Those of you have stuck with me from the beginning know of my obsession with classic literature! Yes, I know it's not everyone's cup of tea but I just adore the classics!
I first studied classic literature during sixth form and immediately fell in love with it. I feel it's more heartfelt than more modern literature. When I was seventeen, the topic for the academic year was Victorian Gothic Literature so I ended up reading A LOT of Gothic Classics. Like looaadss.
I thought that after all that highlighting and annotating, my knowledge wouldn't be used again - but here we are! So, if you're looking for some spooky gothic classic books to read this Halloween, this one is for you!
What is Gothic Literature?
Gothic literature is a genre that was first formed in the Romantic era in the late 18th Century. It first appeared in Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto which was published in 1764. Common motifs within gothic literature are a brave hero, an evil villain and an eerie setting such as an old castle. It also often features themes such as horror, mystery and the supernatural.
I always think of gothic literature at this time of year, particularly at Halloween. The creepy ominous settings, and the wonderfully spooky descriptions of the supernatural are perfect at this time of year.
Must Read Gothic Classics
The list below is of the more well-known gothic classics, yet they're the perfect introduction to gothic literature, and indeed, the classics too!
Frankenstein - Mary Shelley, 1818
This story centres on scientist Viktor Frankenstein and the creation of his monster. Frankenstein is obsessed with the idea of creating life and is successful after using electricity to spark life into his monster. Yet after being rejected by both Frankenstein and society, the creature is determined to destroy his maker.
It has been argued that Shelly wrote Frankenstein to terrify people of the new terrifying concept of SCIENCE. Ooo. spooky huh?! It was written during a time of scientific advancement, and when most relied upon religion, many people feared the possibilities and potential consequences of scientific advancement.
Shelley wrote this book when she was only eighteen! As one of the most famous gothic horror books, this one is a definite must-read! I first reviewed Frankenstein on my blog over two years ago, if you want to read one of my super cringe first posts for a real Halloween treat!
Wuthering Heights - Emily Brontë, 1847
Wuthering Heights, the classics of classics. While most people consider this book to be a straightforward love story, in truth, it's far more complicated than that. With ghosts, death and horror all mostly set on the backdrop of the Yorkshire Moors, there's so much to this book!
The story is narrated through Mr Lockwood's diary as he writes his experiences renting Thrushcross Grange. While there, he decides to visit the Wuthering Heights which is the home of his landlord, Heathcliff. There he discovers that Heathcliff and his rude family's morals differ from his own. He is forced to spend the night at Wuthering Heights after a snowstorm where he is awakened by a ghost. After his terrifying encounter, Mr Lockwood begins investigated the family's history and discovers a story of love and revenge that spans multiple generations.
I love the Brontë sisters and have read most of their work, and highly recommend them! The history of the Brontë sisters is so interesting and inspiring too, if you fancy some extra reading! I have previously reviewed Anne's The Tenant of Wildfell Hall and Agnes Grey if you're interested.
The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde – Robert Louis Stevenson, 1886
This book is quite difficult to explain. It begins with a lawyer named Mr Utterson telling his friend of an assault that he witnessed involving Mr Hyde. When Mr Hyde later becomes a murder suspect, Mr Utterson begins to investigate the strange occurrences between Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
Intrigued by the complexities of science, scientist Dr Jekyll begins to experiment with the darker side and create a potion that transforms him into his alter ego: Mr Hyde. Over time, Dr Jekyll struggles to control his alter ego and they each fight for power over the other.
It's another classic that is highly recommended!
The Picture of Dorian Gray - Oscar Wilde, 1890
Wilde. Oh, Wilde. We're here. One of my FAVOURITE books: The Picture of Dorian Gray.
In fact, I've already reviewed this book here! Oscar Wilde is my favourite author and playwright, so naturally, this book has to make it onto my recommendations!
The story follows Dorian Gray, who wishes for everlasting youth. In a supernatural twist, his wish becomes true... It begins as Dorian is listening to Lord Henry's strong opinions regarding life and beauty, while his friend Basil Hallward is painting a portrait of Dorian. In his vanity, Dorian wishes that the portrait ages instead of himself and discovers that with a supernatural twist, his wish becomes true.
Full to bursting with wonderful quotes and satire, Wilde has to make it onto the list! While not the most 'Gothic' of the bunch, it's certainly got some supernatural and creepy elements to it!
Psst! *whispers* I'm such a fan of Wilde that I've also previously published a review/analysis of his play The Importance of Being Earnest.
Dracula - Bram Stoker, 1897
How can I write a list of Gothic novels, without mentioning Bram Stoker's Dracula?!
Stoker's book is told in an epistolary format, from multiple perspectives. It begins with Jonathan Harker who visits Count Dracula in Transylvania. Harker soon realises that he is Dracula's prisoner, and discovers that Dracula is a vampire! Soon after, Dracula leaves his home and heads for Whitby where he finds Harker's fiancée's friend Lucy. Dracula begins to drain Lucy and eventually turns her into a vampire too, despite Dr Van Helsing's attempts to save her. A group form who wish to take their revenge and destroy Dracula, but will they be successful?
Vampires, creepy castles and adventure! If you're into vampires, this one is a must read!
Rebecca - Daphne du Maurier, 1938
Maurier's book follows the narrator, an unnamed young woman who marries a wealthy widower named George Maxim de Winter. Mrs Danvers, the housekeeper, disagrees with their marriage and argues that Rebecca (George's first wife) is more beautiful and charming that the unnamed narrator. The housekeeper tries to encourage the narrator to commit suicide, yet she is disrupted when Rebecca's body is found on a shipwreck. A few twists and turns reveal secrets and hidden truths.
With a mystery, a mansion and a malignant servant... this is one is the perfect Halloween read!
There we are! Six must-read gothic classic books to read this Halloween!
Have you read any of these books? Which books would you add to this list?
If you'd like to read more of my Blogtober content, click here.
Take care and stay safe,
Like what you see? Pin it: