As you know I’ve recently had a little hiatus from blogging but I always knew I wanted to do this post to recommend some spooky Halloween reads. I was anxious that I wouldn’t have time to write a full detailed blog post but I didn’t want to let the opportunity slip by when I feel that spooky gothic reads are kinda my thing!
So what I’m going to do today is recommend some books to you that stick out in my mind as either being classic ghost stories, stories with a gothic twist, or just stories that make you feel uneasy. I’ve read tons of books in this vein but these are the ones that I would heartily recommend at this time of year. I know that Halloween is only a few days away but I do feel that Autumn/Winter are the best seasons for reading stories with a spooky edge. I will link any reviews I have done for these books and I will also include the full blurbs. ￼￼￼￼
I won’t go into huge detail about each book because I don’t have the time at the moment but as I say I didn’t want to let the opportunity pass by without making some suggestions. I hope you see something you like.
Let’s get cracking!
The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell (Bloomsbury Raven)￼
Some doors are locked for a reason…
Newly married, newly widowed Elsie is sent to see out her pregnancy at her late husband’s crumbling country estate, The Bridge.
With her new servants resentful and the local villagers actively hostile, Elsie only has her husband’s awkward cousin for company. Or so she thinks. For inside her new home lies a locked room, and beyond that door lies a two-hundred-year-old diary and a deeply unsettling painted wooden figure – a Silent Companion – that bears a striking resemblance to Elsie herself…
As most of you know, I have enjoyed both of Laura Purcell’s books and could have easily recommended The Corset here too but I feel that The Silent Companions just had that Gothic creepy edge and will send tingles up your spine. My review is here. ￼
Dolly by Susan Hill (Profile Books):
The remoter parts of the English Fens are forlorn, lost and damp even in the height of summer. At Iyot Lock, a large decaying house, two young cousins, Leonora and Edward, are parked for the summer with their ageing spinster aunt and her cruel housekeeper. At first the unpleasantness and petty meannesses appear simply spiteful, calculated to destroy Edward’s equanimity. But when spoilt Leonora is not given the birthday present of a specific dolly that she wants, affairs inexorably take a much darker turn with terrifying, life-destroying consequences for everyone.
I couldn’t not include a Susan Hill book on this list. I have never read The Woman In Black but I have seen the film and most likely will never read the book now. I could have also included The Small Hand but I wanted to tell you about Dolly because……. well I mean look at that cover! Who doesn’t love a creepy doll I ask ya?! This is also a super quick read that you could scare yourself silly with in one sitting on Halloween.￼
The Doll Funeral by Kate Hamer (Faber & Faber)
My name is Ruby. I live with Barbara and Mick. They’re not my real parents, but they tell me what to do, and what to say.
But there are things I won’t say. I won’t tell them I’m going to hunt for my real parents. I don’t say a word about Shadow, who sits on the stairs, or the Wasp Lady I saw. Or that I’m a hunter for lost souls.
I’m going to be with my real family. And I won’t let anyone stop me.
Although this one isn’t set in the autumn or the winter but rather the humid summer months, it still has a very creepy sinister edge. There are paragraphs in this book that I can still remember and that gave me chills at the time. A child who can see things that aren’t there always is a winner for me. I loved this one!￼ My review is here.
The Upstairs Room by Kate Murray-Browne (Picador)
Eleanor and Richard have stretched themselves to the limit to buy the perfect home. But the cracks are already starting to show. Eleanor is unnerved by the eerie atmosphere in the house and she is convinced it is making her ill. Their two young daughters are restless and unsettled. Richard, on the other hand, is more preoccupied with Zoe, their alluring young lodger, who is also struggling to feel at home.
As Eleanor’s symptoms intensify, she becomes determined to unravel the mystery of the family who lived in the house before them. Who were the Ashworths, and why is the name Emily written hundreds of times on the walls of the upstairs room?
This one came as a bit of a surprise to me. I don’t know what I was expecting to be honest but I remember thoroughly enjoying it. The idea that a house, or a room in a house can have such an effect on you I found fascinating. That the main character should become unwell and diminished in herself by some external force made for such a great creepy read! My review is here.
The Visitors by Catherine Burns (Legend Press)
Marion Zetland lives with her domineering older brother, John in a decaying Georgian townhouse on the edge of a northern seaside resort. A timid spinster in her fifties who still sleeps with teddy bears, Marion does her best to shut out the shocking secret that John keeps in the cellar.
Until, suddenly, John has a heart attack and Marion is forced to go down to the cellar herself and face the gruesome truth that her brother has kept hidden.
As questions are asked and secrets unravel, maybe John isn’t the only one with a dark side.
I wanted to include this amazing book as something a little bit different. It is not a spooky ghost story, it’s not Gothic, but it does involve a huge sense of unease and horror. This is a book that I would recommend to almost everyone and anyone I have recommended it to has really enjoyed it. It is dark, it is surprising and it lingers in your mind long after you have finished it.￼￼￼ My review is here.
Blanky by Kealan Patrick Burke
In the wake of his infant daughter’s tragic death, Steve Brannigan is struggling to keep himself together. Estranged from his wife, who refuses to be inside the house where the unthinkable happened, and unable to work, he seeks solace in an endless parade of old sitcoms and a bottle of bourbon.
Until one night he hears a sound from his daughter’s old room, a room now stripped bare of anything that identified it as hers…except for her security blanket, affectionately known as Blanky.
