Posts Tagged ‘gothic novels’

Excerpt: A Season in Whispers by Jackson Kuhl

Good morning, squiders! Today I’ve got an excerpt from Jackson Kuhl’s A Season of Whispers, a new Gothic novel that was recently released.

Gothic Mystery/Horror

Publisher: Aurelia Leo

Date Published: 08-10-2020 / 

Audibook Launch April/May 2021

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In the summer of 1844, Tom Lyman flees to Bonaventure, a transcendentalist farming cooperative tucked away in eastern Connecticut, to hide from his past. There Lyman must adjust to a new life among idealists, under the fatherly eye of the group’s founder, David Grosvenor. When he isn’t ducking work or the questions of the eccentric residents, Lyman occupies himself by courting Grosvenor’s daughter Minerva.

But Bonaventure isn’t as utopian as it seems. One by one, Lyman’s secrets begin to catch up with him, and Bonaventure has a few secrets of its own. Why did the farm have an ominous reputation long before Grosvenor bought it? What caused the previous tenants to vanish? And who is playing the violin in the basement? Time is running out, and Lyman must discover the truth before he’s driven mad by the whispering through the walls.

A Season of Whispers is Jackson Kuhl’s debut novel of Gothic mystery, transcendentalist utopianism, and antediluvian hunger.



About the Author

 Jackson Kuhl is the author of the Gothic novel A Season of Whispers and the Revolutionary War biography Samuel Smedley, Connecticut Privateer. Kuhl has written for Atlas Obscura, Connecticut Magazine, the Hartford Courant, National Geographic News, and other publications. He lives in coastal Connecticut.


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He awoke engulfed in darkness. Stumbling through his mnemonic geography he managed to raise the fire and find and light a lamp. Outside lay impenetrable black and chirping frogs and crickets; Lyman had no conception of the hour but judged he had missed supper at the main house. Resolution would have to abide his stomach until daybreak. He poured himself some water from the jug and washed his face and hands and unpacked his clothes into the dresser. The other bag he stuffed under the bed. With log and poker Lyman built up the fire as high as it would safely go and sat staring at it, and gradually a snowfall of calm gathered in his hair and upon his shoulders, an accumulation of peace he hadn’t known for weeks. Finally he was secure: ensphered in a globe of night on the edges of civilization, as isolated as a Sandwich Island maroon, but not so alone as to be lonely. The purest bred hound, raised on a diet of nothing except dirty stockings and pinpricks of blood on grass, could not track his footsteps from New York to the little stone ruin perched on the periphery of Connecticut wilderness. He wrapped the blanket around his shoulders and dozed again.

The second time he woke to the sound of a violin. He couldn’t have been long asleep. the fire burned brightly; but the night beyond the house had gone silent, with only the scraping of the bow across strings. Lyman lay there a long time, icy needles stabbing him, wondering where the music originated. There was no wind to carry it from the house or some other building. Maybe someone fiddled while walking along the road? An approaching visitor. Then the playing, mournful at first, kicked up to a merry jig, and Lyman jumped to raise the lamp wick and push on his shoes.

He followed the sound from the bedroom to the stairs and descended. It was louder on the first floor, seeming to rise from the boards rather than out-of-doors. When he reached the basement door, it abruptly cut off.

It so happened that the basement door at the top of the worn stone steps, along with the front and kitchen doors, had not been stripped of its iron and thus functioned as intended. Additionally—and Lyman hadn’t thought this odd in the daylight, but now wasn’t so sure—the door was fitted with a crossbar, which, as there was no direct entrance from outside to the basement, seemed unnecessary.

He undid the bar, opened the door, held the lamp high. Nothing but shadow—the light failed to reach the floor below. Neither glimmer of light nor sounding of fiddle note wafted from the darkness.

The flame of the lamp leaned and flickered. Air brushed the hairs of his short beard: a breeze on his face. Something moved toward him at fast speed he realized, something large, its mass pushing the air ahead of it. Even now it noiselessly rushed up the stairs at him.

Lyman slammed the door, shot the bar through its cleat, threw his weight against the wood—steeled himself for the impact against the other side.

None came. After a long moment he looked at his lamp. The flame stood straight as a soldier.

He took a deep breath. Upon returning to his room it didn’t take him long to convince himself he had imagined everything, that the only music had been the cotton of a dream clinging to his sleepy skull. He tossed another log on the fire and lay back on the mattress, listening as the usual players outside again took up their instruments and played him off to sleep.

Those Plodding Books (Or How I Just Finished a Book I Started Last October)

Have you ever read a book, Squiders, that seemed to take you forever? It’s not so godawful that you want to throw it away and never touch it again, but neither is it riveting enough to pull you through it in a timely manner. And so you just read a little bit at a time whenever you have nothing better to do, and meanwhile you pick up (and get through) other books, just so you’re not stuck with your plodder.

I’m sure we all have these. The last one before this that I read was The Aeneid. I had a grand scheme that I would read all three books (The Iliad, The Aeneid, and The Odyssey), but The Aeneid took me six months and killed all my motivation for ancient Greek literature, so to this day I have still never touched The Odyssey.

(And yes, I realize that The Aeneid is Roman, not Greek.)

On Tuesday afternoon, I finally finished The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe. I’d seen mentions of it in other books for years, and had long heard it mentioned as a classic example of the Gothic novel. So I decided to give it a try, especially since I got it for free on my Kindle. According to my Goodreads update, I was on page 180 on October 22 of last year. I’m not actually sure when I started it.

So, it took me at least 13 months to get through. Maybe more, because I remember the beginning being mind-numbingly slow, and I was lucky to manage 20 pages a day.

Why did it take me so long? Well, the beginning is…slow paced would be putting it kindly. There’s a lot of meandering about the countryside, waxing poetical on the landscapes. For the longest time, I couldn’t figure out why old books dwell so long on description, but I eventually figured out that they had no other way of showing their readers what a place was like. People didn’t travel like we do today, and they didn’t have easy access to pictures. If they wanted to know what the Pyrenees looked like, they had to read the beginning of this book and picture it in their heads. I can just use Google images to get the same result.

Anyway, at least the first third of the book is wandering about describing things. The first 250 pages can be summed up as “young girl’s mother dies, goes on trip with father, falls in love, father dies, and she gets shipped off to Italy with her aunt and her aunt’s creepy new husband.” Udolpho, which is a castle, by the by, doesn’t show up until page 320 or so.

There are also large swaths of poetry throughout which, personal preference, are not my cup of tea, and I will admit to skimming most of them.

The good news is that the end picks up quite a bit. I read the last 200 pages in a week. But, oy, to get there…

Is it worth it to slog through the plodders? Not sure. What do you think, Squiders? Which books have given you issues?

(I also should probably stop with the Gothic novels. They never seem to quite do it for me, yet I keep trying.)

(I say this after just starting Rebecca, and being in the middle of The Haunting of Hill House, though I am not sure the second counts as Gothic.)

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.