The Gothic is one of my most-loved genres of literature. Dark nights, moody characters, mysterious castles, messed-up families, what isn’t there to like?
I have a huge collection of weird and wonderful books but sometimes it’s hard to find them as they are a bit of a required taste…
So to help anyone in my position (or even if you’ve never read a Gothic novel), here is my list of the top five Gothic fiction books that every fan should read, and if you’re interested in getting into Gothic literature, this selection is a great gateway into the genre. Note: This is in no particular order.
The Mysteries of Udolpho, Ann Radcliffe
The Gothic has a lot to owe to Ann Radcliffe, who is one of its founders. The Mysteries of Udolpho is a huge book, filled with all of the supernatural tropes you would expect to find: ghostly apparitions, a far-away castle, fainting ladies and DEATH.
Read this if you’re looking for: Gloomy castles, far-away places & long, winding tales.
Wieland: or, The Transformation: An American Tale, Charles Brockden
If Radcliffe began the British Gothic movement, it was Brockden who brought the genre to light in the US. Wieland, published in 1798 was the first Gothic novel in America. I don’t want to give much away, so I won’t go into the plot, but when I studied Gothic literature as part of my undergraduate degree, this was my favourite book. It’s so weird, it’s just something you have to read for yourself. This novel is also a much easier read than some of the heavier titles (looking at you Ann Radcliffe).
Read this if you’re looking for: Psychological horror, weird families, religious fanaticism.
The Beetle, Richard Marsh
The Beetle was a smash hit with my seminar group when we studied it as part of our English degree, and I still have friends I know would be genuinely interested in having a chat about this book, it’s that good.
Something that not many people know, is that The Beetle was actually more popular, and more successful than Dracula, which was published at the same time. Though it is Dracula which has passed the test of time, The Beetle is a thrilling read that will stick with you long after you read the last page.
Read this if you’re looking for: Ancient history, sensation novels, utter-creepiness.
Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
I think we’ve probably all heard of this one. Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus, was written by Mary Shelley after a wild night with the ‘mad, bad and dangerous to know’ Lord Byron and her brother, Percy Shelley. On a rainy night, the three decided to see who could create the scariest story, and after a dream, Mary Shelley brought Frankenstein and his monster for life. In case you don’t know, Frankenstein is the scientist, not the monster.
Read this if you’re looking for: Horror, philosophy, or if you’d like to read the original novel.
Zofloya, Charlotte Dacre
This novel was a racy and controversial one at the time it was published, and it’s still pretty damn exciting today. Its provocative subject matter includes race, sex, religion… and a bit more sex. You’ll enjoy this one.
Read this if you’re looking for: Psychology, characters who are basically archetypes for personality disorders and, well, sex.
Have you read any of these Gothic novels? Will you?
I’m always on the look out for new books to read so let me know if you have any suggestions!