A Glimpse into the Gothic

Gothic as a genre is something that’s always intrigued me. I love the idea of dark, spooky manors, of mysteries that lurk beneath, of fog and shadows and whispers. Of course, being named after a Gothic novel – Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca (1938) – probably has something to do with it, but I’m always wanting more. Give me the ghostly, the haunted, the mysterious, and bring it dressed in pale colours, windswept and chilling. Bring it in gorgeous architecture, in castles and manors, in forests and fields and by the sea, with grey skies and constant rains.

The first novel I ever remember properly encountering and identifying as ‘Gothic’ was Northanger Abbey (1871) by Jane Austen. Then there’s Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre (1847), Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights (1847) and Gaston Leroux’s Le Fantôme de l’Opéra (1909), which are probably some of the most well known classics. Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886) is on my list, although I haven’t read it yet. I’ve always known the peripheries of this story, but don’t actually know the finer points of the story, so I’d like to read it properly soon. Actually, add Dracula (1897) to that list as well because even though I’m familiar with the names of Count Dracula, Mina, Harker and Van Helsing, and the ins and outs of vampire lore, I haven’t actually read the novel itself. I’ve started it, but never delved in. Must fix this! Carmilla (1872) and Frankenstein (1818), too. For those who don’t know, Frankenstein is considered the first science fiction novel by many! And I adore Mary Shelly and studied her mother Mary Wollstonecraft for college, so I really must read the whole darn thing at some point. I also want to properly read The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891) as I love Oscar Wilde and I’ve seen the adaptation (2009) with Ben Barnes. I very much recommend that one, by the way!

As for more modern stories, I really want to check out Mexican Gothic (2020) by Silvia Moreno-Garcia and can’t wait to get enough time to actually sit down and read it. I’m also curious about Other Words for Smoke by (2019) Sarah Maria Griffin.

There are also a great many wonderful Gothic films and shows worth checking out. I loved Sleepy Hollow (1999) and Underworld (2003) when they first came out, both bringing a bit of action and horror into the genre. And when The Haunting of Hill House (2018) – based on the book by Shirley Jackson (1959) – first came out, I was immediately intrigued. Of course, I wasn’t able to start it straight away due to a busy schedule, but I loved the look of it. (I’ve since started it and it’s great.) The Haunting of Bly Manor (2020), based on Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw (1898) and other stories, dives right in with a woman telling a spooky tale from the 1980s in England and I’m already on episode three. I’m loving the aesthetics. I’m used to Gothic settings in the 1880s, and seeing it set in the 1980s is a great contrast. I love me some old-timey spookiness, but it’s great to see other decades enter the genre. Crimson Peak (2015) was particularly gruesome, but engrossing all the same. Guillermo del Toro is always good and his signature style really comes through in this one. The cast is also amazing! If you haven’t seen this one yet, I definitely recommend it. Be warned, though, things are twisty in this one! And then of course, Penny Dreadful (2014), which was cancelled much too soon.

I also really like Southern Gothic, which needs more love! True Blood (2008) is a great example, and I really enjoyed the show. When I think of Southern Gothic, the introduction to that show is the first thing that springs to mind. Winter’s Bone (2010) and Mudbound (2017) are also well worth a watch. The Gift (2000), is truly traumatising from what I remember, but it definitely fits the bill of a Southern Gothic! I also watched The Devil All the Time (2020) a couple of weeks ago and it was intense, but definitely engrossing. Justified (2010) could also probably be added to this list, but it’s more Western procedural in my mind. The show is based on Elmore Leonard’s books and it’s one of my top favourite series of all time either way, so if you haven’t seen it, you totally should! The cast is stellar.

There’s so many more books, films and shows that belong on this list, so this is by no means exhaustive!

Do you like Gothic – or a subgenre of Gothic – fiction or romance? Any recommendations? I’d love to know!

Short Story Review: Blood Brothers by Josie Jaffrey (2021)

Blood Brothers by Josie Jaffrey

This short story is tied into Jaffrey’s Sovereign and Seekers vampire series. Be sure to check them out!

I really liked this one! Adewale and Alastair are great characters and I’m really curious to learn more about them after this. I think I should probably have read more of the books in the series first (I’ve only read The Gilded King so far, but the rest are on my list!), as I was a little confused by some things, but overall a great read! Definitely got me in the mood for more vampire books. I’m really looking forward to the rest of this series!

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: The Magnificent Sons (2020)

The Magnificent Sons by Justin Myers, narrated by Joe Jameson

‘Is my life a picnic? Am I, you know, privileged?’
The trouble with this question, in Kia’s experience, was that people having to ask it undoubtedly were and also usually preferred to remain ignorant of that fact.

FIVE STARS FOR THESE DISASTROUS CINNAMON ROLLS

If this book isn’t on your list, I must insist you add it! I really liked Myers’ first book, The Last Romeo, but this is definitely my favourite of the two. I loved Jake. He’s definitely the heart and soul of this story. It’s so nice to get a bi mc, which is something not enough novels do.

Okay, this review gets SPOILERY from here so beware. ❤ Also, it’s just a WHOLE LOTTA THOUGHTS, so apologies if it’s ramble-y.

