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  • BN Editors 4:00 am on 2020/07/17 Permalink
    Tags: gothic novels, ,   

    A Guest Post from Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Author of Mexican Gothic-The Girl in the Mansion: How Gothic Romances Became Domestic Noirs 

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    Picture this: you’re driving in the middle of nowhere late at night. You look to your left, and there, off in the distance atop a tree-lined hill, looms an old, well-worn Victorian house. What kind of horrors might linger behind those heavy doors? Are there long-forgotten secrets hidden deep in the basement, or ominous spirits roaming the halls? Maybe you accelerate just a little to put the house in your rearview mirror, shivers running down your spine.  

    In case you couldn’t tell, we love a good gothic tale, which is why we can’t stop talking about Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s new novel, Mexican Gothic. With callbacks to classic literature like Rebecca, Jane Eyre, and Haunting of Hill House, Moreno-Garcia (author of Gods of Jade and Shadow) proves that she is just as consumed by stories of haunted houses as we are. Here, she explores how the genre has evolved over time—from fearful women trapped in fearsome houses to fearful women living in a fearsome world. 

    Whatever happened to that girl? The girl from the Gothic romance novels—long hair, old-fashioned dress, with a dark, looming house in the distance and a look of anxiety on her face.

    This was a category dominated by authors such as Victoria Holt and Phyllis A. Whitney, and their covers fixed in the minds of a couple of generations what ‘Gothic’ meant.

    Most of these mid-century Gothics adhered to a simple formula which contained a young woman, a big house and a dangerous yet exciting man. Often the women were in subservient positions, working for the lord of the manor, orphaned, or the like. The women encountered some mystery that needed solving and eventually found love with the dangerous-exciting man, who turned out to be misunderstood. Although the mystery and threats surrounding the heroine seemed to be of supernatural origin, there was usually a rational explanation.

    As Joanna Russ explains in her essay “Somebody’s Trying to Kill Me and I Think It’s My Husband: The Modern Gothic,” the 1960s Gothic romance ultimately resembled a crossbreed between Jane Eyre and Rebecca, and publishers such as Terry Carr believed the appeal of the books was that they featured “women who marry guys and then begin to discover their husbands are strangers.”

    Whatever the plot variation, Gothic novels allowed for excitement, romance and sublimated sexual desire, as well as providing the heroine with a certain level of agency: after all, she had to survive and solve the mystery, even if the killer was inside the house with her.

    This game of literary Scooby-Doo was profitable. Such was the demand for Gothic books that in true pulp fashion sometimes one title would be re-issued with a different cover and a new name.

    Yet, by the end of the 1970s, the Gothic novel seemed to vanish from shelves. Fans who had previously turned to these books now looked for the emergent, spicier romances such as The Flame and the Flower, and readers more inclined to chills were about to discover Stephen King and the 1980s horror boom.

    And so, the genre died. Or did it? I believe that rather than disappear completely, what happened was that the impulses behind the Gothic novel mutated and eventually gave birth to what we call the Domestic Noir.

    Author Julia Crouch has defined Domestic Noir as a genre which “takes place primarily in homes and workplaces, concerns itself largely (but not exclusively) with the female experience, is based around relationships and takes as its base a broadly feminist view that the domestic sphere is a challenging and sometimes dangerous prospect for its inhabitants.”

    Domestic noirs emphasize the female experience with their covers and titles. Peruse the shelves and you’ll find that it’s a world of girls (Gone Girl, The Girl Before), wives (The Wife Between Us, The Silent Wife, My Husband’s Wife, The Perfect Wife), and the like.

    In The Gothic Romance Wave: A Critical History of the Mass Market Novels, 1960-1993, Lori A. Paige states that although Gothic romances offered upright heroines, “below the surface of every story remained an undercurrent of self-conscious repression, vice and even depravity.” The same could be said of domestic noirs such as The Girl on the Train where a heroine attempts to conceal her alcoholism and the woman she is fascinated with—a seemingly perfect woman—is involved in a torrid affair.

    In domestic noirs, heroines might still fear their husbands, but they also seem to be frightened of a wider variety of people including neighbors, friends and even employees, the rollercoaster taking them through numerous peaks and valleys of anxiety.

    I don’t think it’s a perfectly straight line between the Gothic romances of old and the current boom of domestic noir, but they both reflect that eerie feeling that the call is coming from inside the house. And perhaps the phone has been ringing for a long time.

