Since I’m in the middle of participating in Gothtober, the readathon all about gothic fiction, I thought it the perfect time to talk about some of my favourite gothic fiction! I’ve loved gothic fiction since I was a teen. I always gravitated to the gothic classics both in and out of school, my favourites being Dracula and Wuthering Heights. The combination of creepy, mysterious settings with powerful romance, the supernatural, the constant sense of fear, foreboding and suspense just combines all my favourite things to read about. So I’ve picked out five of my favourite recent(ish) gothic releases alongside twelve I’m highly anticipating that will be released in the next year! It was supposed to be five as well, but 2021 is so full of gothic books and I’m incapable of narrowing down options. I don’t know what is driving this trend but I wholeheartedly approve.
Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
How could I start with anything other than my favourite book of the year, Mexican Gothic? This book is just the best, most fucked up gothic book I’ve read in years. It has all the most terrifying features of gothic fiction: the damp, mouldy house with walls that seem to move if you stare at them too long; the dark and dangerous fog covered cemetery with figures in the distance; the constant feeling that you’re being watched; mushrooms…. It is such a twisty, dark ride, and one that cemented Moreno-Garcia on my list of must-buy authors! The atmosphere is so full of suspense that reading this book is just an absolutely terrifying experience, do not read it at night as I did! Get ready to have your mind just scream WHAT THE FUCK.
The Animals at Lockwood Manor by Jane Healey
Not only is The Animals at Lockwood Manor one of the most gorgeous physical books ever (especially as I got a special edition with stunning endpapers and sprayed edges), but it’s also just an amazing book, especially because at the centre of this gothic book is a brilliant sapphic relationship! It really is full of all my favourite gothic romance tropes: women fainting at the slightest thing, lounging indecently on chaise lounges, ruffled satin gowns and delicate touching of fingers on wrists. It’s BEAUTIFUL. The Animals at Lockwood Manor is of course a complete piece of gothic fiction with the creepy manor house, the ghostly figure in white who keeps appearing around the house, and a special ingrediant to make the environment even more creepy: taxidermied animals!
The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave
The Mercies is definitely not a traditional gothic book. It has no creepy manor house for one. But I really feel like this has the emotional intensity, the romance, the gloomy atmosphere, and the dark fear and suspense that is inherent in all gothic fiction. So whilst at first glance this might not seem to fit the mould of a traditional gothic classic, I do think it deserves to be on this list! Instead of an English manor house, The Mercies is set in a small fishing village in Norway, in a rough and unforgiving landscape that becomes even more unforgiving when a witchhunter is brought in to bring a group of women back under control.
Blood Countess by Lana Popović
One of my favourite elements of gothic fiction is the beautiful and haunting romances. There’s just something about the writing style in gothic books that allows for such beautiful expression of desire. Blood Countess does this so extremely well, it has one of my favourite sapphic relationship developments of any book. The language is just absolutely stunning and the yearning is incredible. Not only that, it’s also inspired by Countess Elizabeth Báthory who is considered to be the most prolific female serial killer ever.
White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi
Yes, this is the reason for the “recent(ish)” at the start of the post. White is for Witching released in 2009, but I only just read it recently (I literally finished it this morning) but I enjoyed it so much I added it to this post on my lunch break! I cannot express how absolutely incredible the atmosphere in this book is, oh my god. It’s sinfully dark and delightful, very strange at times but so foreboding and filled with such thrilling suspense. There is such a sense of malevolency throughout, as it’s all about a house that is haunting four generations of women in a family. It never wants to let them go, so keeps them in the walls of the house. And if creepiness isn’t enough, to make it even more perfect, it has a sapphic relationship too!
Anticipated gothic releases
Down Comes the Night by Allison Saft
Synopsis: A gorgeously gothic, deeply romantic YA debut fantasy about two enemies trapped inside a crumbling mansion, with no escape from the monsters within.
Honor your oath, destroy your country.
Wren Southerland is the most talented healer in the Queen’s Guard, but her reckless actions have repeatedly put her on thin ice with her superiors. So when a letter arrives from a reclusive lord, asking Wren to come to his estate to cure his servant from a mysterious disease, she seizes the chance to prove herself.
When she arrives at Colwick Hall, Wren realizes that nothing is what it seems. Particularly when she discovers her patient is actually Hal Cavendish, the sworn enemy of her kingdom.
As the snowy mountains make it impossible to leave the estate, Wren and Hal grow closer as they uncover a sinister plot that could destroy everything they hold dear. But choosing love could doom both their kingdoms.
Allison Saft’s Down Comes the Night is a snow-drenched, gothic, romantic fantasy that keeps you racing through the pages long into the night.
Madam by Phoebe Wynne
Synopsis: Light a fire they can’t put out…
For 150 years, above the Scottish cliffs, Caldonbrae Hall has sat as a beacon of excellence in the ancestral castle of Lord William Hope. A boarding school for girls, it promises a future where its pupils will emerge ‘resilient and ready to serve society’.
