BBAW Forgotten Treasures: Must Read Gothic Novels

4992131560 8c939dc3c9 BBAW Forgotten Treasures: Must Read Gothic NovelsJust as local bookstores carry twenty or more copies of certain books, and one copy of others – if you’re lucky enough to find them at all. More often than not, book bloggers read and write about books that are already getting plenty of publicity and media coverage, rather than those that are slightly less present. I’ll admit that I do the same, but once in awhile, I think that we need to give recognition to books that haven’t and aren’t going to make the New York Times Bestseller list. Today, Book Blogger Appreciation Week wants us to recognize books or genres that are under represented, and since I’ve always loved Horror and Gothic novels, I wanted to highlight books should be on the reading lists of everyone who loves this genre too. Take a break from Stephen King or Clive Barker and gives these books a try!

During my university days, I read heavily within 18th and 19th century examples of Gothic literature from both the Classic Gothic period from 1764 to 1812 and those that were written from 1812 till the end of the 19th century with novel. Some of the latter were actually examples of the typical Bildungsroman, but had Gothic elements, while others were monster narratives outright. Today, I want to talk to you about two of my favorite novels from the Classic period as well as contemporary YA Gothic novel that deserves your attention. (However, if there is interest, then maybe I’ll make this a semi-regular post with tons more Gothic novels that you need to read – just let me know!)

Ever wonder where horror novelists got their ideas? Well, I’d say they were all influenced by Horace Walpole either directly or indirectly (when someone they were influence by was influenced by him). This statement might seem like a pretty big leap if you don’t know who he is or what he did, but his novel, The Castle of Otranto gave the English world the word “Gothic” in the first place when he subtitled it, “A Gothic Story.” In my opinion, this little tidbit alone makes it the place horror lovers need to start if they want to explore the roots of their favorite genre. Employing the Gothic theme that the sins of the father will be revisited on the sons, this novel is about a tyrant named Manfred, who tries to combat a prophecy that would see his family deposed from their current residence whenever they became “too large to inhabit it” by forcing his son to marry early and when that doesn’t work out attempting to get a new heir through unsavory means. If you aren’t a big fan of getting scared, then I think it’s pretty safe to say that this book won’t give you nightmares, though Walpole’s friend Thomas Gray said that after reading this book, him and his family were “afraid to go to bed o’ nights.” Our tastes have changed considerably over the years.

While Walpole’s are very one dimensional, the novel that Matthew Lewis wrote 32 years later called, The Monk is a much better thought out experimentation in the Gothic novel. The leading character is a monk named, Ambrosio, who has lived his entire life behind the walls of a monastery and thus has never been tempted my vice. Upon meeting a beautiful member of the congregation, this monk allows himself to be tempted through the influence of another figure to not only break his vows of celibacy, but also to use the most despicable ways imaginable to do so. Gruesome and shocking, this novel is certainly a page turner despite the fact that it was written over 200 years ago.

Finally, as promised, I want to draw your attention back to a novel that I reviewed a few months ago by Marina Cohen. You can check out my full review of Ghost Ride to get a complete look at my thoughts of it. If you have ever enjoyed a creepy ghost story, then I think that you should give this book a try. It’s about a boy who attempts a dangerous stunt with some friends and then starts seeing mysterious things and receiving strange messages. It’s one of the best examples of the Gothic genre that I’ve read in some time and has been known to give more than one adult reader trouble sleeping at night.

Let me know what you think about this post or these books if you’ve read any of them before. I might be able to give other periodic Gothic recommendations to my readers if there is interest!

  35 comments for “BBAW Forgotten Treasures: Must Read Gothic Novels

  1. Jamie
    September 16, 2010 at 9:36 am

    Love Gothic literature! I’ll be checking out your suggestions!

  2. September 16, 2010 at 10:16 am

    I love Gothic literature, too – it’s a mix of the popular (and with the historical novels) the classic tied all into one. Since at the time, these books were the type that couldn’t be kept on the shelves of circulating libraries. They were so popular that Austen was able to write a convincing satire of them in Northanger Abbey. If anyone wants other suggestions, just say so. :)

  3. Pixie
    September 16, 2010 at 10:46 am

    Great Picks, I have not read any of these, but I do love Gothic Lit. Have you read The Monstrumologist ? It’s a newish YA Gothic, its a little bit(ok a lot) gory, but OH SO GOOD.

  4. September 16, 2010 at 10:48 am

    Thanks for your comment, Pixie! I haven’t read The Monstrumologist, but gore doesn’t really bother me. I’ll keep a look out for it. Thanks for the suggestion. :)

  5. Lydia (The Lost Entwife)
    September 16, 2010 at 11:58 am

    Hello Melissa!

    Loved your reply to my comment on the BBAW Classics post.

    Unfortunately, MIddlemarch was not one of my favorites. It’s funny, because while I loved Henry James’ Portrait of a Lady, I just could not stand Middlemarch and everyone I’ve talked to loves either one or the other.