    The post A Guest Post from Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Author of <i>Mexican Gothic</i>-The Girl in the Mansion: How Gothic Romances Became Domestic Noirs appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Tara Sonin 3:30 pm on 2017/08/24 Permalink
    Tags: , cat on a hot tin roof, , , darkness and light, , , , gothic novels, , , , , , , ,   

    The Gothic Novel Survival Guide 

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    So, you’ve found yourself in the 18th or 19th century, stuck in a gothic—or Southern Gothic!—novel. Surrounded by mysterious settings, dangerous characters and a bit of romance, these novels can prove fatal, but nothing you can’t survive, if you follow these instructions:

    1. First, are you in Europe or America?

    The Gothic genre originated in Medieval Europe with The Castle of Ontranto, the story of a man who undoes his life while trying to prevent a prophecy from coming true (think Macbeth meets Oedipus Rex) while Southern Gothic novels like Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil are the American response to the popularity of this genre, and deals with the South’s blood-tainted history as a result of slavery. So, depending on where—and therefore, when— you are, you play by different rules.

    2. If you’re in Europe, figure this out first and foremost: if there’s magic, hide on the sidelines.

    Look, I’m not saying Dracula isn’t kind of sexy (especially the Gary Oldman movie version), but in the Gothic genre, magic and mystery almost always spell death. The people who survive are the ones who don’t get mixed up in it. In The Picture of Dorian Gray, wishing for eternal youth has horrific, murderous consequences when a man decides to trap his youth inside a painting, but ultimately damns his soul. (The servants survive though, so probably best to stick to the downstairs parts of the great, gothic houses.)

    3. Are you a woman? Then decide: villain, or victim?

    There are two types of women in gothic literature. There’s the mysterious, often off-the-page villainess (such as Rebecca, in the classic gothic novel about a woman unraveling the truth about her new husband’s dead first wife) and Jane Eyre (whose romantic anti-hero Rochester keeps his mentally unstable wife locked in an attic until she tries to burn their house down). But there are characters like Jane, who is in many ways a victim of circumstance—an orphan, abused, forced into a life of servitude—and Nelly, in Wuthering Heights, the narrator of the story and servant to the family. She isn’t culpable for the tragedy that ensues as a result of Catherine and Heathcliffe’s romance, but she witnesses it, and lives to tell the tale. As I said before: villains usually have a tragic end, but as far as gothic literature goes, they’re usually the most infamous (and interesting) characters.

    4. If you’re in a Southern Gothic novel, outrun your past—fast.

    In books like The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner, and plays like Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, the characters are obsessed with events that happened in the past that they cannot undo. If your past is haunting you, it can be almost as powerful as the magic present in the European gothic novels. For the characters in The Sound and the Fury, three brothers fixating on what happened to their youngest sister, Caddy, caused the ruin of their entire family; and in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Brick’s inability to confront the truth about his sexuality led to tragedy both for his marriage, and a close friend. If you’re going to survive the Gothic South, either make peace with the past, or invent yourself a new one.

    On second thought, these books may be much more fun to read than they are to live through, but with these steps, you’re primed to make it to the 21st century intact. Unless, of course, I’m one of those gothic villainesses haunting you from the shadows of your past, waiting to take you down.

    What tips would you offer someone who’s just trying to live through a gothic novel?

    The post The Gothic Novel Survival Guide appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Dahlia Adler 6:30 pm on 2014/10/29 Permalink
    Tags: delilah s. dawson, gothic novels, lisa maxwell, martina boone, , natalie c. parker, , , the south, ,   

    Five Great Southern Gothic YAs 

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    Martina Boone's CompulsionYou can find southern sans Gothic (see: Magnolia, by Kristi Cook) or Gothic set elsewhere (April Genevieve Tucholke’s Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea), but there’s something about the combination of the two that creates the perfect storm, often literally. Nothing goes together quite like grits and ghosts, sweet tea and spookiness, hurricanes and hellfire. Here are five of our favorite YA novels featuring the darkly supernatural south.

    Beware the Wild, by Natalie C. Parker
    The idea of being so deeply immersed in a world you can practically taste the glowing swamp water might not sound particularly delicious, but trust me: in this case, it absolutely is. Parker’s debut is rife with gorgeous atmospheric detail that pairs perfectly with this twisted tale of a swamp that swallows those who get too close and spits out replacements, confusing the lives of the couple in the town of Sticks, Louisiana, who know the truth but may not be able to do anything to stop it.

    Made for You, by Melissa Marr

    The town of Jessup, North Carolina, has always been a peaceful one…until the night someone hits Eva Tilling with a car and leaves her for dead. Thus begins a story told in alternating perspectives by Eva, a pretty, popular sweetheart whose injuries have left her face marred and granted her the ability to see the deaths of those who touch her; the obsessed, murderous stalker who calls himself “Judge” and reasons through the process of sending Eva “messages” in order to “save” her; and Grace, Eva’s best friend, who, being Asian American, is a perpetual outsider in Jessup. As Eva gets closer to an old friend, Judge grows increasingly desperate and dangerous, and Grace may be forced to pay the ultimate price.