Rose Christie, a 26-year-old Classics teacher, is the first new hire for the school in over a decade. At first, Rose feels overwhelmed in the face of this elite establishment, but soon after her arrival she begins to understand that she may have more to fear than her own ineptitude.
When Rose stumbles across the secret circumstances surrounding the abrupt departure of her predecessor – a woman whose ghost lingers over everything and who no one will discuss – she realises that there is much more to this institution than she has been led to believe.
As she uncovers the darkness that beats at the heart of Caldonbrae, Rose becomes embroiled in a battle that will threaten her sanity as well as her safety…
A brooding, mesmeric novel with a feminist kick, perfect for fans of Naomi Alderman, Madeleine Miller and Margaret Atwood.
The Upstairs House by Julia Fine
Synopsis: Julia Fine, author of the “surreally feministic tale” (Family Circle) What Should Be Wild, returns with a provocative meditation on new motherhood—Shirley Jackson meets The Awakening—in which a postpartum woman’s psychological unraveling becomes intertwined with the ghostly appearance of children’s book writer Margaret Wise Brown.
There’s a madwoman upstairs, and only Megan Weiler can see her.
Ravaged and sore from giving birth to her first child, Megan is mostly raising her newborn alone while her husband travels for work. Physically exhausted and mentally drained, she’s also wracked with guilt over her unfinished dissertation—a thesis on mid-century children’s literature.
Enter a new upstairs neighbor: the ghost of quixotic children’s book writer Margaret Wise Brown—author of the beloved classic Goodnight Moon—whose existence no one else will acknowledge. It seems Margaret has unfinished business with her former lover, the once-famous socialite and actress Michael Strange, and is determined to draw Megan into the fray. As Michael joins the haunting, Megan finds herself caught in the wake of a supernatural power struggle—and until she can find a way to quiet these spirits, she and her newborn daughter are in terrible danger.
The Shape of Darkness by Laura Purcell
Synopsis: As the age of the photograph dawns in Victorian Bath, silhouette artist Agnes is struggling to keep her business afloat. Still recovering from a serious illness herself, making enough money to support her elderly mother and her orphaned nephew Cedric has never been easy, but then one of her clients is murdered shortly after sitting for Agnes, and then another, and another… Why is the killer seemingly targeting her business?
Desperately seeking an answer, Agnes approaches Pearl, a child spirit medium lodging in Bath with her older half-sister and her ailing father, hoping that if Pearl can make contact with those who died, they might reveal who killed them.
But Agnes and Pearl quickly discover that instead they may have opened the door to something that they can never put back…
The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins
Synopsis: A delicious twist on a Gothic classic, Rachel Hawkins’s The Wife Upstairs pairs Southern charm with atmospheric domestic suspense, perfect for fans of B.A. Paris and Megan Miranda.
Meet Jane. Newly arrived to Birmingham, Alabama, Jane is a broke dog-walker in Thornfield Estates––a gated community full of McMansions, shiny SUVs, and bored housewives. The kind of place where no one will notice if Jane lifts the discarded tchotchkes and jewelry off the side tables of her well-heeled clients. Where no one will think to ask if Jane is her real name.
But her luck changes when she meets Eddie Rochester. Recently widowed, Eddie is Thornfield Estates’ most mysterious resident. His wife, Bea, drowned in a boating accident with her best friend, their bodies lost to the deep. Jane can’t help but see an opportunity in Eddie––not only is he rich, brooding, and handsome, he could also offer her the kind of protection she’s always yearned for.
Yet as Jane and Eddie fall for each other, Jane is increasingly haunted by the legend of Bea, an ambitious beauty with a rags-to-riches origin story, who launched a wildly successful southern lifestyle brand. How can she, plain Jane, ever measure up? And can she win Eddie’s heart before her past––or his––catches up to her?
With delicious suspense, incisive wit, and a fresh, feminist sensibility, The Wife Upstairs flips the script on a timeless tale of forbidden romance, ill-advised attraction, and a wife who just won’t stay buried. In this vivid reimagining of one of literature’s most twisted love triangles, which Mrs. Rochester will get her happy ending?
What Big Teeth by Rose Szabo
Synopsis: MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN MEETS THE ADDAMS FAMILY IN THIS HAUNTING STORY OF ONE GIRL’S ATTEMPT TO RECONNECT WITH HER MONSTROUS FAMILY.
Eleanor has not seen or spoken with her family in years, not since they sent her away to Saint Brigid’s boarding school. She knows them only as vague memories: her grandfather’s tremendous fanged snout, the barrel full of water her mother always soaked in, and strange hunting trips in a dark wood with her sister and cousins. And she remembers the way they looked at her, like she was the freak.
