Gothic Book Tag

In honor of Halloween I decided to do the Classic Club’s Gothic Book Tag

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Warning: Spoilers Abound

Below we have thirteen questions to creep you out and send shivers up your spine!

The rules are easy.

  1. Answer the 13 questions with classic books in mind.
  2. How you define ‘classic’ is up to you.
  3. How you define ‘scary’ is up to you (it could be content, size of book, genre etc).
  4. Add your link back here when you’re done.
  5. If you’re feeling social, visit other blogs and leave a comment or share your thoughts on twitter, fb, instagram or goodreads using #CCgothicbooktag
  6. Join in if you dare.

Which classic book has scared you the most? I think that The Shining by Stephen King was a pleasant surprise to me. I’d seen the film prior to reading the book, so I thought that I had an idea of what to expect, but it was an entirely different ballgame. The film basically takes on a similar premise (a couple and their young child act as caretakers of an isolated, haunted hotel in winter) and the same character names but little else. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad film by any means, but it’s a separate thing. Stephen King agrees. In the film, the bulk of the horror is internal stemming from the character Jack Torrance. I’ve actually see arguments that it all took place in the character’s head. In the book, you can’t make that argument. Once I realized that this was going to be a different experience I was along for the ride. The internal and external horror in the book is difficult to separate. Jack Torrance, is an alcoholic with a history of anger issues, who is trying to stay sober for the sake of his wife, Wendy and son, Danny. The evil in the hotel draws the evil inside Jack to the surface, and it comes to possess him, using his internal weaknesses as weapons. At the same time, Jack’s son, Danny has psychic abilities that cause the supernatural activity to become more powerful. Echoes from the hotel’s violent past, make for a dangerous threat in the present when he is around. His ability make him stronger because the hotel can’t posses him, but it also makes him a target for harm.  I liked that the film made all of the horror internal. That was an interesting story as well. But the book is how the internal weaknesses and in Danny’s case, gifts, are weaponized by external forces, and how the lines between internal and external blur. It’s a different story.

Scariest moment in a book? In The Haunting of Hill House when Eleanor and Theodora are in the bedroom and someone (or something…) is trying to open the door. They’re holding hands, and then Eleanor comes to realize that it’s not Theodora whose hand she’s holding… Something about the idea of being in a frightening situation, reaching out for support and realizing that the person you reached out to, thinking it meant safety, may be the very thing you feared gets to me!

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Classic villain that you love to hate? I think Mrs. Danvers in Rebecca is great. You wouldn’t expect a middle aged housekeeper to be a threatening villain, but her idealization of and obsession with Rebecca; combined with the unnamed narrator’s insecurity and inferiority complex, makes her powerful enough to almost drive the narrator to suicide.

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Creepiest setting in a book? I think the marshes in The Woman in Black are pretty creepy. It’s a lonely, isolated place and Eel Marsh House is at the mercy of the constantly changing weather. Because the landscape is flat and wet, and there aren’t any distinguishing characteristics like trees to break things up, it feels endless and becomes hard to tell where the sky ends and the begins. This atmosphere makes it a perfect place for the supernatural because boundaries between land and water and earth and sky are already blurred. It’s easy to imagine the boundary between life and death being similarly distorted.

Best scary cover ever? I actually haven’t even read this book yet, but this cover of Shirley Jackson’s The Bird’s Nest creeps me out. How did the girl’s head get in the nest? Was it cut off and put in there? Or did it grow put of there? Why is there an egg on her eye, and what is coming out of the egg?

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Book you’re too scared to read? I’m pretty brave! I haven’t encountered a book as an adult that was too scary to read/finish. As a child on the other hand? It’s a long and fairly embarrassing list!

Spookiest creature in a book? I’ll go with Mr. Hyde from The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. There’s good and bad in everyone. I think in many ways the scariest thing is the evil that we’re all capable of. In this book that happens to be synthesized into a separate being. But the creepiest thing is that Jekyll and Hyde are the same person. Jekyll is presented to the reader as imperfect but a fundamentally decent human being. But everything that Hyde does, including murder, is something that Jekyll has the capability of doing. If he didn’t, Hyde wouldn’t be able to do it either. I think that’s a scary thought!

