Welcome to 2020! It is the year of the rat, and so I begin by rummaging through the dark corners of my bookcase for the texts that I have hoarded this past year, but not yet read.
“𝓦𝓱𝓮𝓷 𝓘 𝓬𝓪𝓷𝓷𝓸𝓽 𝓼𝓮𝓮 𝔀𝓸𝓻𝓭𝓼 𝓬𝓾𝓻𝓵𝓲𝓷𝓰 𝓵𝓲𝓴𝓮 𝓻𝓲𝓷𝓰𝓼 𝓸𝓯 𝓼𝓶𝓸𝓴𝓮 𝓻𝓸𝓾𝓷𝓭 𝓶𝓮 𝓘 𝓪𝓶 𝓲𝓷 𝓭𝓪𝓻𝓴𝓷𝓮𝓼𝓼 – 𝓘 𝓪𝓶 𝓷𝓸𝓽𝓱𝓲𝓷𝓰.”
– Virginia Woolf
Each of the following texts has been collected with purpose – to be read, obviously… but with generally gothic relevance. I will be reading and discussing these texts in conjunction with my monthly themes. I am happy to announce each month’s read(s) at the end of the month before, in case you’d like to join me for a Generally Gothic Book Club readalong. I thought, however, that it made more sense to share what I already have now to give you all a chance to compare against your own shelves/shopping lists/library catalogues, and also to keep me accountable, so that the remnants of 2019’s ‘to-be-read’ pile make it onto 2020’s ‘read’!
To arouse your gothic curiosity, I will provide my edition’s blurb for each book, working my way up from the bottom, because that black and red beast may surprise some of you to see…
Little Sister Death, William Gay
The first book on the list, is actually the last novel I completed in 2019 (after that it was all spooky short stories!). W. Gay’s posthumously published final novel was the subject of the very first #generallygothicbookworm readalong, which Gothic Bookworm and I hosted throughout December. As it was a busy, festive sort of month, we decided to leave our spoiler-riddled posts until after Christmas. I am therefore including this text on the Generally Gothic TBR (to-be-read) list because I’m not done with it yet, as acknowledgement to those of you who joined us (thank you!) in reading it, and as a way to let you know I’ve not forgotten – my promised nerdy words are coming soon!
As I’ve already posted about this book, I’ll save you the blurb.
You can find that here, along with info on the author, and my midway, spoiler-free opinions.
Here you can find the lore behind the literature, and my feelings on finishing the novel, again spoiler-free.
And Gothic Bookworm’s preliminary, spoiler-free review can be found here.
We are Monsters, Brian Kirk
“He’s the hospital’s newest, and most notorious patient – a paranoid schizophrenic who sees humanity’s dark side.
“Luckily he’s in good hands. Dr. Eli Alpert has a talent for healing tortured souls. And his protégé is working on a cure for schizophrenia, a drug that returns patients to their former selves. But unforeseen side effects are starting to emerge. Forcing prior traumas to surface. Setting inner demons free.
“Monsters have been unleashed inside the Sugar Hill mental asylum. They don’t have fangs or claws. They look just like you or me.”
My Cousin Rachel, Daphne Du Maurier
“Orphaned at an early age, Philip Ashley is raised by his benevolent older cousin, Ambrose. Resolutely single, Ambrose delights in Philip as his heir, a man who will love his grand home as much as he does himself. But the cosy world the two construct is shattered when Ambrose sets off on a trip to Florence. There he falls in love and marries – and there he dies suddenly. Jealous of his marriage, racked by suspicion at the hints in Ambrose’s letters, and grief-stricken by his death, Philip prepares to meet his cousin’s widow with hatred in his heart. Despite himself, Philip is drawn to this beautiful, sophisticated, mysterious Rachel like a moth to the flame. And yet… might she have had a hand in Ambrose’s death?”
– No blurb on Doubleday hardback. Text taken from Goodreads.
Rosemary’s Baby, Ira Levin
“Rosemary Woodhouse and her struggling actor husband Guy move into the Bramford, an old New York City apartment building with an ominous reputation and mostly elderly residents. Neighbours Roman and Minnie Castavet soon come nosing around to welcome the Woodhouses to the building, and despite Rosemary’s reservations about their eccentricity and the weird noises that she keeps hearing, her husband takes a special shine to them.
“Shortly after Guy lands a plum Broadway role, Rosemary becomes pregnant, and the Castavets start taking a special interest in her welfare. As the sickened Rosemary becomes increasingly isolated, she begins to suspect that the Castavets’ circle is not what it seems…”
Idaho, Emily Ruskovich
“Ann and Wade have carved out a life for themselves from a rugged landscape in northern Idaho, where they are bound together by more than love. With her husband’s memory fading, Ann attempts to piece together the truth of what happened to Wade’s first wife, Jenny, and to their daughters. In a story told from multiple perspectives – including Ann, Wade, and Jenny, now in prison – we gradually learn of the mysterious and shocking act that fractured Wade’s and Jenny’s lives, of the love and compassion that brought Ann and Wade together, and of the memories that reverberate through the lives of every character in Idaho.”
