Classic Gothic Book Recommendations

I love the atmosphere of classic gothic books that never fails to bring me joy. I find them very interesting and can sit and read them in one sitting.

Victor Frankenstein, who creates a grotesque but sentient creature in an unorthodox scientific experiment. Shelley started writing the story when she was eighteen, and the novel was published when she was twenty. The first edition was published anonymously in London in 1818. Shelley’s name appears on the second edition, published in France in 1823.Shelley had travelled through Europe in 1814, journeying along the river Rhine in Germany with a stop in Gernsheim which is just 17 km (10 mi) away from Frankenstein Castle, where two centuries before an alchemist was engaged in experiments. Later, she travelled in the region of Geneva (Switzerland)—where much of the story takes place—and the topics of galvanism and other similar occult ideas were themes of conversation among her companions, particularly her lover and future husband, Percy Shelley. Mary, Percy, Lord Byron, and John Polidori decided to have a competition to see who could write the best horror story. After thinking for days, Shelley dreamt about a scientist who created life and was horrified by what he had made; her dream later evolved into the story within the novel.

“A rich selection of background and source materials is provided in three areas: Contexts includes probable inspirations for Dracula in the earlier works of James Malcolm Rymer and Emily Gerard. Also included are a discussion of Stoker’s working notes for the novel and “Dracula’s Guest,” the original opening chapter to Dracula. Reviews and Reactions reprints five early reviews of the novel. “Dramatic and Film Variations” focuses on theater and film adaptations of Dracula, two indications of the novel’s unwavering appeal. David J. Skal, Gregory A. Waller, and Nina Auerbach offer their varied perspectives. Checklists of both dramatic and film adaptations are included.”

“Robert Louis Stevenson’s masterpiece of the duality of good and evil in man’s nature sprang from the darkest recesses of his own unconscious—during a nightmare from which his wife awakened him, alerted by his screams. More than a hundred years later, this tale of the mild-mannered Dr. Jekyll and the drug that unleashes his evil, inner persona—the loathsome, twisted Mr. Hyde—has lost none of its ability to shock. Its realistic police-style narrative chillingly relates Jekyll’s desperation as Hyde gains control of his soul—and gives voice to our own fears of the violence and evil within us. Written before Freud’s naming of the ego and the id, Stevenson’s enduring classic demonstrates a remarkable understanding of the personality’s inner conflicts—and remains the irresistibly terrifying stuff of our worst nightmares.”

“From the first moment Vincentio di Vivaldi, a young nobleman, sets eyes on the veiled figure of Ellena, he is captivated by her enigmatic beauty and grace. But his haughty and manipulative mother is against the match and enlists the help of her confessor to come between them. Schedoni, previously a leading figure of the Inquisition, is a demonic, scheming monk with no qualms about the task, whether it entails abduction, torture – or even murder. The Italian secured Ann Radcliffe’s position as the leading writer of Gothic romance of the age, for its atmosphere of supernatural and nightmarish horrors, combined with her evocation of sublime landscapes and chilling narrative.”

“Oscar Wilde’s only novel is the dreamlike story of a young man who sells his soul for eternal youth and beauty.

In this celebrated work Wilde forged a devastating portrait of the effects of evil and debauchery on a young aesthete in late-19th-century England. Combining elements of the Gothic horror novel and decadent French fiction, the book centers on a striking premise: As Dorian Gray sinks into a life of crime and gross sensuality, his body retains perfect youth and vigor while his recently painted portrait grows day by day into a hideous record of evil, which he must keep hidden from the world. For over a century, this mesmerizing tale of horror and suspense has enjoyed wide popularity. It ranks as one of Wilde’s most important creations and among the classic achievements of its kind.”

“This extraordinary historical French gothic novel, set in Medieval Paris under the twin towers of its greatest structure and supreme symbol, the cathedral of Notre-Dame, is the haunting drama of Quasimodo, the disabled bell-ringer of Notre-Dame, as he struggles to stand up to his ableist guardian Claude Frollo, who also wants to commit genocide against Paris’ Romani population.

The novel has been described as a key text in French literature[1] and has been adapted for film over a dozen times, in addition to numerous television and stage adaptations, such as a 1923 silent film with Lon Chaney, a 1939 sound film with Charles Laughton, and a 1996 Disney animated film with Tom Hulce (both as Quasimodo).”

The Phantom of the Opera is a riveting story that revolves around the young, Swedish Christine Daaé. Her father, a famous musician, dies, and she is raised in the Paris Opera House with his dying promise of a protective angel of music to guide her. After a time at the opera house, she begins hearing a voice, who eventually teaches her how to sing beautifully. All goes well until Christine’s childhood friend Raoul comes to visit his parents, who are patrons of the opera, and he sees Christine when she begins successfully singing on the stage. The voice, who is the deformed, murderous ‘ghost’ of the opera house named Erik, however, grows violent in his terrible jealousy, until Christine suddenly disappears. The phantom is in love, but it can only spell disaster.”

“For those who still dream and remember, for those yet to experience the hypnotic power of its dark poetry, step inside. The show is about to begin. Cooger & Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show has come to Green Town, Illinois, to destroy every life touched by its strange and sinister mystery. The carnival rolls in sometime after midnight, ushering in Halloween a week early. A calliope’s shrill siren song beckons to all with a seductive promise of dreams and youth regained. Two boys will discover the secret of its smoke, mazes, and mirrors; two friends who will soon know all too well the heavy cost of wishes…and the stuff of nightmares.”

“In an isolated castle deep in the Austrian forest, Laura leads a solitary life with only her ailing father for company. Until one moonlit night, a horse-drawn carriage crashes into view, carrying an unexpected guest – the beautiful Carmilla. So begins a feverish friendship between Laura and her mysterious, entrancing companion.

But as Carmilla becomes increasingly strange and volatile, prone to eerie nocturnal wanderings, Laura finds herself tormented by nightmares and growing weaker by the day… Pre-dating Dracula by twenty-six years, Carmilla is the original vampire story, steeped in sexual tension and gothic romance.

Do you have a favorite classic gothic book? Let me know in the comments!

-Dezi

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