20 Must-Read Gothic Novels (that are not Rebecca)
Guest Blog by Lynda Andrews
I am a musician, not a writer; but I can recognize great writing when I read it.
According to experts in the field, that is also how you know if you've gotten hold of a Gothic novel - you know it when you read it.
Gothic literature places the reader not only in a setting but in a mood. It is a sense that something bad is going to happen and there's nothing you can do about it; a creeping edginess or suspense.
Take this sentence, for example: “It was a dark and stormy night.”
Evocative, right? And that’s what we’re looking for when we're searching for good Gothic literature.
My first experience reading Gothic stories was as a child - the collection of Fairy Tales by the Brothers Grimm. These fairy tales have evolved over time to be more child-friendly, but in their original form, many are dark and scary (like in Cinderella when her stepsister cut the heel of her foot off in order to make her foot fit!).
Castles, manors in the woods (or atop mountains), and characters innocently caught in sinister plots are de rigueur in a Gothic tale.
I am excited to share 20 Must-Read Gothic Novels (that are not Rebecca) in hopes that you might enjoy a shiver (or two!) down your spine as you begin reading one on a dark and stormy night this month.
The Historian by Elizabeeth Kostova
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova is another perfect example of a Gothic tale. It is the story of a young woman who discovers that her family’s secrets of the past are connected to an ancient evil and a pact. Her search for the truth takes the reader on an adventure through ancient monasteries, dusty libraries, aged capitals, castles, and the mountains of Eastern Europe.
From the first few pages, a sense of creeping dread begins to grow…
Cousin Kate by Georgette Heyer
This next is an unexpected book by an author the Pretty Literate Community has come to know and enjoy. It is by Regency author, Georgette Heyer, and the title is Cousin Kate. Heyer’s Gothic Romance, Cousin Kate, is a bright, beautiful, and poor title character who is seemingly rescued from her situation by an aunt and taken to live with her in the aunt’s old manor house in the English countryside. Kate is to be a companion of sorts to her cousin Torquil, who, although charming, has mercurial changes of temperament.
All is not as it seems as undercurrents become noticeable and tortured screams are heard in the night.
Things in Jars by Jess Kidd
Jess Kidd wrote another of my favorite Gothic novels titled Things In Jars, a tale about an imaginative, magical, and darker world than our own. Taking place in Victorian London, her descriptions of the streets, smells, sounds, and sights guarantee a Gothic mood. The heroine, Bridie Devine, is a detective searching for a missing child. While on that path, she also finds secrets about her own past in this Gothic thriller where nothing is really what it seems to be.
Lost by Gregory Maguire
Lost by Gregory Maguire is unique in this list in that it has the distinction of being the sole Gothic Ghost Story. In Lost, Winifred Rutledge is a writer who travels to London to gather ideas for her new book about a woman who is haunted by the ghost of Jack the Ripper. She is supposed to stay with her step-cousin, John, but when she arrives she finds that he has disappeared.
She senses a “presence” in his home in the wake of his disappearance.
Fairy Tale by Stephen King
Stephen King is well known as an author of Horror, but he is also a writer with a wonderful perception of the depth of human emotions and motives. Fairy Tale is one such story by King, a Gothic fantasy about 17-year-old Charlie who befriends an old man and his dog, Radar. The old man and his dog, Radar, live reclusively in a big house on top of a hill. Charlie loses his heart to Radar and gains the trust of the old man, who dies and leaves Charlie a cassette tape telling him a story that no one would believe. In this fairy tale, good is pitted against terrible evil, and Charlie and Radar must lead the battle.
Bonus Book: Eyes of the Dragon is another great Gothic Fantasy by Stephen King that is well worth the read if you can find it.
If you’re feeling the Gothic vibes I’m dropping with this list of Must-Read Gothic Novels (that are not REBECCA), here are 13 more Gothic Book Recs you might be interested in -
- Anything by Victoria Holt - the queen of the Gothic mood. (Start with The Time of the Hunter’s Moon or The India Fan.)
- The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
- Interview With the Vampire by Anne Rice
- The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
- The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving
- Dracula by Bram Stoker
- Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
- Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
- Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
- The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle
- Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
- The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe
- The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux
Got Gothic Titles to Share?
If you love good Gothic Novels like this week's Guest Blogger, Lynda, please add your book recs in the comments and keep this list growing.