    Servants of the Storm, by Delilah S. Dawson
    When Hurricane Josephine comes to Savannah, Dovey has no idea just how much she’s about to lose. Not only is her best friend killed in the storm, but Dovey reacts to the tragedy with a psychotic break that results in her spending the next year in a medicated fog. As she finally begins to come back to herself, she learns that all is not as it seems in Savannah, nor is everyone who they seem…or even what. Dovey tangles with demons, magic, and a couple of teenage boys in an effort to put Carly’s soul to rest, and the result is a dark, twisted, horror-filled tale that will have your jaw dropping on the last page.

    Compulsion, by Martina Boone
    Barrie Watson arrives at her aunt’s South Carolina island plantation with no knowledge of the area or her family beyond the mother who recently passed away and the father who died in a fire years before. There, she learns her compulsion to find and return lost items to their owners is in fact one of three compulsions that befell the three central families of the island—gifts or curses, depending on the family. Together with Eight—scion of one of the other families—Barrie unlocks years of secrets and mysteries behind the past she never knew and the present life she’s in danger of losing.

    Sweet Unrest, by Lisa Maxwell
    New Orleans. Voodoo. History. Romance. Murder. Maxwell’s debut has all those southern Gothic elements, wrapped up in the absorbing, compelling story of a girl who dreams of her past life and the guy who’s still living in it. With narration in both the antebellum past and the present, Sweet Unrest beautifully contrasts culture and race relations against the backdrop of one of the favorite cities of the south, for a read I didn’t want to put down until I’d finished every last word.

    What’s your favorite Gothic read? 

  • Molly Schoemann-McCann 5:00 pm on 2014/07/22 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , , gothic novels, , , , , , petals on the wind, , , ,   

    13 Signs You Might Be Living in a Gothic Novel 

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    Flowers in the Attic

    We love gothic novels for their emotional power, their over-the-top drama, and the creepy-shivery feelings we get while reading them. Of course, part of the fun of gothic novels is that their characters and situations are so much larger than life…or are they? If you’ve started to suspect that the drafty cathedral your family has called home for countless centuries may in fact be the setting of a bona fide gothic novel, here are 13 spooky ways to tell for sure:

    1. Either there are no clocks in your house, or your house is filled with clocks…but they’re all set to different times.

    2. Also, though you refer to it as “your house,” it’s actually one of the following: a dilapidated mansion, a moldering manor, or a crumbling castle with no plumbing to speak of. Also, the wind is always howling outside.

    3. People around you are regularly tumbling dramatically down stairs and breaking all of their bones.

    4. You can tell that things are starting to get kind of serious with the guy you’ve been seeing because he’s started talking about how you two are actually one person and how if you’re ever separated by death he will throw himself into your open grave and be buried alive with you. Also, you suspect that the two of you might be somehow related. Best not to dwell.

    5. Flickering candles everywhere.

    6. Three or more friends or family members have wasted away from mysterious fevers, but always looked great doing it.

    7. Instead of watching TV, you plot revenge.

    8. Every time you’re about to finally fall into bed with the long-term object of your obsession, a gust of wind ablows the French doors open, a candle gutters out, and one of you immediately begins to waste away from a mysterious fever.

    9. Your living quarters are no great shakes, but you’ve noticed that going outside is somehow always a bad idea.

    10. 20% of the meals served and eaten in your house are laced with some kind of drug or poison.

    11. People are constantly being locked in their rooms or locking other people in their rooms without anybody ever batting an eye over it.

    12. Most of the marriages of the couples around you were motivated by vengeance.

    13. An attic without an insane person chained up in it for years just doesn’t have that lived-in feeling. Same goes for cellars, and the odd cupola.

    Do you suspect you might be living in a gothic novel?

  • Lauren Passell 5:30 pm on 2014/06/26 Permalink
    Tags: by the numbers, , , gothic novels, , , , , , ,   

    5 Gothic Novels, By the Numbers 

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    we-have-always-lived-in-the-castle001Gothic novels come in many flavors, ranging from the classics, like Matthew Lewis’s The Monk, that helped pave the way to some of my favorites, and newer works, like Diane Setterfield’s The Thirteenth Tale, that perfectly fit the bill. But my favorites all share the same things: creepy houses, mysterious relatives, unexplained ailments/physical deformities, and always a twisty secret. Below, I’ve ranked my favorite Gothic novels based on those components. There are too many greats to list them all, but here’s a good starter guide for someone looking forward to a chill-inducing Gothic summer:

    My Cousin Rachel, by Daphne du Maurier
    Every Gothic list worth its salt mentions Rebecca, but a lesser-known but still super rad novel is de Maurier’s other macabre tale, My Cousin Rachel. Philip Ashley goes to live with his cousin Ambrose, who falls in love and marries a woman named Rachel on a trip in Florence before randomly dying. Philip is immediately suspicious of Rachel, but finds himself inexplicably drawn to her. Is she guilty of murdering Ambrose? If you loved Rebecca‘s puzzling thrills, you’ll be equally gripped by My Cousin Rachel. 

