If you love classic literature, you probably already know that there are many, many recent novels that tie into the plots created by Jane Austen. Novelists have also taken the opportunity to rework or reimagine the novels of the Bronte sisters, with Jane Eyre probably the most common source material. The books range from prequels to novels about the Brontes to modern updates. Let us know which of the original Bronte novels you love, and which retelling you enjoy!
Have you ever read a book all the way through just to close it for the last time and say “wow, that was bleak”? Well, I’m here to make the case for those dark, dreary, haunting, and disturbing reads that keep you up at night long after you put them down. Welcome to Bleak Books with Olivia, your resident creepy book lover at the Aurora Public Library District.
Now, I know what you may be thinking. “Why would anyone read something that makes you feel so unsettled after you finish it? Where is the happy ending? Who would want to read that?” I get it. Books can be an escape from everyday life. They can act as a retreat. But isn’t there something that’s just so inviting about reading a book where all the characters are horrible people who keep doing the wrong thing over and over again and the book always ends in a jarring way that sets you off-kilter for weeks? No? Well, let me play devil’s advocate.
So let’s begin with the classic that started it all and the book that got me REALLY into dark reads: Wuthering Heights. This review will be spoiler-free!
So, you’re wandering through the stacks on the second floor of the Aurora Public Library and pick up this book, thinking “I need a nice romance. It’s set in late 18th century England in the stunning moors of Yorkshire, and I love period dramas! Why not?” Not quite. Wuthering Heights is a narrative, not about love, but about obsession and revenge at the hands of a ruthless, heartless man. Heathcliff, an orphan boy living on the streets in Yorkshire, is taken by a family out on the moors and turns out to be their worst nightmare.
Cathy, the only daughter of this family, spends almost all her waking moments with Heathcliff. All this time spent together can only lead to one thing: a childhood crush. But, as it always is with Olivia’s Bleak Books, wrong place, wrong time. No matter how many times Cathy and Heathcliff link up throughout their lives, there is always something in the way. Husbands, wives, children, money, vengeful drunken brothers, ghosts, property ownership, the rich kid across the moors… you name it, Heathcliff and Cathy probably dealt with it. Heathcliff goes absolutely bonkers over the edge with his obsession over Cathy and his revenge on the family who took him in. One would argue (me, I would definitely argue) that spite is the only thing that keeps Heathcliff going. The book ends in a devastatingly haunting fashion, complete with misty graveyards and ghosts and no real happy ending whatsoever… well, maybe a little bit, but I’ll leave that up to you to decide.
Overall, my favorite thing that will keep bringing me back to this novel for years to come is how it feels very much my own. It is cold, dark, and mysterious. All the characters have fatal flaws, and I would despise to meet them all, but oh, how I wish I could visit the moors and peek into a day in the life of Heathcliff. So, five stars to the 18th-century version of Days of Our Lives. It’s got all the drama, intrigue, violence, and shock of a modern-day soap opera, and I just ate it up.
Thank you for joining me on this dissection of one of my favorite Bleak Books. I hope to see you again sometime soon! Pleaser take a look in the Adult Fiction section on the second floor of the Aurora Public Library for a display of my favorite Bleak Books (including this one!) Discussions over many of them will be soon to follow. If you meet me in the library and have any Bleak Books suggestions, please let me know! I’m always looking for a new book to disrupt my life for a couple of weeks.
We all love classics. Whether it’s Pride and Prejudice or it’s the Great Gatsby, it doesn’t quite matter. Gothic Classics are the classics that combines fiction, horror, death, and even romance at times. Here’s a list of some amazing Gothic Classics that you should read if you enjoy horror!
Jane Austen’s first novel—published posthumously in 1818—tells the story of Catherine Morland and her dangerously sweet nature, innocence, and sometime self-delusion. Though Austen’s fallible heroine is repeatedly drawn into scrapes while vacationing at Bath and during her subsequent visit to Northanger Abbey, Catherine eventually triumphs, blossoming into a discerning woman who learns truths about love, life, and the heady power of literature. The satirical novel pokes fun at the Gothic novel while earnestly emphasizing caution to the female sex.-Goodreads
Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again . . .