Jamaica Inn, Daphne Du Maurier
“The coaches avoided Jamaica Inn, hidden in the harsh Cornish moors not far from the coast, for its name was evil, and no man knew what horrors its dark shutters hid. Yet it was to Jamaica Inn that Mary Yellan went when her mother died, to join her aunt Patience and the man her aunt had married, Joss Merlyn, the landlord of the Inn. Only too soon was she to learn the full tale of its horror, though she stayed beneath its roof because of her aunt, so lovely once, so battered and haunted now. Of Francis Davey, the albino preacher who rode the moors alone at midnight; of Joss’s brother, the horse thief; of smugglers and murderers and the riffraff of the coast; of the wreckers whose profession it was to lure ships inland by false lights when the tempests blew; of love and death and treachery and faith, Mary Yellan was to learn beneath that roof. Mary herself and the life of the English countryside spring into vivid reality in these romantic and full-blooded pages.”
The Butchering Art, Lindsey Fitzharris
“In The Buthering Art, Lindsey Fitzharris reveals the shocking world of nineteenth-century surgery on the eve of profound transformation. As surgeons put on their blood-streaked aprons and aligned their instruments, hundreds of men would crowd into a dirty operating theatre, ready to be enthralled by the spectacle. In a time before anesthesia, surgeons were lauded for their speed and brute strength – surgery was a show. But no matter how quick the operation, the mortality rate for patients was just as high as ever. Surgeons were baffled by the mysterious ailments that claimed the lives of their patients, until an unlikely figure stepped forward: a young, melancholy Quaker surgeon named Joseph Lister, who would solve the deadly riddle and change the course of history.
“Fitzharris dramatically reconstructs Lister’s career path in gripping detail, culminating in his audacious claim that germs were the source of all infection – and could be countered by antiseptics. Eerie and illuminating, The Butchering Art celebrates the triumph of a visionary surgeon whose quest to unite science and medicine delivered us into the modern world.”
The Haunting of Hill House, Shirley Jackson
“Four seekers have arrived at the rambling old pile known as Hill House: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of psychic phenomena; Theodora, his lovely and lighthearted assistant; Luke, the adventurous future inheritor of the estate; and Eleanor, a friendless, fragile young woman with a dark past. As they begin to cope with chilling, even horrifying occurrences beyond their control or understanding, they cannot possibly know what lies ahead. For Hill House is gathering its powers – and soon it will choose one of them to make its own.”
The Sense of an Ending, Julian Barnes
“A novel so compelling that it begs to be read in a single sitting, The Sense of an Ending has the psychological and emotional depth and sophistication of Henry James at his best, and is a stunning new chapter in Julian Barnes’s oeuvre.
“This intense novel follows Tony Webster, a middle-aged man, as he contends with a past he never thought much about – until his closest childhood friends return with a vengeance: one of them from the grave, another maddeningly present. Tony thought he left this all behind as he built a life for himself, and his career provided him with a secure retirement and an amicable relationship with his ex-wife and daughter, who now has a family of her own. But when he is presented with a mysterious legacy, he is forced to revise his estimation of his own nature and place in the world.”
Circe, Madeline Miller
As my current read, which I have opened up as a Generally Gothic Book Club readalong, I will post about this separately soon, to provide a little more information for those of you who’ve already decided to read along, and for those of you yet to be enticed!
In the meantime, here are my previous (& first!) two book club posts, on H. G. Wells, and Nathaniel Hawthorne, both of whom were read for the Nature is Gothic themed month.
Whilst that’s all for now, there’s much more planned, unplanned, and likely waiting to pounce unannounced from the shadows. During this new year you can expect more books than listed here to appear, including some exciting Generally Gothic Bookworm read along fun that I am co-hosting with Gothic Bookworm, as well as all sorts of non-bookish things too!
If you have any requests, collaboration ideas, suggestions, questions, etc., the Generally Gothic doors are open! (Head to the comments below, or Instagram.)
Each of the above books was hand-picked with reason. Only one, The Butchering Art, is new – a gladly received gift. The rest found their way to me through Little Free Libraries, second-hand book shops, and the perfect ‘bookstagram’ giveaway that read my mind!
I mention this to encourage ethical book consumption, and sharing – a book is just an ornament when it is not being read. With this in mind, I am interested in hosting some book swaps and giveaways this year… But I’m worried that second-hand texts may be looked unfavourably upon. What do you think? Let me know in the comments below, or on Instagram.