    Creepy houses: 1
    Unpleasant attics: 0
    Mysterious relatives: 1
    Illness/physical impairments: 0
    Deaths: 1
    Poisonings: 0
    Orphans: 1
    Falling down the stairs: 0
    Destructive fires: 0
    Twisty secrets: 1
    Total: 5

    The Fall of the House of Usher, by Edgar Allan Poe
    Right off the bat, readers get a very creepy feeling when introduced to the House of Usher, where an unnamed narrator is visiting his sick friend, Roderick Usher, who needs a bit of a cheer-up:

    “About the whole mansion and domain there hung an atmosphere peculiar to themselves and their immediate vicinity which had no affinity with the air of heaven, but which had reeked up from the decayed trees, and the gray wall, and the silent tarn—a pestilent and mystic vapor, dull, sluggish, faintly discernible, and leaden-hued.”

    Usher’s sister is sick, too, and the story lays out all the terrible things happening to the final Usher descendants in their threatening old house before they die. Every single sinister detail in this book pulls you further through castle halls and nightmarish forests and adds to the characters’ mounting insanity and the book’s Gothic rush. A terrifying, dramatic ending awaits you. If you’re truly invested in being totally disturbed, The Fall of the House of Usher will be wholly satisfying.

    Creepy houses: 1
    Unpleasant attics: 0
    Mysterious relatives: 1
    Illness/physical impairments: 2
    Deaths: 1
    Poisonings: 0
    Orphans: 0
    Someone falling down the stairs: 0
    Destructive fires: 0
    Twisty secrets: 1/2
    Total: 5 1/2

    Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë
    Brontë’s classic tells the story of Jane, an orphan raised by her cruel and wealthy aunt and eventually shipped off to boarding school. Later, she becomes a governess for the ward of the rich Mr. Rochester, who she falls in love with after saving him from a fire. They part ways until another fire eats up his home, Thornfield, this time, taking Rochester’s sight and one hand. Jane returns to Rochester because…love. Just like any great gothic novel, this book features a creepy attic, and you wouldn’t believe what’s in this one even if I told you.

    Creepy houses: 1
    Unpleasant attics: 1
    Mysterious relatives: 1
    Illness/physical impairments: 1
    Deaths: 0
    Poisonings: 0
    Orphans: 1
    Falling down the stairs: 0
    Destructive fires: 2
    Twisty secrets: 1
    Total: 8

    We Have Always Lived in the Castle, by Shirley Jackson
    Creepy mansion? Check. Tea times? Check. Wheelchair? Check. Arsenic, mysterious relative, destructive fire?  Check, check, check. And beneath it all: a heavy blanket of madness. We Have Always Lived In The Castle tells the story of the Blackwoods, a gang that will immediately put you at unease. In the beginning, we learn that several members of the Blackwood family died at the dinner table, but it still feels like everyone knows something you don’t. (And they do.) When a strange cousin shows up for a stay, your brain really starts struggling to put the pieces together. And then there’s the fire. And the twist. You’ll feel like you’re having a really odd dream you can’t wait to wake up and tell your friends about. Your friends will be like, “you dreamed what? That’s pretty messsed up.” See also (obviously): Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House.

    Creepy houses: 1
    Unpleasant attics: 1
    Mysterious relatives: 5
    Illness/physical impairments: 1
    Deaths: Several
    Poisons: Several
    Orphans: 0
    Falling down the stairs: 0
    Destructive fires: 1
    Twisty secrets: 1
    Total: 10

    My Sweet Audrina, by V.C. Andrews
    Choosing just one V.C. Andrews book for a Gothic list is like being forced to choose one grunge song out of Nirvana’s discography, but here I go: My Sweet Audrina is possibly the most Gothicy book of all time. It’s not just that there are Gothic elements (and oh, there are), but the entire atmosphere is so puzzling and vague you could choke on it. It stars Audrina, a girl who seems odd in every way. She doesn’t know how old she is. There are no clocks in her house. Her dad religiously makes her sit in a weird rocking chair. Everyone keeps talking about her perfect older sister, who is dead. People keep falling down the stairs. There are so many menacing details that it seems like Andrews is distracting you from the heart of the story, but it’s all so delicious that it’s okay.

    Creepy houses: 1
    Unpleasant attics: 1
    Mysterious relatives: 5
    Illness/physical impairments: 2
    Deaths: 2
    Poisonings: 0
    Orphans: 0
    Falling down the stairs: Too many to count
    Destructive fires: 0
    Twisty secrets: 1
    Total: 14

    What’s your favorite gothic novel?

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