Classic book that haunts you to this day? I think that in some ways We Have Always Lived in the Castle haunts me more than The Haunting of Hill House. We have these sisters who have been isolated by their town after Constance, the older sister, was acquitted for the murder of their whole family. Merricat, the younger sister, likes this state of affairs, which is threatened when an estranged cousin, Charles, turns up. I suppose that I like that the threats in this book come from so many different sources: there’s the hostile townspeople who think that Constance got away with murder; Charles, who forms a close relationship with the naive Constance, and may be trying to take advantage of her; and Merricat herself, who will lash out dangerously when she thinks her life with her sister is threatened. It’s disturbing because ultimately it has “happy”  ending, at least from Merricat’s point of view. She sets fire to the house, which dives Charles away, and she and Constance live out their days happily (at least according to Merricat, who is an unreliable narrator) in the burned out carcass of their family home.  They become fairy tale witches in a “castle” overlooking a town that fears them.

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Favourite cliffhanger or unexpected twist?  I’m not sure I’d call it “scary” per se though there are certainly some very creepy/atmospheric moments, but I read Fingersmith on a crowded train and when I came to the end of the first portion of the book, I literally yelled out “Holy crap!” It was a bit embarrassing but this twist totally reset my perception of the characters and the plot.

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Classic book you really, really disliked? I’m not sure you’d call it a “classic,” but I’m not a fan of Anne Rice. Interview With A Vampire did nothing for me. But then I’m not a huge fan of vampires in general.

Character death that disturbed/upset you the most?  I’ll go with Miles in The Turn of the Screw. The narrative is ambiguous so what happens to him could be one of several (disturbing) possibilities. Either he has somehow been manipulated and attacked by the ghost of an employee at his uncle’s estate; or his governess is insane and the ghosts are her delusions, and she kills him in some way and blames it on the supernatural in her mind. In either scenario, he’s a child who is at the mercy of an adult he trusts.

List your top 5 Gothic/scary/horror classic reads.  

Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

The Shining by Stephen King

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

But really most of the books in this post are good!

Share your scariest/creepiest quote, poem or meme.

“I do know that for the sympathy of one living being, I would make peace with all. I have love in me the likes of which you can scarcely imagine and rage the likes of which you would not believe. If I cannot satisfy the one, I will indulge the other.”
― Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

I think this quote disturbs me because what it expresses is so true. Most people who cause harm and destruction, do so because they have been hurt deeply themselves. Frankenstein’s monster is a character who does a lot of damage but does it because he’s never been nurtured or loved. The idea that all of that violence could have been turned in a positive direction and potentially made the world a better place, is both heartbreaking and frightening. Once we start to see villains as people who have suffered, our sympathies are engaged, and depending on the villainous actions, this can be disturbing too. We don’t want to feel sympathy for monsters because we want them to feel “other” in a fundamental way. Once we feel bad for them, we start to understand their actions, which makes us feel really uncomfortable.

Top Ten Tuesday: Halloween Freebie

For the Broke and the Bookish’s Top Ten Tuesday:

October 31: Halloween Freebie! (Happy Halloween! Let your creativity run wild with a themed post to celebrate!)

For obvious reasons, most of these are creepy. Some are horror, some are psychological thrillers, ghost stories or fantasies. A few are some combination of the above. Some are set during Halloween, while others prove that weirdness is a year round thing.

51blghuph3l-_ac_us218_1. Down A Dark Hall by Lois Duncan- Apparently this is being made into a movie, something I didn’t know until just now! I look forward to it. The book is about Kit Gordy, a girl who is accepted to an exclusive boarding school. But something strange is happening at Blackwood Hall. Why have only four students been accepted to the school? Why are their letters to their parents getting lost? As the four students begin to suddenly develop extraordinary talents in science, math, and the arts, they begin to have bizarre dreams. By the time they learn the truth about Blackwood Hall, it may be too late for them to save themselves.

