The Lure of Gothic


I just finished a book so delicious, so saturated with great writing, so beloved I clasped it to my heart when I finished it, like a loved one. Don’t you just love reading? I can’t imagine what life must be like for people who don’t read.

The breast-clasping book? “The Forgotten Garden, a novel” by Kate Morton. It has all the elements of a great gothic novel: a dark secret, romantic love, tortured souls, an evil person, mysteries that span generations and a great looming house and in this case, a forgotten garden locked away for a hundred years. What is it about gothic novels that draws us to them? Ever since Heathcliff and Catherine we yearn for this atmosphere again and again over the centuries. It resonates still. I think it’s the romanticism of it. The atmosphere is so grim, so wonderfully depressing, so heart-breaking that it fills our imagination like happier stories never will.

There is an element of the harsh world of Fairy Tales in gothic novels. We try to paint childhood in a pastel patina of faux happy-ever-after imagery, but even young, we gravitate to the dark, and in darkness, pleasure.  Fairy tales are populated by skeletons, evil queens, tragic lovers, fire-breathing dragons and fairy-stolen babies. “Ashes, Ashes we all fall down” is a nursery rhyme describing the plague, the Black Death. “Ring around the rosie” was a description of the rash that was the first symptom of the disease which killed twenty-five million people. These tales are the dark repositories of the grit of our human existence.

Here are some gothic tales for when you are in the mood for something dark and brooding: 

  1. The House at Riverton by Kate Morton
  2. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
  3. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  4. The Horla by Guy de Maupassant
  5. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
  6. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  7. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
  8. Bleak House by Charles Dickens
  9. Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice
  10. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
  11. The House of Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  12. The Monkey’s Paw by W.W. Jacobs
  13. The Shining by Stephen King
  14. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
  15. Dragonwyck by Anya Seton


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