With only a few days left until All Hallows’ Eve, there’s perhaps no better way to embrace the sepulchral spirit of the season than with some tried and true works of literature. For all you bibliophiles, here are a few recommendations ranging from the ghastly to the grotesque to the just plain disconcerting.
The Turn of the Screw — Henry James
Critics and scholars love churning out essay after essay trying to decode this enigmatic novella about a governess who struggles to maintain her sanity after becoming increasingly convinced that her wards are mingling with ghosts.
The Cement Garden — Ian MacEwan
Not so much frightening as it is off putting, MacEwan’s early foray into the grotesque—with its dead parents rotting in the basement and consanguineal lust—is certain to make anyone’s day a little less cheery.
The Fall of the House of Usher — Edgar Allen Poe
Perhaps not the best work in Poe’s oeuvre, but this short story centred around a haunted house and its ageing denizens remains a genre staple.
The Changing Light at Sandover — James Merrill
This three-part epic poem chronicles the otherworldly communications resulting from Merrill’s own experiments with séances and Ouija boards over a twenty-year period. Very eccentric stuff from the Pulitzer Prize–winning son of Charles Merrill, founder of Merrill Lynch.
The Birth-Mark — Nathaniel Hawthorne
Sure, nobody’s perfect, but that doesn’t stop an ambitious (and, some might say, deranged) doctor from performing a rather untraditional form of cosmetic surgery on his wife who just barely misses the mark of perfect beauty.
The Monk: A Romance — Matthew Gregory Lewis
Nothing romantic about this Romantic novel with its fascination with all things satanic. The Monk remains a seminal novel of the Gothic genre and an enduring favourite among English lit. students.