“For some reason it seemed to Kit that they were not covering any distance. The house stood above them still, no closer than it had been when they turned in at the gate. It was an illusion, she knew, something to do with the curve of the driveway and the angle at which they were approaching, but the car itself did not seem to be moving. It was as if the house were growing larger, reaching out its great, grey arms to gather them in. She could not move her eyes from the glowing windows, dancing before her like a hundred miniature suns. Kit shivered with the sensation of an icy wind blowing across her heart.”

51kdyehsspl-_ac_us218_2. The Woman in Black by Susan Hill- This has been adapted a lot. It was a popular stage play in London, as well as a 1989 made for TV film and a 2012 feature film starring Daniel Radcliffe. All of the adaptations make subtle changes to the story, which is chilling on its own.  Arthur Kipps is a solicitor, who must attend to the funeral and estate of his firm’s client, Mrs. Alice Drablow, who live alone in the secluded Eel Marsh House, which is cut off from civilization by marshes and sea frets. At the funeral, he sees a woman in black, who is being watched by a group of children. After the funeral, a high tide traps him at Eel Marsh House for several days, where he endures strange noises (a carriage accident, a child’s screams) and several sights of the Woman in Black. The locals seem reluctant to tell him anything about either Alice Drablow or the Woman in Black. But Arthur’s investigations have already put him, and everything he cares about in grave danger.

“No, no, you have none of you any idea. This is all nonsense, fantasy, it is not like this. Nothing so blood-curdling and becreepered and crude – not so…so laughable. The truth is quite other, and altogether more terrible.”

61r5owovtul-_ac_us218_3. Ghost Story by Peter Straub– Once again there is also a film version of this novel, that changes quite a bit. Check out the book first. Five old men who call themselves The Chowder Society, are lifelong friends. They gather occasionally to reminisce, and tell ghost stories. When one of these men dies, the others start to have dreams in which they also die.  They soon realize that one story is coming back to haunt them. Something they did many years ago could never be completely buried. Now it may be time for the Chowder Society to pay it’s debts.

What was the worst thing you’ve ever done?”
“I won’t tell you that, but I’ll tell you the worst thing that ever happened to me… the most dreadful thing…”

517tnjizool-_ac_us218_4. The House Next Door by Anne Rivers Siddons- Siddons isn’t usually know for creepy stories like this one, but it’s definitely a successful departure from her usual work. It was made in to a TV movie in 2006, but I haven’t seen that. Colquitt and Walter are a young couple living happily in an Atlanta suburb. When construction starts on a vacant lot next door, they are mostly concerned about having less privacy. But as people move in they realize that something is happening. Something a lot worse than diminished privacy. They know the house can’t be haunted. It’s newly built! But it seems to strengthen the weaknesses and destroy the good of every person who moves into it.

“The room was bright and white and still and silent, but soundless sound roared and howled in it.”

51mysyx8uvl-_ac_us218_5. The Witches by Roald Dahl– I remember reading this with a sort of fascinated horror as a kid. My reaction to the film was similar.  It’s scary right from the beginning when we learn that the seven year old protagonist’s parents were killed in a car accident. At least that scared me, when I read it when I wasn’t all that much older. He goes to live with his grandmother who tells him about witches, people who look normal but are actually creatures who seek to kill human children. She used to hunt them, until an encounter with a witch cost her her thumb (which also terrified me when I was younger). When the grandmother gets ill, she and the boy go to  a hotel on the southern coast of England where she can recover. There, the boy encounters the yearly gathering of England’s witches, and is trapped in the hotel ballroom, where he overhears their plan to kill more English children. What follows is a tale that made me fear teachers and sympathize with mice. Unlike most children’s books the ending isn’t all happily ever after, either.

“In fairy-tales, witches always wear silly black hats and black cloaks, and they ride on broomsticks. But this is not a fairy-tale. This is about REAL WITCHES. The most important thing you should know about REAL WITCHES is this. Listen very carefully. Never forget what is coming next.”

