For Love of Gothic Novels

Just a reminder that we’ll be discussing A Wrinkle in Time next Thursday, so if you haven’t read it yet, GET ON IT. (Seriously, though, it took me about four hours to get through. A major time sink this is not.)

Gothic novels seem to be going through a recent resurgence which warms the cockles of my cold, dead heart. (Dictionary definition of cockle: a bivalve mollusk. Ahahahahaha. It also can mean to wrinkle or ripple, none of which makes any sense.)

What is a gothic novel? Well. A gothic novel involves its hero/heroine, often a young, isolated person with no family, going into some sort of mysterious situation. There may be supernatural elements (ghosts, etc.) or not, or there may be what seems like supernatural elements that turn out to be something else. They often have elements of horror to them – unexplained noises, things that go bump in the night, dark secrets and pasts. Often times they take place in or are associated with castles or other dark, imposing architecture.

Gothic novels were popular in the late 18th century and much of the 19th century, but then died out more or less. Some examples of gothic novels include Jane Eyre, The Mysteries of Udolpho, and many things written by Edgar Allan Poe.

Jane Austen even parodied the gothic novel in Northanger Abbey.

They’re sort of fun, though. The atmosphere and descriptions send chills down your spine, and you want to find out what those hidden secrets are, and what the evil plans involving the hero/ine are. So I’m quite pleased to see some new ones. I just read one that came out at the beginning of July: Dark Companion by Marta Acosta.

Modern gothics may move away from the castles and the moors, but there’s still a very definite feel to them. The isolation, the naive main character, the dark pasts. The feeling that something is going on behind the scenes, something sinister. Something you don’t want to be a part of, but can’t necessarily escape.

It was a dark and stormy night.

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