    I’m always looking for folks to discuss classics with (I’m hosting a read-along of North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell this month on my blog). I’m following you now and looking forward to more “bookish” conversations in the future!

  6. September 16, 2010 at 12:11 pm

    Hello Lydia!

    Glad you liked my reply. It’s funny that you mention a distinction between Middlemarch and Portrait of a Lady because I definitely prefer the former to the latter. I think it’s possible that I just need to give Henry James more of a chance, but there is something about him that didn’t mesh. (Could also be that I was trying to rush through it for my comprehensive exams.)

    I don’t think I’ll have time to fit in North and South this month, but look forward to other read-alongs and more "bookish" conversations with you. :)

  7. September 16, 2010 at 1:12 pm

    Since I’m one of the easily terrified, I’ll probably be more likely to go for The Castle of Otranto. I better start a list of books to read in October, so I can at least pretend I’m celebrating spookiness. :)

  8. Pam
    September 16, 2010 at 1:15 pm

    I haven’t read gothic lit in so long.

  9. September 16, 2010 at 1:27 pm

    Thanks for your comment, Melissa! It’s a good little read, and when I was reading it over a little again before writing this post, realized that it’s actually quite plot driven for a classic novel. Probably, in part, because the Gothic genre was THE popular literature of the time. They were read so quickly and frequently that people worried they would give young women maggot brains. It’s funny to think of because now many women and men have PhDs in the subject area. ;)

  10. Nora Olsen
    September 16, 2010 at 1:29 pm

    I have never read any of these, sounds neat! How about the poem “Christabel” by Coleridge, is that gothic? That’s pretty awesome.

  11. September 16, 2010 at 1:32 pm

    Read some again for the first time! I’ve read these and some other ones that you might not have heard of, but which are really integral for the study of current Gothic and paranormal fiction (imo). In some cases they were really ahead of their time (and in a way, ahead of the women in a lot of this contemporary fiction).

  12. September 16, 2010 at 1:48 pm

    They really are pretty great in their own ways, Nora. Yes, I’d say that “Christabel” is Gothic for sure. It wasn’t something that I read in any of my Gothic lit classes, but it definitely can be read that way as can a lot of Coleridge’s writing, I’d think. I’m going to have to look it over again soon – thanks for the suggestion. :)

  13. Alicia
    September 16, 2010 at 2:55 pm

    Never read any Gothic lit before… I am a terrible scaredy cat. When hubby watches scary movies with me, I make him come to the washroom with me afterwards just in case someone/thing is in there… yeah… and I’m in my 30’s…. heaven help me!! He actually wants to take me to see Devil in theatres (the M. Night Shyamalan new one)… not going to happen!!

    Anyhow… I may have to try some of these out!!

  14. September 16, 2010 at 3:47 pm

    A lot of people don’t like scary movies and books, but for some reason, I just love them. One thing that is interesting about a lot of Gothic lit, especially from the Classic period, is that what might have scared people back then, is pretty tame. These books are more ghost story than a night watching The Ring or Psycho.

    If you do try some of them out, let me know!

  15. September 16, 2010 at 5:02 pm

    Ever since reading Northanger Abbey I’ve been wanting to pick up some of these classic gothic novels. I love that you’re spotlighting them! Thank you for the recommendations!

  16. September 16, 2010 at 6:16 pm

    You’re welcome, Casey! Glad that you appreciate my post about classic Gothic novels. :)

  17. Emmet
    September 16, 2010 at 10:32 pm

    Yes I was surprised at how much I enjoyed The Castle of Otranto –

    My favourite Gothic novel has always been Melmoth the Wanderer though by Charles Robert Maturin. It captured the gothic sensibility of elevating the hypocricies of the age into exagerated spiritual horror and venality.

  18. September 16, 2010 at 11:24 pm

    Thanks for stopping by my site, Emmet. Melmoth the Wanderer is also great, but I personally prefer the female Gothic narratives. If you haven’t checked out The Monk though – I think that you’d really like it. :)

  19. September 17, 2010 at 12:36 am

    You might be intrigued by this: Penguin recently released a whole bunch of Victorian Bestsellers in a nice pocket-sized format with pretty covers. Both The Monk and The Castle of Otranto were among them, along with my personal fave The Moonstone, and others like (hee) The Mysteries of Udolpho.
    Someone made a list of them here in the Uk. I think they’re like 12$ over in the colonies.

  20. Emmet
    September 17, 2010 at 1:52 am

    I started reading the Monk some six years ago while sitting on a spiral staircase in Edinburgh, complete with a chilly updraft.

    It felt appropriate afterwards.

  21. September 17, 2010 at 8:01 am

    Oh..I am very intrigued by this, Protagitron. Thanks for bringing it to my attention and for laughing at one of my personal faves, The Mysteries Of Udolpho. You must read it because I have a feeling that you didn’t yet or only read part of it. I mean there is nothing wrong with a book where the male characters cry more than the female ones as is often the case with Anne Radcliffe. :)

    The covers look awesome – out with the classic paintings and in with stylistically interesting typographic designs.