51xtyclkg2l-_ac_us218_6. Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones– Polly Whitacker has two sets of memories. In one set, everything is normal. In the other, her life is tied up with that of cellist, Thomas Lynn. When the second set of memories begins to overpower the first, Polly realizes that someone has been trying to make her forget about Tom, whose life is at risk from supernatural forces. It’s a retelling of the Tam Lin legend (that is set on Halloween and features a pretty kickass heroine) as well as that of Thomas the Rhymer.  The last chapters are (intentionally, IMO) ambiguous, so don’t expect everything to be tied up neatly here.

“Mr. Lynn gave her one of his considering looks. “People are strange,” he said. “Usually they’re much stranger than you think. Start from there and you’ll never be unpleasantly surprised. Do you fancy doughnuts?”

51yxavao4l-_ac_us218_7. The Boy Who Drew Monsters by Keith Donoghue–  Ever since he almost drowned in the ocean three years earlier, ten year old Jack has been terrified to go outdoors. He spends most of his time at home, drawing monsters. He often slips into trances when he does this, and  he has terrifying nightmares. His mother, Holly, hears strange sounds coming from the ocean at night. His father, Tim, wanders the beach, searching for a vision he once saw. Jack’s only friend, Nick, becomes entangled and obsessed with the power of Jack’s monster drawings. Only Jack knows the truth of what happened that day when he almost drowned, and why he can’t stop his drawings.

“In the dream house, the boy listened for the monster under his bed.”

41oplfqimil-_ac_us218_8. The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters– Hundreds Hall has been home to the Ayers family for a generation. Once grand and impressive, it is now decayed and crumbling.  Dr. Faraday’s mother once worked there as a parlor maid. When he returns to the Hall, thirty years later, to treat a servant, he finds Mrs. Ayers, the matriarch, her son, Roderick, a wounded RAF airman who now oversees the family farm, and Caroline, her daughter, whom the locals call a natural spinster. Dr. Faraday becomes obsessed with all of them. After Caroline’s usually gentle dog, Gyp, attacks a visiting child, bad fortune seems to follow the Ayers family, as they are visited by fire, suicide, and worse. You could get into a debate with another reader about whether this is truly a ghost story, or a psychological thriller with an unreliable narrator. I’m of the belief that it’s a bit of both.

“The subliminal mind has many dark, unhappy corners, after all. Imagine something loosening itself from one of those corners. Let’s call it a—a germ. And let’s say conditions prove right for that germ to develop—to grow, like a child in the womb. What would this little stranger grow into? A sort of shadow-self, perhaps: a Caliban, a Mr Hyde. A creature motivated by all the nasty impulses and hungers the conscious mind had hoped to keep hidden away: things like envy and malice and frustration…”

41-kxlbhnl-_ac_us218_9. The Other by Thomas Tryon– Holland and Niles Perry are thirteen year old identical twins. Holland is spirited and mischievous while Niles is sweet and eager to please. When the boy’s father dies in an accident, their mother takes to her room, buried in grief. This leaves her sons to run around unsupervised. As Holland’s pranks become more dangerous and sinister, Niles begins to realize that he can no longer excuse his brother’s actions. There are several twists in this tale. One will probably not come as much of a surprise to contemporary readers. But keep reading, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There is a film adaptation that wasn’t bad, but the book is (of course) better, so go for that first. Then, check out the film, if you enjoy it.

“Things cannot ever be the same again. Not for any of us. Not any more. We sometimes reach a point in our lives where we can’t ever go back again, we have to go on from there. All that was before is past now. It went too far. Everything has gone too far. It must stop, do you see? Now–it must–stop.
No more game?
No. No more game.”

51ryt4thtnl-_ac_us218_10. Danse Macabre by Stephan King– In the fall of 1978, Stephen King taught a course at the University of Maine, about “Themes of Supernatural Literature”, which ended up being at least as enlightening for the teacher as it was for the students. At that point, King had already established himself as a major writer of horror. Carrie, ‘Salem’s Lot, The Shining and  The Dead Zone, had all been released to acclaim and sales.  In this book, King explores why anyone would pay good money to buy a book that they know will make them frightened and uncomfortable. More than that, they will be angry if they aren’t scared/disturbed/grossed out. Why? In this book, King attempts to answer that question, with characteristic intelligence and humor.

