For my Gothic topic at school, I have to research different books in the Gothic style and choose two to write about so I thought I’d read a selection to see which ones were my favourite. Note – these will be slightly different to my usual reviews as they are well known classics.
The Woman in Black by Susan Hill
The problem I instantly faced with reading The Woman in Black, was that I had already seen the movie so I already knew the plot.
In the movie, Arthur was married and had a child before he went to Eel Marsh house, whereas in the book he was engaged. In the movie a child from the village died every time he saw the woman, but in the book this was not the case. However the haunting he faced in the house was much the same and was no less scary for being in print rather than on screen. (I must say the rocking chair really creeps me out).
There were so many other differences between the book and the movie that I can’t stop myself from comparing the two. For instance, in the movie, when it is discovered that the woman’s son died as a boy in an accident in the marsh, his body was never recovered and Arthur retrieves the boy’s body to try and appease the woman and stop her haunting the village. However in the book this never happened as the boy’s body was retrieved and properly buried.
At the very end of the book, it turns out that every time when the woman was seen previously a child has died, but that none have died this time. When Arthur leaves, he marries his fiance and they have a child and when the child is a few years old he and his mother are killed in a freak accident just after Arthur spots the woman.
So I suppose in a way the film does follow the book fairly well, but it changes the order of a few things to make it scarier for the screen. I feel that the film would not have been as creepy if children hadn’t died throughout the book, nor if the scene where Arthur nearly drowns in the bog were taken out. However as a book it worked extremely well and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, short though it was.
The language was accessible and engaging and it was a real page turner (although I admit that I did not read it before bed!). This is definitely a possible option for my coursework.
Dracula by Bram Stoker
As this is quite an old novel, the language in Dracula is not always accessible to all readers, however I love the language style and the book.
I’m not usually one to enjoy books made up of diary entries or letters, but with Dracula, the way it is written makes it seem like a normal narrated book rather than a jumble of letters, telegrams and diary entries so I found this structure fine. I loved the use of the different voices; Jonathan Harker, Mina harker, Van Helsing, Dr Seward, Lord Godalming and Lucy all had clear and individual styles of writing that made the book continuously interesting and also created areas of dramatic irony.
Dracula is a book with a huge reputation; a mention of vampires will probably make you think of Transylvania, and as for Count Dracula himself, why he’s like the ‘ultimate’ vampire in English Literature. Having read other books concerning vampires where Dracula had been mentioned made it strange to read him in this context, but the descriptions of him painted an even more chilling profile. One book in particular that kept popping into my mind was ‘Bloodline’ by Kate Cary which in some ways is almost like a sequel to Dracula.
There were plenty of Gothic references in Dracula; the supernatural, death, vampires, blood, mystery and more.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelly
The way I read Frankenstein was quite fragmented, as at first I could not get on with the language and didn’t enjoy the plot. I really started to appreciate the beautiful language when the monster’s story was being told and after that I found the novel to be captivating.
Previously I have studied the play version and I was able to make some links and comparisons. I found it quite and emotional story towards the end, especially with certain deaths (that shall remain unnamed to reduce spoilers) as I became attached to Victor and his friends and loved ones. On the other hand, the monster also evoked in me a feeling of sadness and I felt sorry for him after all that he was put through.
The ending was quite depressing, but I suppose a fitting final chapter for such a tragic book. Whilst I enjoyed it, I don’t think Frankenstein will be the book that I choose for my coursework.
The Taxidermist’s Daughter by Kate Mosse
“The clock strikes twelve. Beneath the wind and the remorseless tolling of the bell, no one can hear the scream.
1912. A Sussex churchyard. Villagers gather on the night when the ghosts of those who will not survive the coming year are thought to walk. And in the shadows, a woman lies dead.
As the flood waters rise, Connie Gifford is marooned in a decaying house with her increasingly tormented father. He drinks to escape the past, but an accident has robbed her of her most significant childhood memories. Until the disturbance at the church awakens the fragments of those vanished years…..”
This was a very recent recommendation from a friend of mine who also loves reading and who heard about my Gothic coursework. It is a much more modern Gothic book set in the early 1900’s and the language stile itself was coherent much easier to understand compared to a book like Dracula.
I found lots of great links with this book and the Woman in Black; both plots revolve around a woman’s revenge for a past crime, and both books feature themes of mental illness, death, death omens, feminism and professions that revolve around death (solicitor and taxidermist).
I was greatly interested in the significance of the killer being female, and also how it was made to seem like she was male all along. The main protagonist (Connie) was also female, and was very strong willed, independent, and was herself a talented taxidermist – not a job women were expected to have in those days. The surprise of the male characters (and even of Connie) when the killer turned out to be female showed that this book was written when there was still a great prejudice against the capabilities of women.
Both the woman from the Woman in Black and Cassie (the killer in the Taxidermist’s daughter) suffer mental issues from tragedies earlier in their lives, and both are claiming revenge for justice. Cassie’s mantra when killing the men who wronged her was ‘blood will have blood’ and the woman in black’s motives seem to be similar; she kills people’s children as her own son was taken from her.
I have decided to compare ‘the Woman in Black’ with ‘the Taxidermist’s Daughter’ as the two books have many similarities which will be great fun to look into in more detail!
I strongly suggest to everyone that you read the Taxidermist’s Daughter. It is a chilling and captivating tale; a real page turner that covers many different themes and genres including Gothic, Romance, Revenge, Mystery and more!
Happy Reading x