A very Happy Halloween season to all of you, friends. Every year, I’m always on the hunt for a good spooky read during this time, and this year proved to yield some chilling finds. If you are looking for some good books to curl up with on a dark and stormy night, look no further then these books below.
First on the list that I highly recommend this year is “Mexican Gothic” by Canadian author Silvia Moreno-Garcia. “The Guardian” heralded the novel as, “…Lovecraft meets the Brontës in Latin America, and after a slow-burn start, ‘Mexican Gothic’ gets seriously weird.” While I agree with “The Guardian” that the book is a slow-burner–something I quite enjoy in Gothic fiction or horror–the story didn’t strike a Brontë note with me as much as a full-fledged Lovecraft and Poe symphony.
The book follows glamorous debutante, Noemí Taboada, in 1950’s Mexico, as she leaves her Mexico City home and high-society life for the countryside to answer a distressing call. Noemí’s cousin, Catalina, has written a strange letter asking Noemí for help from a mysterious doom without any explanation.
Arriving at Catalina and her husband’s large, family estate, Noemí gets more than she bargains for after meeting Catalina’s foreboding husband and his family who reside in the crumbling, moldy manor reminiscent of “The Fall of the House of Usher”. The family holds dark secrets that go back generations, which are perfectly Lovecraftain, and Noemí must unlock their shadowy mysteries or fall victim to the family’s bidding forever.
Moreno-Garcia is a master of the Gothic genre, and I truly loved the descriptions of the decrepit manor house. You felt transported to historical Mexico and trapped within a spooky place. The setting and prose were also a much-needed breath of fresh air within a genre that is crowded with British-country manor houses–reminding us that creepy knows no borders. I highly recommend this book if you are a fan of H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allan Poe or Gothic horror in general, if you love books set in the 50s and 50s fashion, and like spooky, slow-burning stories that build into thrilling endings. Have any of you read it?
“Darkness gave her a sense of ease and freedom she’d never known before. She was no longer Maud, the plain, clumsy fifteen-year-old whom nobody liked. She was a creature of the fen, slipping gracefully through the reeds with her long hair flowing free.”
– Michelle Paver, “Wakenhyrst”
The next book I had the pleasure of reading was Michelle Paver‘s “Wakenhyrst”. Gothic, Edwardian, manor house, spooky, green witch-esque, and medieval curse. Those are the nine words I would use to describe Paver’s newest adult novel. If you are looking for something a little bit spooky to read, but not too scary, I’d recommend this Gothic treat.
All of Paver’s adult ghost-story novels (“Dark Matter” and “Thin Air”) are perfection, but “Wakenhyrst” is probably my favorite so far. Set against the sweeping, wild marshlands in Edwardian Suffolk, this is a coming-of-age story with heart and chill. Within a gloomy English manor house on the lonely wetlands, this story follows Maud as she tries to solve a supernatural medieval mystery that haunts her household and village.
Upon realizing that her repressive, overbearing father has a connection to a strange medieval painting, Maud must find the answers regarding the creepy artwork and help save her loved ones before her father succumbs to its dark curse.
Fans of M.R. James with an affinity for haunted church history as well as “The Picture of Dorian Gray” will be particularly interested in this book. Lyrical and atmospheric, the story’s prose is an artfully woven tapestry best enjoyed with a hot cup of tea. “Wakenhyrst” proves once again that Paver truly is a master of spooky period pieces with her work continuing to age like fine wine. Can’t wait for her next book!
That’s all my reading adventures have been taking me lately, but I hope to finish off the spooky season with some short stories by Henry James that inspired the Netflix series, “The Haunting of Bly Manor”. I’m a sucker for “The Turn of the Screw” and can’t wait to deep dive into some more creepy books.
How about you all? Have you read any of the books above or watched “The Haunting of Bly Manor”? Drop me a comment and let me know. I love hearing from you all, and do check back for updates or sign up below for my newsletter. Till then, Happy Halloween!