“We fall from womb to tomb, from one blackness and toward another, remembering little of the one and knowing nothing of the other … except through faith.”

Top Ten Tuesday: Fall TBR

For the Broke and the Bookish’s Top Ten Tuesday: 

September 19Top Ten Books On My Fall TBR List

I decided to list  books on my TBR with a sort of “autumnal” feeling to them.

41hn3x56n9l-_ac_us218_1. Autumn by Ali Smith– This is the first in a quartet of of stand alone books that are described as “separate, yet interconnected and cyclical”. I’m going to try to read them during the seasons for which they are intended! I’m also intrigued because this book is said to be about the platonic relationship between a man and a woman at very different points in their lives. I think that’s a topic that’s often unexplored.

 

41hv3ouqj9l-_ac_us218_2. The Break by Marian Keyes– Mostly I just want to read this because I tend to like Marian Keyes. This book is about a man and woman in a generally happy marriage. So the woman is surprised when her husband announces that he wants to take a six month “break” and go to southeast Asia. Mid-life crisis? Perhaps. But a break isn’t a break up. But will these two reunite and be the same people left?

 

51bkzcrevpl-_ac_us218_3. Tanglewood and Brine by Deidre Sullivan- This is described as thirteen “dark, feminist retellings of traditional fairy tales”. Um, yes, please!

 

 

 

613s3rdz4l-_ac_us218_4. The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell– This is said to be a ghost story inspired by Susan Hill and Shirley Jackson. I love both of those authors and consider both to be very good fall reading. Hopefully this will be too!

 

 

 

 

61keae7jdll-_ac_sr160218_5. The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman– I’m a fan of Hoffman in general, and her Practical Magic, is a seasonal fall fave. So naturally I’m excited to check out this prequel!

 

 

 

51bn3helxpl-_ac_us218_6. The Revolution of Marina M by Janet Fitch– I love Janet Fitch, and I love historical fiction. I don’t know how Fitch will do with the genre, but I’m excited to see. Even though this takes place in Russia (which I tend to associate with winter rather than fall, though I’m sure they have fall too…) it’s being released in early November.

 

 

41ilzuecpol-_ac_us218_7. Heather, The Totality by Matthew Weiner- Several things in early reviews of this debut novel from the creator of Mad Men, make me think it’ll be a good fall read. The novel about a privileged Manhattan family and a dangerous young man, has been compared to Patricia Highsmith (even though I called The Talented Mr. Ripley a Summer book in a previous list, I consider her an “Autumn writer” in general), Evelyn Waugh,  and Muriel Spark, who are all writers I tend to associate with autumn. It’s also described as a “classic noir” which I tend to think of as an autumn genre (if such a thing exists)

51qc4pa9qol-_ac_us218_8. Nasty Women: Feminism, Resistance, and Revolution in Trump’s America by  Samhita Mukhopadhyay and Kate Harding– By the time this book comes out it’ll be about a year since the 2016 election. I’m holding off on Hilary Clinton’s What Happened, because I think it’s still too raw to read the intelligent, reflective, well considered words of the woman who should have been president. But even though I have a self protective instinct to bury my head in the sand, we do live in the real world and we can’t hide from it all the time. This book looks at how women in such a divided country can unite and support one another. It features contributions from 23 leading feminist writers from all walks of life. 

61me9em-swl-_ac_us218_9. Lady Killers: Deadly Women Throughout History by Tori Telfer– With a few notable exceptions, murder, especially serial murder, is generally considered a man’s game. We’re often fed a narrative that women are the victims of serial killers rather than being serial killers themselves. Statistics do show that most serial killers are male, but there are notable exceptions and they’re often relegated to easy explanations: hormones, witchcraft, femme fatale, black widow, a man made her do it…. It’s sort of interesting how even with something like murder, we try to place people into categories with which we’re comfortable.

51jqyyajdol-_ac_us218_10.Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdich- I consider Erdich to be another “autumnal author” and this is dystopia, which is a genre I associate with fall (death/endings I suppose). In this book, evolution has reversed itself, which is a concept that I find interesting.