Gothic novels are, in the infinite world of literary genres, the ones that capture me the most. Their birth dates back to the second half of the 18th century within the framework of English Pre-Romanticism and in contrast to the ideals of the Neoclassical period such as balance, rationality and beauty. With its Irrational, supernatural, uncanny and other such Gothic elements, the genre instantly gained immense popularity among a wide range of readers. The mysterious and horrific aspects of human existence, the terror of the unknown, the medieval entourage, and an atmosphere of horror and mysticism in the classic as well as modern Gothic novels become the source of the sublime—producer of the strongest emotions one can experience.
Furthermore, let me clear that Gothic literature isn’t just castles infested by dark attendance, archaic prophecies and dark settings. The monsters and the uncanny, we read about in Gothic novels, have a deep symbolic connection to reality. It is the ordinary events that are overwhelmed by marvelous and supernatural events, causing disturbance and a feeling of love for the grotesque of which the most rational part of us struggles to admit existence. But this is exactly where the true nature of the human soul lies. That is, instincts that are almost always hidden in the eyes of the beholder.
Literary figures from Horace Walpole, Mary Shelley and Ann Radcliffe to Edgar Allan Poe and Bram Stoker have been celebrated for their classic Gothic works. While among the modern Gothic writers include Daphne du Maurier, Diane Setterfield, Kate Morton, Sarah Waters and others.
15 Most Popular Modern Gothic Novels You Must Read.
As the Gothic literature underwent transformations, it evolved as a literary form capable of a deeper questioning of social values and contradictions. Towards the end of the19th Century, a new mode of Gothicism emerged in literature—a modern Gothic. The modern Gothic writers mainly focused on the nonrural areas, refracting contemporary issues through the lens of Gothic literature. Here is the list of the Best 15 Modern Gothic novels that aptly define the genre.
1. Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
An exciting new approach to modern Gothic novels, Mexican Gothic is a brilliant book. It maintains classic Gothic tropes but remains true to its time and place. Set in 1950s Mexico, the book’s main strength lies in its heroine, Noemi, who is a glamorous, headstrong socialite. After receiving a disturbing letter from her cousin, she rushes to her rescue and ends up encountering an abhorrent evil. Referencing the best of Gothic literature, Mexican Gothic brings an ancient house wrapped in a gloomy atmosphere and freezing climate. Also, it paints a grotesque and horrific picture of the family. It’s a stand out read as well as a great entertaining book.
2. Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield
A winding tale full of twists and turns, Once Upon a River is one of the best modern Gothic novels. It is wistful, beautifully written, perfectly paced, slow and meandering on the surface, like the river in its title. The art of storytelling is at the heart of this book. Once Upon a River features a tale of an ancient inn on the River Thames where an extraordinary event takes place. Filled with vivid characters and beautiful description, the plot of this Gothic book remains a steady driving force that helps you devour almost five hundred pages.
3. The Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths
An atmospheric, modern Gothic thriller, The Stranger Diaries depicts a gripping and meticulously structured tale. It is set in South Sussex, England, and told from multiple points of view. However, the story takes place on a British high school campus and centers on the murder of one of the main characters’ colleagues. With its intriguing plot, fascinating characters, and a perfect blend of modern mystery and Gothic influence, The Stranger Diaries is one of the compelling page-turners.
4. The Ancestor by Danielle Trussoni
A bewitching gothic suspense novel, The Ancestor takes the reader into a world of dark family secrets and the burden of family inheritance. Set in a crumbling castle in the Italian alps, the story goes on to explore the deep mysteries of human genetics where the true legacy lies. The protagonist of the story receives a letter disclosing that she is the last person left of her ancient bloodline. In her journey to unravel the secrets, what she gets and loses contributes to the story. Undoubtedly, it’s a chilling tale that beautifully blends science, horror, and mystery to create a wholly original Gothic novel.
5. The Distant Hours by Kate Morton
The International # 1 Bestseller, The Distant Hours is a modern Gothic novel that enthralls the reader with its atmospheric story. The book features memorable characters beset by love and betrayal, and haunted by memory. Morton has used dual perspectives—the past and present timelines—as a writing framework. Moreover, the plot contains numerous twists and turns as past events alternate with the present ones. It is an enchanting Gothic mystery and a captivating exploration of dark secrets. Grab this book quickly and uncover the truth of what happened in the ‘distant hours’ of the past!
6. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
One of the best modern Gothic novels, Rebecca is Daphne du Maurier’s highly acclaimed book with a chilling story. It’s a tempestuous Gothic romance that draws on the glamour of country society, the fascinating, mysterious and brusque characters, and the impending catastrophe that permeated the pre-war years. Rebecca is a true classic book which has been read on different levels. Besides, the book is still open to various interpretations, as many great works are.