    It’s funny that they call them Victorian bestsellers because The Castle Of Otranto, The Mysteries Of Udolpho, and The Monk were all written in the 18th century. Unless they’re trying to suggest that Queen Victoria reigned longer than we ever imagined. I mean, she wasn’t even alive when any of them were written let alone on the throne.

  22. September 17, 2010 at 8:08 am

    Ha! I’m sure that it did.

    I guess that you didn’t like it very much, given that you only started it 6 years ago and have yet to finish it. (?)

  23. S. Krishna
    September 17, 2010 at 12:26 pm

    I really, really love gothic novels so I’m so glad for these recommendations!

  24. September 17, 2010 at 1:07 pm

    Gothic lit, especially the early books, are so fun to read. Even “The Mysteries of Udolpho” – although you’d rather pitch Emily off the ramparts if she doesn’t quit being such a wuss. I read “Otranto” as prep for “Udolpho” when my online bk group was reading “Udolpho” – haven’t read “The Monk” yet, but I think I’ve got a copy somewhere…

  25. September 17, 2010 at 1:10 pm

    They’re great, aren’t they! Always been a sucker for Gothic novels – hope you enjoy the ones I recommended!

  26. September 17, 2010 at 1:15 pm

    I love early Gothic lit, too. I read The Mysteries Of Udolpho for a class on The Female Gothic, and I think I was the only person in the class who actually enjoyed it in part, maybe because of Emily, and in part because they thought it was too slow. :)

    If you’ve already read Udolpho, Melissa, then you really have to read The Monk. In a lot of ways, he was speaking to Ann Radcliffe with his novel.

  27. September 18, 2010 at 4:48 pm

    The Monk! Oh, be still, my heart!

    xD The Monk is my favourite Gothic novel of all time, hands down; I reread it every Halloween (and sometimes before, because I can’t help my infatuation). Gothic is one of my favourite genres, though I don’t read it as faithfully as I could – I stalled at Anne Radcliffe, and haven’t quite managed to get over the fact that The Mysteries of Udolpho makes me want to pull my hair out. I’m sure it’s a good novel, it’s just… I find the descriptions of scenery to be excessive, as though Mysteries were more properly a travel guide than Gothic horror. But I need to read it, cover to cover, one day.

    I loved this post! It’s such a pleasure to meet someone who loves Gothic fiction, ^^. I would definitely be interested if you wrote a series of posts on this genre.


  28. September 18, 2010 at 5:13 pm

    Thanks for your comment, Entish! I don’t read it faithfully anymore either, but some of the books, like The Monk are just so good that they really stick with you. I enjoyed The Mysteries of Udolpho personally, but as I believe I said in the comments already, I was the only one in my class of 45 or so students who wasn’t completely frustrated with it for the reasons that you mentioned.

    If you’ve read a lot of the other literature written around the same time period that this was written (other than the Gothic novels, I mean), then I think that the travel guide aspect makes sense. One of my old professors did a course on travel literature in the Romantic period, and was planning to do a graduate level course entirely on the topic of Walking. Travel literature and walking tour literature wasn’t my cup of tea, but when you think of that fact in context with what Radcliffe was trying to do in Mysteries, I think it makes sense. Part of the Gothic for her is the feeling of infinite smallness that over comes someone when they’re in a mountainous landscape as Emily often is in the novel. The funny thing is that Radcliffe never herself actually ever left England, so it makes me wonder how she was able to create what she did. I guess the likelihood that her audience hadn’t traveled outside of England either makes her popularity in her time more understandable.

    Since I wrote this post, I’ve thought more about it, and I’m definitely going to publish more posts like this one on the Gothic, so keep a look out for them!

  29. nicole langan
    September 24, 2010 at 2:58 pm

    Thanks for the reviews

  30. September 24, 2010 at 5:27 pm

    Ahh…okay…my pleasure, Nicole! :)

  31. Jim
    September 26, 2010 at 5:02 pm

    this is a very good article. thanks for advancing interest in Gothic Literature. I like Christabel (and some of Coleridge’s gothic poetry–they flow quiclky ). One of my favorites–and pretty easy to read is Carmilla by Le Fanu. I am also a sucker for some of the old penny dreadfuls, like Varney.

  32. September 27, 2010 at 9:46 am

    I’m glad you like it, Jim. I’m planning to write more like it, featuring other Gothic novels and poems. I’ve only readUncle Silas by Le Fanu, so thanks for the suggestion of Carmilla, and believe it or not, I haven’t actually read any of the penny dreadfuls. *Wonders how and where you can find them.*

  33. christine fonseca
    September 29, 2010 at 10:11 pm

    WOOT! Love great gothic lit.

  34. September 29, 2010 at 11:12 pm

    Me too! It’s one of my favorite genres of literature, especially the classic examples. :)

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