The story follows Jake, who’s been closeted his whole life and his little brother, Trick, who has always embraced his true self. After Trick has a coming out party that leaves Jake reeling with uncertainty, he comes out to his girlfriend and breaks off their relationship because he’s not happy and he’s never been himself. When he decides to come out to his family, none of them, including Trick, have a great reaction. In fact, Jake experiences a lot of biphobia throughout the novel which was really hard to get through. My heart ached for Jake throughout the entirety of the story. His loneliness bleeds through the pages.

‘When Mum was pregnant, I hoped someone else like me in the family would come along. Prove I wasn’t a weirdo, maybe. Then there you were, a star is born. You were like me, but nothing like me. […] This isn’t about you being gay or me being bi, not for me. No, I hated that you didn’t seem to need me. Not at all. You seemed to be doing well on your own. I felt even more of an outsider.’
‘I thought you hated me because I was camp.’

This scene is basically,

The two brothers spend the novel defining themselves by their differences, rather than their similarities, and butt heads as a result. Jake is understated, reserved, stoic and uptight; Trick is flamboyant, extroverted, chatty and seemingly the life of the party. It’s something Jake’s deeply jealous of: jealous that Trick knows who he is, jealous that everyone embraced Trick easily, jealous of his energy, jealous of how he never had to face the constraints Jake faced. On the flip side, Trick doesn’t understand why Jake can’t be happier that things were easier for him and doesn’t get why his brother harbours less than open-minded views on clothing and self-expression. Jake, for example, gets easily embarrassed by Trick, which hurts Trick on a fundamental level. And that’s honestly what’s so heartbreaking about the story. Both sides are entirely sympathetic. Jake should have been able to grow up being himself, just like Trick, but being born a decade later hasn’t erased Trick’s problems and insecurities and fears.

I really appreciate that Myers addressed biphobia and how it can often be found in people who otherwise believe themselves to be open-minded, even though those scenes were hard to get through. One of the first things Jake’s parents ask him, having never had an issue with Trick’s being gay, is why can’t Jake be ‘normal’. It’s gutting. I wanted to reach into the book and hug Jake throughout that entire scene. There’s a later bit where Jake’s straight friends accuse him of ‘lying’ to a girl he’s flirting with because he must be ‘secretly gay’. And his own brother even thinks he’s lying about being bi.

As he left the kitchen, he turned back. ‘Just ask yourselves why Trick’s life is one great big gay picnic and mine is inconvenient because you’ve run out of straight sons and don’t have a spare.

THIS SCENE. IT WRECKED ME. PROTECT JAKE AT ALL COSTS. ;_;

This book is basically a coming-of-age bro tale and I wholeheartedly recommend it. (And I went for the audiobook and the narrator is class!) ^_^

Show Review: Godless (2017)

Godless really took me by surprise! I heard about it when it first came out but I wanted to wait until the hype had died down a bit before sinking my teeth into it. But the series absolutely deserves all the accolades! This one’s for anyone who likes westerns, horse-centred shows, enduring brotherhood, lots of ladies, lgbt+ rep, and fantastic music and cinematography.

The show follows Roy (played by Jack O’Connell), after he shows up at Alice’s (played by Michelle Dockery) house, shot up and bleeding. She also shoots him, and the poor thing is utterly ripped up and falls off his horse and Alice ends up taking care of him.

Alice lives with her son Truckee and her mother-in-law Iyovi just outside of the town of La Belle. It’s a town where the majority of villagers are women after a mining accident killed almost all the men in town. However, the few left are the Sheriff and Deputy, Bill and Whitey, respectively. When Roy wakes up, he turns himself in to the Sheriff, who decides to keep his identity a secret because a gang of terrifying men are after him, led by the ruthless Frank Griffin (played by Jeff Daniels), who raised Roy since he was a teenager and tried to steal Frank’s horse.

Bill agrees to keep Roy’s identity a secret until help comes, and puts him in the jail cell, calling him ‘Mr Ward’ and goes off to catch Frank, leaving his kids with Mary Agnes (played by Merritt Wever). Mary Agnes is a tough-talking lady who is dating the town teacher, and former prostitute, Callie (played by Tess Frazer), and is protective of the townsfolk.

Alice, who is reviled by everyone in the town except Bill and desperate for help with her horses, breaks Roy out of jail and brings him home, despite Whitey’s protests. Roy begins to bond with Alice and Truckee, although Iyovi hates him. Meanwhile, Whitey (played by Thomas Brodie-Sangster) is falling in love with Louise (played by Jessica Sula), which her father, one of the leaders of the real life historical free town of Blackdom, disapproves of immensely. Tensions start to break out when Ed Logan (played by Kim Coates) arrives to lay claim to La Belle, putting him at odds with the women, especially Mary Agnes. And all the while Frank and his gang are cutting their way through the countryside trying to find Roy and kill him, Bill hot on their heels.

Godless is a great character-driven western. It focuses on the relationships between everyone and how brutal and cruel the wild west could be. The flashbacks were gut-wrenching but really added an extra layer to everyone’s emotions: you see how Alice lost her first family, how Roy and his brother went different ways, how Frank raised Roy, etc. I loved Roy’s background with his brother and that storyline tugged at all my heartstrings. The plot is slow and understated, which really works for westerns, and the characters are given plenty to do, while having great moments to grow and shine. I can see why not everyone would be satisfied with the ending, and while there were some things I wish hadn’t happened, I actually did like the way it all wrapped up. The show illustrated the grim realities of the wild west while giving heartfelt endings that are very believable, even when they made me cry. Overall, this is definitely a series to watch!