06 July 2012

Gothic Tales

Black rose on paper with script writing
I love a good gothic novel, so I've put together a list of gothic tales I've read and have mentioned them below. I've included links to my reviews where possible and continue to update this list each year. I would love to hear about any gothic tales you've enjoyed.

Gothic Novels*

Andahazi, Federico (The Merciful Women)
Carter, Angela (The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories)
Fox, Hester (The Widow of Pale Harbour)
Griffiths, Elly (The Stranger Diaries)
Halls, Stacey (Mrs England)
Harris, Jane (The Observations)
Hill, Susan (The Small Hand)
Hyland, Angus & Roberts, Caroline (The Book of the Raven - Corvids in Art & Legend)
Jackson, Shirley (We Have Always Lived in the Castle)
James, Henry (The Turn of the Screw)
Jennings, Kathleen (Flyaway)
Kidd, Jess (Things In Jars)
Purcell, Laura (The Shape of Darkness)
Purcell, Laura (The Whispering Muse)
Rayne, Sarah (What Lies Beneath)
Rice, Anne (Angel Time - The Songs of the Seraphim)
Rice, Anne (Interview With The Vampire)
Rice, Anne (Memnoch the Devil)
Rice, Anne (The Vampire Lestat)
Rice, Anne (Violin)
Rose, M.J. (Seduction: A Novel of Suspense)
Setterfield, Diane (The Thirteenth Tale)
Setterfield, Diane (Once Upon a River)
Stevens, Amanda (The Restorer)
Stoker, Bram (Dracula)
Ware, Ruth (The Turn of the Key)
Waters, Sarah (The Little Stranger)
Webber, Andrew Lloyd (Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera Companion)
Zafon, Carlos Ruiz (The Shadow of the Wind)
Zafon, Carlos Ruiz (The Angel’s Game)

* Last updated October 2023

What makes a novel Gothic?

1. Setting in a castle. The action takes place in and around an old castle, sometimes seemingly abandoned, sometimes occupied. The castle often contains secret passages, trap doors, secret rooms, dark or hidden staircases, and possibly ruined sections. The castle may be near or connected to caves, which lend their own haunting flavor with their branchings, claustrophobia, and mystery. (Translated into modern filmmaking, the setting might be in an old house or mansion--or even a new house--where unusual camera angles, sustained close ups during movement, and darkness or shadows create the same sense of claustrophobia and entrapment.)

2. An atmosphere of mystery and suspense. The work is pervaded by a threatening feeling, a fear enhanced by the unknown. Often the plot itself is built around a mystery, such as unknown parentage, a disappearance, or some other inexplicable event. Elements 3, 4, and 5 below contribute to this atmosphere. (Again, in modern filmmaking, the inexplicable events are often murders.)

3. An ancient prophecy is connected with the castle or its inhabitants (either former or present). The prophecy is usually obscure, partial, or confusing. "What could it mean?" In more watered down modern examples, this may amount to merely a legend: "It's said that the ghost of old man Krebs still wanders these halls."

4. Omens, portents, visions. A character may have a disturbing dream vision, or some phenomenon may be seen as a portent of coming events. For example, if the statue of the lord of the manor falls over, it may portend his death. In modern fiction, a character might see something (a shadowy figure stabbing another shadowy figure) and think that it was a dream. This might be thought of as an "imitation vision."

5. Supernatural or otherwise inexplicable events. Dramatic, amazing events occur, such as ghosts or giants walking, or inanimate objects (such as a suit of armor or painting) coming to life. In some works, the events are ultimately given a natural explanation, while in others the events are truly supernatural.

6. High, even overwrought emotion. The narration may be highly sentimental, and the characters are often overcome by anger, sorrow, surprise, and especially, terror. Characters suffer from raw nerves and a feeling of impending doom. Crying and emotional speeches are frequent. Breathlessness and panic are common. In the filmed gothic, screaming is common.

7. Women in distress. As an appeal to the pathos and sympathy of the reader, the female characters often face events that leave them fainting, terrified, screaming, and/or sobbing. A lonely, pensive, and oppressed heroine is often the central figure of the novel, so her sufferings are even more pronounced and the focus of attention. The women suffer all the more because they are often abandoned, left alone (either on purpose or by accident), and have no protector at times.

8. Women threatened by a powerful, impulsive, tyrannical male. One or more male characters has the power, as king, lord of the manor, father, or guardian, to demand that one or more of the female characters do something intolerable. The woman may be commanded to marry someone she does not love (it may even be the powerful male himself), or commit a crime.

9. The metonymy of gloom and horror. Metonymy is a subtype of metaphor, in which something (like rain) is used to stand for something else (like sorrow). For example, the film industry likes to use metonymy as a quick shorthand, so we often notice that it is raining in funeral scenes. Note that the following metonymies for "doom and gloom" all suggest some element of mystery, danger, or the supernatural.

This list of gothic elements has come directly from the Virtual Salt website.

Would you like to comment?

  1. Love this gothic post, Tracey! I hope you don't mind if I borrow the gothic traits at a later date for a possible posting. I plan to explore the titles and your reviews, too. I'm sure I will find some new titles to read and enjoy!

  2. I'm so glad you enjoyed the post, and you're more than welcome to borrow the gothic traits. I've acknowledged the original source at the bottom.

    Enjoy the reviews and let me know how you go if you end up reading some Gothic Tales...

  3. You aгe book marked now so remember to keep the good content
    streaming in!


Thanks for your comment, Carpe Librum!