’d love it if you participated with me! The great thing about most of these older novels is that you can get FREE public domain ebooks for your Kindle (or whatever you use) and very very cheap (.99) audio books. If you’ve already read any of these, or have other suggestions that you think I should pick up in the future, tell me about it in the comments. Get ready for a messed up fall!