7. The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters
Sarah Waters’ The Little Stranger is an eerie and captivating haunted house story. With its painful tale of post WWII England with a touch of the paranormal, this modern Gothic novel pulls you in and holds you firmly in its grip. Its deep, subtle and poignant story of class division, deterioration, and ghosts engross you till the end. Besides, the book creates an entire atmosphere of suspense, terror, dark secrets and malevolence. A creative book with a wonderfully descriptive setting and true characters.
8. The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle
One of the widely read books of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Hound of Baskervilles is a combination of mystery and Gothic horror. At times extremely creepy and at others balanced out with humor, the modern gothic mysterious book keeps the reader straddling the line between the real world and the possibility of the supernatural realm. The suspense, ingeniously thrilling plot, and a perfect blend of action has made this modern Gothic mystery an incredibly perfect novel of its genre.
9. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
A precursor of all the haunted house tales to be written yet, Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House is great modern classic horror. Moving at a moderate pace, this psychological thriller draws on the locked rooms and dark corridors in the unconscious mind. With its chilling atmospheric setting, this modern horror novel has a tendency to captivate the reader from the very first page until the last one. The book is one of the Gothic masterpieces whose influence on the genre is incontestable.
10. Wylding Hall by Elizabeth Hand
An entertaining ghost story, Wylding Hall is a tale told in the form of several band members’ interviews about what happened 40 years ago during their three months stay at Wylding Hall, an old, half crumbling, and haunted mansion in Hampshire, England. The book plays out like a documentary with the Gothic mystery at its heart. Various band members and associates describe the gradually threatening and chilling chain of events that led to their music album’s creation and associated tragedy.
11. The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware
Written in Ruth Ware’s signature suspenseful style, The Turn of the Key is an unputdownable modern Gothic novel. If you enjoy a Gothic suspense story set in a remote place and a smart haunted house, this book is definitely for you! It features the unsettling events and spellbinding menace which makes this book also a good psychological thriller. The reader is brought along the events that result in the protagonists being charged with murder through a written letter. The intricacy of the plot is spectacular and each twist and turn is set up methodically with no stone left unturned!
12. The Diviners by Libba Bray
Well-written, whimsical, and creepy, The Diviners is an amazing blend of historical fiction, gothic tropes, murder mystery, and romance. The story follows a cast of realistic and unforgettable characters in 1920s jazzy New York. When gruesome murders start to appear in the city that never sleeps, they begin to secretly investigate them and quickly discover that some paranormal and magical elements are behind all this. The book incorporates actual slang from the 1920s and its captivating plot and vibrant characters make the story utterly amazing.
13. The Broken Girls by Simone St. James
Alternating between 1950 and 2014, The Broken Girls is a modern Gothic thriller set in Vermont. A ghost story and a mystery all rolled into this cinematic book. Twenty years ago, someone murdered Fiona Sheridan’s sister. The murderer dumped her dead body on the grounds of Idlewild Hall, a former school for wayward girls. Now, someone has plans to reopen the school, and Fiona—who can’t let go of the past—uses her credentials as a journalist to uncover every dark secret the school has to hide. What she explores contributes to this creepy tale.
14. The Widow’s House by Carol Goodman
Have you ever seen a book played out perfectly as a movie as you are reading it? That’s exactly what happened when I was reading this gothic contemporary. The Widow’s House is a chilling modern Gothic novel from the bestselling author of Gothic fiction. Building on psychological suspense and eerie ghost stories, this book has an uneasiness that you can almost feel. It’s twisty, mysterious, and keeps you guessing as to what is actually going on. It’s compelling, well-written and enjoyable for Gothic lovers!
15. The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perrey
Set at the end of the19th century, The Essex Serpent is Sarah Perry’s award-winning novel inspired by true events. In this book, Perry manages to explore the minds of her protagonists creating a very introspective story. The book tells the story of Cora Seaborne, a recently widowed, who has a burning curiosity when it comes to natural sciences. As she leaves London in search of greater freedom and fossils, a legend of the Essex serpent grabs her attention. As a result, she journeys to learn more about the serpent and makes new acquaintances. The marshy Essex scenery, the ominous atmosphere, the magic realism and the brilliant characterization make the story stand out.
If you’re a Gothic lover, I highly recommend you to read all these modern Gothic novels. They are perfectly scary, gruesome, and mysterious as well. But if you’re new into this genre, I’ll suggest you begin with the classic Gothic novels as they are perfect for initiation into this kind of literature.
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