I watched The Nightmare Before Christmas at the weekend, so in my house at least, this means that Halloween is nearly here. Gothic books are some of my favourite to read, mostly because the early ones really broke free from Victorian writing contraints and kinda put a big 'fuck you' up to the expectations of society. There's no Pride and Prejudice in this literary canon (thank god). So, here's a selection of some of the best - in my opinion - Gothic reads out there to pick up this October.
1.) Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. This is one of my all-time favourite books, ever. It's set over the misty moors of Yorskhire, features a terrifying little ghost child and has characters that subvert expectations every step of the way along the plot. Heathcliff is pretty much a monster from the offset. Cathy's love for him, which btw totally extends into her marriage to another man, is almost as shocking for writing of the time as her belief that she doesn't care if she goes to hell as long as she's with Heathcliff. This is one of the best Gothic love stories and if you haven't read the book you NEED to.
2.) The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. This is quite a quick read to whizz through, but a powerful one. Dorian Gray is an A* creep who makes a pact with the devil to stay young forever. Dorian parties, acts licentiously and does pretty much whatever the hell he wants, whilst a portrait of his becomes more rotten and terrifying with each vile act he commits. Oh, and there's a fab undercurrent of the suggestion that he has homoerotic feelings that kinda reminds me of an early fan-fic, where everything is so subtle you almost miss it.
3.) Dracula by Bram Stoker. Because duh, the OG vampire book. It's not the first okay, but a LOT of our modern ideas about what vampires are all about come from this. There's a lot of bloodsucking of white-clad virgins, creepy castles and the whole bat thing pops up too. It's truly a Gothic classic and had me HOOKED. Which reminds me, I need to reread this asap.
4.) The Monk by Matthew Lewis. This is the one of the earliest books that's recognised as being part of the Gothic canon, but that doesn't mean it's reserved or less well developed than the others I've mentioned so far. It's amazing, and yet so much less well known. It really attacks the Church - the book contains both a pregnant nun and a girl who pretends to be a man to become a monk in the monastery of the man she loves. It's hella juicy and filled with SO many Gothic tropes. I could read this one over and over again.
5.) Poetry by Edgar Allan Poe. 'The Raven' is such a good one to get into Gothic poetry with. It has an amazing rhythm - I mean, you can't read the poem without imagine the Raven tap-tapping away at the chamber door. It's set on a gloomy December evening and is definitely spooky enough for an All Hallows Eve read. Plus the Simpsons parodied it in a Treehouse of Horror episode so, y'know, it HAS to be good. 'The Raven' isn't actually my favourite of his though - if you want a short Gothic-esque poem, then Annabel Lee is such a gorgeous one to go for.
6.) Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. Another classic here. Frankenstein is so far removed from modern media interpretations of it (if ya still don't know, Frankenstein is the name of the scientist, not the monster. I bet Shelley's turning in her grave over that one) that you need to read it to understand its importance. I feel so much empathy for the poor creature and so much rage at Frankenstein. It's one of those books that remind you of how damaging the patriarchy can be, and it's one of the oldest books I've read that presents a Muslim character in a positive light. Shelley's mother, Mary Wollstonecraft was a key first wave feminist, and Frankenstein really draws on some of the early ideas that M.W spoke about.
7.) The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. This is another one that attacks the patriarchy, and is a little less well known. It's also a short story which you'd be able to whip through in a day. The main character is forced to stay trapped in her room because she's a feeble woman who is prone to sickness etc etc. She wants to leave but the windows are barred and the door is locked. Her husband plays it off as him 'protecting' her, obvs, and as time goes on she starts to lose her mind. It's trippy and Gothic and mostly scary because somehow things haven't changed too much over the last two centuries.
I'm going to end this here because I kinda want to go and re-read all of these now, and hunt down an illustrated book of Poe's poetry because oh my god can you imagine how beautiful that would be? I'm going to be hella disappointed if there isn't one out there!