The novel begins in Monte Carlo, where our heroine is swept off her feet by the dashing widower Maxim de Winter and his sudden proposal of marriage. Orphaned and working as a lady’s maid, she can barely believe her luck. It is only when they arrive at his massive country estate that she realizes how large a shadow his late wife will cast over their lives–presenting her with a lingering evil that threatens to destroy their marriage from beyond the grave. –Goodreads
Orphaned as a child, Jane has felt an outcast her whole young life. Her courage is tested once again when she arrives at Thornfield Hall, where she has been hired by the brooding, proud Edward Rochester to care for his ward Adèle. Jane finds herself drawn to his troubled yet kind spirit. She falls in love. Hard.
But there is a terrifying secret inside the gloomy, forbidding Thornfield Hall. Is Rochester hiding from Jane? Will Jane be left heartbroken and exiled once again?-Goodreads
Once again we come across another classic that I didn’t realize would fall into the Gothic classic genre! Though, it has everything needed to be considered a Gothic classic!
Wuthering Heights, first published in 1847, the year before the author’s death at the age of thirty, endures today as perhaps the most powerful and intensely original novel in the English language. The epic story of Catherine and Heathcliff plays out against the dramatic backdrop of the wild English moors, and presents an astonishing metaphysical vision of fate and obsession, passion and revenge. -Goodreads
Another Bronte on the list! I guess they have something in common! Interesting tidbit I wasn’t aware of: this is Emily Bronte‘s only novel.
Enthralled by his own exquisite portrait, Dorian Gray exchanges his soul for eternal youth and beauty. Influenced by his friend Lord Henry Wotton, he is drawn into a corrupt double life, indulging his desires in secret while remaining a gentleman in the eyes of polite society. Only his portrait bears the traces of his decadence. The Picture of Dorian Gray was a succès de scandale. Early readers were shocked by its hints at unspeakable sins, and the book was later used as evidence against Wilde at the Old Bailey in 1895.-Goodreads
Though I’ve never read this book, reading the summary (placed above in italics) makes it go onto my to-be-read shelf!
The scientist Victor Frankenstein, obsessed with possessing the secrets of life, creates a new being from the bodies of the dead. But his creature is a twisted, gruesome parody of a man who, rejected for his monstrous appearance, sets out to destroy his maker.
Mary Shelley‘s chilling Gothic tale, conceived after a nightmare in 1816 when she was only eighteen, became a modern myth. It is a disturbing and dramatic exploration of birth and death, creation and destruction, and one of the most iconic horror stories of all time.-Goodreads
I haven’t read Frankenstein but I knew Mary Shelley‘s story would land her on this list!
First published in 1897, Dracula by Bram Stoker has become the standard against which all other vampire stories are compared and the inspiration for countless film and stage adaptations. Indeed, the name Dracula has been synonymous with the Undead for at least a century, and the original novel still has the power to chill. Come then to Castle Dracula, hidden in the forbidding peaks of the Carpathian Mountains, where an undying creature of evil casts his sights on unsuspecting England. Voyage on the doomed ship Demeter as it carries a monster out of ancient superstition in search of new life and new blood. Tremble as first one woman, then another succumbs to the unholy thirst of the nosferatu, and as a small band of men and women, horrified by the supernatural forces arrayed against them, risk their lives and their very souls to oppose the evil known only as… Dracula.”-Goodreads
A single person—but with two personalities: one that’s noble and kind and another that’s pure, repulsive evil. Robert Louis Stevenson’s engrossing masterpiece about the dual nature of man—and a good doctor whose thirst for knowledge has tragic consequences—serves up all the suspense and satisfying chills one expects from the best horror and science fiction.-Goodreads
This story is amazing and unique in every way! I’m not surprised that this book appears on lists of Gothic classics.
All the books listed above are literary masterpieces, which is why they are now known as classics! Though I’ve personally only read a few on this list, I know many people who enjoy them all! They are all available at APLD!
Comment below and let me know what Gothic Classics I missed and which one is your favorite!
P.S. Thanks to Goodreads for providing the italicized summaries for this blog!
Everyone knows about the wild, passionate story of the intense and almost demonic love between Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff, a child adopted by Catherine’s father. After her father’s death, Heathcliff is bullied and ultimately humiliated by Catherine’s brother and wrongly believes that his love for Catherine is not reciprocated, so he leaves Wuthering Heights, only to return as a wealthy and polished man. He exacts a terrible revenge for his former miseries.
This classic turns 170 years old this year!