I seem to have successfully turned you away from ever reading Tess of the d’Urbervilles (even if that wasn’t exactly my intent). In fact, one of you (who will go unnamed but is easy to locate in the comments section!) vowed to read the Cliff Notes instead, should the need ever arise, which I think only was an attempt to gall me, but I can’t say for sure. Either way, I need to atone just a bit and offer you some books that will work very well for this rainy weather and won’t be so depressing, but maybe just a little.
In Washington, we’ve got torrential rain, and flooding everywhere. It happens every year about this time, or a little later, but some years, it’s worse than others. You’ve probably seen it on the news if you’re in the continental US, but there are some good shots of the roads south of here on this site. So I tried to pick some books that suited the weather, getting all cuddled up under a blanket with a cup of coffee, with the rain pouring outside.
I chose the Gothic genre, loosely, as my inspiration. This genre is dark, sometimes scary, a little mysterious, but there’s often romance and adventure as well. It sounded like a perfect fit. These aren’t in any particular order, as usual.
1. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (1938). Hitchcock made a famous film from this book in 1940, but it’s worth reading, of course, to get the full story. The movie is also well worth your time. A widower brings his new wife to a mansion where the former mistress seems to still be in charge, even though she’s dead. (By the way, the photo is my own personal first edition copy. It’s famous for the silver foil on the binding. Pretty, eh?).
2. The Turn of the Screw by Henry James (1898). The story of a young, idealistic governess confronted by supernatural evils in her two young charges. The shortest book of the bunch. But the language is a little harder to get through, even though this is James’ easiest book to read by far. If you’ve been meaning to read something by Henry James, this is a great place to start.
3. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (1847). Another story about a governess, a common character in Gothic fiction, it seems. Jane works for Mr. Rochester, who has many secrets, one that makes a lot of strange noises and sets fires to things at night.
4. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen (1803). Yes, it’s another Austen book. I promise that one of these days, I’ll have a book list that doesn’t include one of her books. This one is actually a spoof of the Gothic form, but it employs many Gothic elements: an old castle, a family with secrets, a young woman, and elements of romance and intrigue. The heroine, Catherine Morland, has an overactive imagination, and here you can see Austen poking fun at girls who read too much of these kind of books. Very applicable to all those girls who only read books from the Twilight series
5. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield (2006). I thought I’d throw in a contemporary book as well, and this one was a pleasant surprise to me. A very clever plot, plodding at times, but with a good payoff at the end. It’ll make you squirm a little bit, but that’s not always a bad thing (it shouldn’t leave you with nightmares, though). Great to read in association with the Bronte sisters’ books. It’s a story about stories, about twins, and about ghosts and creaky old mansions. All the elements necessary for a Gothic tale.