Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Your Favorite Gothics

I thought it might be fun to make a list of favorite Gothic Novels-- say our top 3, 5, 7, 8, or 10. I have chosen a Top 7 to leave room for others I haven't found yet. If you have three or five, that is great, too. A reader commented yesterday that another top list that was begun in the comments was helpful. So, here's my top 7 with a little blurb about why:

1. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte-- This novel is the one that made me fall in love with Gothic Novels. The obsessive romance between Cathy and Heathcliff (where I first learned about solipsism) , the symbolism of two houses, and the setting on the moors makes this novel a timeless and daring classic. If you haven't read it, you are missing out. I also recommend the A&E version of this movie; I'm a big Ralph Fiennes/Juliet Binoche fan, and this movie captures the wildness and darkness of the novel.

2. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley: This novel has stood the test of time as a ghost story and a cautionary tale about science and progress. The setting of ice and cold as well as the macabre monster and mad scientist make this one a winner. I have taught it dozens of times and will never tire of it. In fact, it ranks above Stoker's Dracula for me. Robert DeNiro, Helena Bonham Carter, and Kenneth Branagh star in a masterful version of this one.

3. Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier: This novel is a masterpiece with its characterization and Gothic Elements. DuMaurier remains unparalleled in creating an atmosphere of eeriness and of injecting twisted love and sexuality into a novel deftly. Also, I think the dead Rebecca is one of the most powerful and present deceased characters I've encountered in a novel.

4. The Man in the Moss by Phil Rickman: I had to include one of these novels in the list. It's part of the Merrily Watkins series by Phil Rickman; all these novels are oh so Gothic with old churches, ghosts galore, murder, peat bogs, demonic possession, and more.

5. Here I Stay by Barbara Michaels: I just reviewed this one, and I decided to include it in my top list. It is near the top of hers for me. Since she is my favorite modern author, it's a tough choice. For a genre subverting Gothic Romance Novel, look no further. I loved the characters so much by the end of this one that I cried the last time I read it.

6. Still Life with Crows by Preston and Child: I love this series with Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast. This novel was the first I read, and it is still my favorite. I love the Southern Pendergast (a man who was raised on a creepy ancestral estate in New Orleans that often makes appearances in the novels), and I love these novels. This one is a Southern Gothic with such an eerie atmosphere as well as caves, crows, murder, and a family secret. If you haven't read any in this series, run to the library. These novels are lengthy and ones I didn't want to end. I recommend any in the series, especially the early ones.

7. Dragonwyck by Anya Seton: Next to Heathcliff, perhaps Seton has created the best Byronic Hero I've ever seen. I found this novel recently, and it has ghosts, a wise old crone, obsessive love, murder, ancestral estate, vivid history and so much more. Seton writes like a dream to top it all off.

For me, these are must read Gothics. There are others that I could add to the list (Stephen King's The Shining or Anne Rivers Siddons' The House Next Door almost made it), but I don't feel as strongly about them. Which novels are on your list, and why do you recommend them?


jwade19 said...

My top five (in no particular order and *always* subject to change at the drop of a hat):

1. Rebecca (Daphne du Maurier)- What Lisa said...

2. The Hound of the Baskervilles (A. C. Doyle)-
The wild and lonely English moor, demon hounds, an ancient family curse, secretive servants, mysterious neighbors, escaped convicts, an old and stately manor house, attempted murder...what's not to love??

3. The House of Echoes (Barbara Erskine)-
Despite Erskine's irksome inability to craft strong female characters, this is quite possibly the spookiest book I've ever read. I cannot read this alone and at night without giving myself a case of the heebie-jeebies.

4. Ammie, Come Home (Barbara Michaels)-
This is probably my favorite Michaels book out of all the dozens she has written. Yes, it is dated and a little hokey in places, but it delivers in chills and ghostly thrills and is a darn fun book to read on a rainy night in autumn. I love it!

5. Wildfire at Midnight (Mary Stewart)-
I personally could not compile a list of my favorite gothic novels without including at least one from the queen of romantic suspense. WaM takes place in the 1950's on the Isle of Skye in the Scottish Hebrides. Beautifully described rough mountain terrain, a murder, supressed lovers, and a deranged killer on the loose. In Stewart's deft and talented hands, you've got yourself an intelligent and cozy read.

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Anonymous said...

Two of my favourite gothics of all time are Wuthering Heights + Frankenstein - and Hound of the Baskervilles is a great read too. Since these have already been mentioned, here are some others I am enjoying at the moment:

Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier: I love the unrelentingly bleak storyline and Du Maurier’s fabulous descriptions of the Cornish moorlands. I remember listening to a panel of publishers / agents at the World Horror Convention in Brighton last year talking about their pet hates in submitted manuscripts. One of the agents said she was put off by books that opened with the weather or with long descriptive passages of people travelling to their destinations. Jamaica Inn has both and it is one of my favourite opening chapters ever.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo: Does this count as gothic? Well the architecture sure does! And it is one of my favourite books, oozing with gothic elements. A haunting tale of the destructive power of unrequited love in all its tortured, twisted glory. Victor Hugo’s characters are amazing; I just love the way this book can unnerve me one minute and make me laugh out loud the next.

Perfume by Patrick Suskind: Superbly written and chilling; Grenouille is the perfect gothic monster. Focusing so adeptly on the sense of smell really works and makes the whole novel a sensory treat – even the yucky bits.

Sleep, Pale Sister by Joanne Harris: Joanne Harris is better known for her books Chocolat, Blackberry Wine, Five Quarters of the Orange etc, but her first two books were gothics – The Evil Seed (a fairly good contemporary vampire story) and Sleep, Pale Sister (a dark, obsessive tale centred around four main characters - an obsessively controlling Victorian painter, the young girl who models for him as a child then becomes his wife, her raffish, blackmailing lover and a grieving brothel keeper hell-bent on revenge.) I loved this book; powerfully written using multiple viewpoints, I found it difficult to put down.

Affinity by Sarah Waters: Another laudanum – laden, gas-lit gothic, set against the bleak, oppressive backdrop of a Victorian prison. This novel - about the relationship that develops between a disgraced spiritualist and her prison visitor- is genuinely eerie and beautifully written. The ending should come as no surprise, but I was so wrapped up in the characters that it caught me out completely! I also enjoyed Sarah Water’s The Little Stranger – an excellent gothic haunted house story.

Anonymous said...

oops!sorry for the multiple comments, each time I tried publishing it I was told the URL was too big so I just kept pressing things! sorry!

lisalgreer said...

Sara, I like 'Jamaica Inn' (and I love weather and don't mind travel either in the opening of novels!), but I adore 'The House on the Strand.' I remember feeling desolate at the end of that one.

I will definitely have to check out 'Sleep, Pale Sister' by Joanne Harris.

And a resounding yes!! I believe 'Hunchback' is Gothic. It's weird because I was just thinking about that novel and its Gothic merits a few days ago. I love Victor Hugo's novels. :) My husband loves this one, so I tell him he's a Gothic fan, too-- this after finding out he is an 18th century fan (he loved 'The Libertine' and Johnny Depp in it and wouldn't stop talking about it. I was thrilled, and we've since watched movies and other period pieces together). All of that after saying he's not "really a novel person." muwhahahhaha.

What a great list! :) And more to add to my TBR pile. I haven't read 'Perfume' yet either...

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