Burn some calories by freaking yourself out.
Louisa May Alcott, A Long Fatal Love Chase
Best known for her all-American classic, Little Women, Alcott’s 1866 novel didn’t see the light of day until 1995 when it was eventually published. A Long Fatal Love Chase tells the story of heroine Rosamond Vivian as she flees remote island life for a mysterious man who becomes her husband. The Faustian tale was far ahead of its time: unapologetic in its account of the needs and desires of young women, the story’s pace and tone differs vastly from Little Women. Rosamond’s eventual jailbreak from an unhappy marriage and her subsequent travels as her husband chases her across Europe are full of the religious and moral dilemmas that crop up consistently in Gothic literature.
Truman Capote, Other Voices, Other Rooms
Southern Gothic is an American sub-genre of gothic writing that has flavoured works as diverse as Gone with the Wind and last year’s True Detective. Essential ingredients: flawed heroes, dark, shape-shifting settings in the deep South and an overall sense of foreboding. Other Voices, Other Rooms delivers all of this in spades. It tells of the coming-of-age of Joel Harrison Knox, a 13 year-old boy sent to a dilapidated Mississippi mansion to live with his eccentric family. Once there, he hunts for a father he has never met. Capote’s semi-autobiographical novel caused a scandal when it was published for its honest account of teen homosexuality and its provocative image of Capote on the dustcover.
Mary Shelley, Frankenstein
A staple on any list of dark and stormy fiction, and for good reason. Shelley’s genesis tale of scientist Victor Frankenstein and the birth of his DIY’ed Creature is one of the most iconic in Gothic literature. Shelley famously conceived of the tale on holiday in Geneva with Lord Byron, Percy Shelley and John Polidori, when the writers decided to write horror stories for each other. Shelley’s story stood the test of time: from tracing Frankenstein’s childhood in the rarefied upper social circles of Geneva to its violent conclusion in the desolate wastes of the North Pole, Frankenstein’s themes are as relevant today as they were in 1818. Reflections on self-destruction, family ties, medical ethics and most famously, revenge, are all tied up in one elegantly disturbing 18th century package.
Anne Rice, Interview with the Vampire
Before there was Twilight, Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire was the ultimate in modern vampire romance (and much better written). In late 20th Century America, 200-year-old vampire Louis de Pointe du Lac recounts his life story to a young journalist. Erring on the gorier side of gothic, with New Orleans and Paris as its backdrops, the novel is full of lush, dreamy prose. Interview paved the way for cult vampires like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and spawned its own 90s blockbuster film adaptation starring a young Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise and Kirsten Dunst in the lead roles.
Words by Olivia Gagan