When Eleanor finally finds the courage to confront her family and return to their ancestral home on the rainy coast of Maine, she finds them already gathered in wait, seemingly ready to welcome her back with open arms. “I read this in the cards,” her grandmother tells her. However, Grandma Persephone doesn’t see all, for just as Eleanor is beginning to readjust to the life she always longed for, a strange and sudden death rocks the family, leaving Eleanor to manage this difficult new dynamic without help.
In order to keep the family that abandoned her from falling apart, Eleanor calls upon her mysterious other grandmother, Grandmere, from across the sea. Grandmere brings order to the chaotic household, but that order soon turns to tyranny. If any of them are to survive, Eleanor must embrace her strange family and join forces with the ghost of Grandma Persephone to confront the monstrousness lurking deep within her Grandmere-and herself.
Summer Sons by Lee Mandelo
Synopsis: Andrew and Eddie did everything together, best friends bonded more deeply than brothers, until Eddie left Andrew behind to start his graduate program at Vanderbilt. Six month later, only days before Andrew was to join him in Nashville, Eddie dies of an apparent suicide. He leaves Andrew a horrible inheritance: a roommate he doesn’t know, friends he never asked for, and a gruesome phantom with bleeding wrists that mutters of revenge.
As Andrew searches for the truth of Eddie’s death, he uncovers the lies and secrets left behind by the person he trusted most, discovering a family history soaked in blood and death. Whirling between the backstabbing academic world where Eddie spent his days and the circle of hot boys, fast cars, and hard drugs that ruled Eddie’s nights, the walls Andrew has built against the world begin to crumble, letting in the phantom that hungers for him.
Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon
Synopsis: A genre-bending work of gothic fiction that wrestles with the tangled history of racism in America and the marginalization of society’s undesirables.
Vern, a Black woman with albinism, is hunted after escaping a religious compound, then she discovers that her body is changing and that she is developing extra-sensory powers.
Alone in the woods, she gives birth to twins and raises them away from the influence of the outside world. But something is wrong – not with them, but with her own body. It’s itching, it’s stronger, it’s… not normal.
To understand her body’s metamorphosis, Vern must investigate not just the secluded religious compound she fled but the violent history of dehumanization, medical experimentation, and genocide that produced it. In the course of reclaiming her own darkness, Vern learns that monsters aren’t just individuals, but entire histories, systems, and nations.
The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward
Synopsis: *THE MUST-READ GOTHIC THRILLER OF 2021 FROM THE SHIRLEY JACKSON AND AUGUST DERLETH AWARD-WINNING AUTHOR OF LITTLE EVE AND RAWBLOOD *
This is the story of a serial killer. A stolen child. Revenge. Death. And an ordinary house at the end of an ordinary street.
All these things are true. And yet they are all lies…
You think you know what’s inside the last house on Needless Street. You think you’ve read this story before. That’s where you’re wrong.
In the dark forest at the end of Needless Street, lies something buried. But it’s not what you think…
The Death of Jane Lawrence by Caitlin Starling
Synopsis: Author of THE LUMINOUS DEAD Caitlin Starling’s THE DEATH OF JANE LAWRENCE, pitched as a Crimson Peak-inspired gothic horror about a young woman who makes a marriage of convenience and soon finds herself trapped in her new husband’s decrepit and possibly haunted mansion, and spirals down a dangerous path of ritual magic in an effort to save them both, to Sylvan Creekmore at St. Martin’s Press, in a very nice deal, at auction, by Caitlin McDonald at Donald Maass Literary Agency (world)
The City Beautiful by Aden Polydoros
Synopsis: Set against the backdrop of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, this queer Jewish gothic fantasy follows a young immigrant, Alter, who is possessed by the dybbuk of his murdered best friend and is thrust into a deadly hunt for a serial killer.
Wuthering Heights by Tasha Suri
Synopsis: Tasha Suri suggested she revamp Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights after Settle approached her to reclaim a different classic. “Tasha didn’t feel she was the right author for that book, but she did have an exciting idea for Wuthering Heights,” the editor said. “She proposed focusing on how, when the British colonized India and white men traveled there and had children with Indian women, if the children passed as white, they were then sent back to England to be integrated into ‘proper’ white society. Tasha had a brilliant plan for weaving that little-known part of history into Wuthering Heights.”
Suri called the classic novel a favorite of hers, “a strange and polarizing book: dark and gothic, passionately romantic and pointedly cruel. It’s also the story of the destructive influence of a boy who doesn’t belong: a boy who looks ‘foreign’ without having any particular history of cultural identity; a monstrous boy who has no place, no family, no right to want things, and wants them anyway. I want to write a reclamation that says: everyone comes from somewhere, and colonialism may try to make us its monsters, but we don’t have to let it. I hope my re-imagining will also help make readers a little more aware of the long, long history of South Asians in Britain. There’s so much history that we’re not taught that young readers deserve to know about.”
I hope you enjoyed this list of gothic books, and are as excited as I am about 2021! It is the year of the gothic book and I don’t know why we’re having such a big push for gothic novels, but I am so happy we are! Do you have any favourite gothic books? Let me know in the comments!