Blanky, old and frayed, with its antiquated patchwork of badly sewn rabbits with black button eyes, who appear to be staring at the viewer…
Blanky, purchased from a strange old man at an antique stall selling “BABY CLOSE” at a discount.
The presence of Blanky in his dead daughter’s room heralds nothing short of an unspeakable nightmare that threatens to take away what little light remains in Steve’s shattered world.
Because his daughter loved Blanky so much, he buried her with it.
I’m actually not going to say too much about this one it’s only a short novella, you just need to trust me, dive in and scare yourself witless￼!
Haverscroft by S.A Harris (Salt)
Kate Keeling leaves all she knows and moves to Haverscroft House in an attempt to salvage her marriage. Little does she realise, Haverscroft s dark secrets will drive her to question her sanity, her husband and fatally engulf her family unless she can stop the past repeating itself. Can Kate keep her children safe and escape Haverscroft in time, even if it will end her marriage?
Haverscroft is a gripping and chilling dark tale, a modern ghost story that will keep you turning its pages late into the night.
This one is what I would class as a modern ghost story, which feels like the classic ghost stories of the past. There were genuinely times when I was reading this book that I had to just pause for a moment or put the book down, especially if I was reading it at night. This feels like a book that is timeless and one which will stay on my shelf for me to return to during the spooky season long into the future! My review is here.
The Book Collector by Alice Thompson (Salt)
In Edwardian England, Violet has a fairy tale existence: loving husband, beautiful baby son and luxurious home. She wants for nothing. But soon after the birth of her baby the idyll begins to disintegrate. Violet becomes obsessed by a book of fairy tales her husband has locked away in a safe. Paranoid hallucinations begin to haunt her and she starts to question her sanity. Meanwhile, vulnerable young women are starting to disappear from the nearby asylum. Soon Violet herself is interned in the asylum for treatment only to discover, on coming out, that her husband has hired a nanny while she has been away, the beautiful, enigmatic Clara. The brutality of the asylum is nothing compared to the horrors that now lie in wait.
The Book Collector is just a little gem! Another book that I recommend to lots of people. It’s absolutely riddled with gothic elements including an asylum. What could be more gothic than that?! I bloody love an asylum me! My review is here.
The Coffin Path by Katherine Clements (Headline Review)
Maybe you’ve heard tales about Scarcross, the house on the old coffin path that winds from village to moor top. They say there’s something up here, something evil.
Mercy Booth isn’t afraid. The moors and Scarcross are her home and lifeblood. But, beneath her certainty, small things are beginning to trouble her. Three ancient coins missing from her father’s study, the shadowy figure out by the gatepost, an unshakeable sense that someone is watching.
When a stranger appears seeking work, Mercy reluctantly takes him in. As their stories entwine, this man will change everything. She just can’t see it yet.
A creepy old house on the hills? Something evil up on the moors and strange goings on? Yes please! This is another gothic beauty (I’m well aware I’ve said the word ‘gothic’ too many times but hey-ho! My review of this one is here.
Melmoth by Sarah Perry (Serpents Tail)
Twenty years ago Helen Franklin did something she cannot forgive herself for, and she has spent every day since barricading herself against its memory. But her sheltered life is about to change.
A strange manuscript has come into her possession. It is filled with testimonies from the darkest chapters of human history, which all record sightings of a tall, silent woman in black, with unblinking eyes and bleeding feet: Melmoth, the loneliest being in the world. Condemned to walk the Earth forever, she tries to beguile the guilty and lure them away for a lifetime wandering alongside her.
Everyone that Melmoth seeks out must make a choice: to live with what they’ve done, or be led into the darkness. Helen can’t stop reading, or shake the feeling that someone is watching her. As her past finally catches up with her, she too must choose which path to take.
I’ve not read Sarah Perry’s most famous book The Essex Serpent but when Melmoth was published I knew from that blurb that this would be a book for me! I wasn’t wrong. This is another book that gave me chills whilst reading it and has some of the most beautifully crafted scenes in it. I distinctly remember feeling alone and a little jittery reading this one on the bus home surrounded by fellow passengers. A sure sign of a brilliant creepy read! My review is here.
Help The Witch by Tom Cox (Unbound)
Railway tunnels, the lanes and hills of the Peak District, family homes, old stones, shreds fluttering on barbed wire, night drawing in, something that might be an animal shifting on the other side of a hedge: Tom has drawn on his life-long love of weird fiction, folklore and natures unregarded corners to write a collection of stories that will delight fans old and new, and leave them very uneasy about turning the reading lamp off.
I wanted to include some short story collections in this post because you don’t have to become invested in a full on novel to get a creepy chill. This collection will remain one of my absolute favourite short story collections. It has ghosts, it has unease but it also has humour. Bloody perfect! My review is here.
Starve Acre by Andrew Michael Hurley (John Murray Press)
The worst thing possible has happened. Richard and Juliette Willoughby’s son, Ewan, has died suddenly at the age of five. Starve Acre, their house by the moors, was to be full of life, but is now a haunted place.
Juliette, convinced Ewan still lives there in some form, seeks the help of the Beacons, a seemingly benevolent group of occultists. Richard, to try and keep the boy out of his mind, has turned his attention to the field opposite the house, where he patiently digs the barren dirt in search of a legendary oak tree.
I’m not saying anything about this book other than my review is coming up and I think it may very well be my book of the year……watch this space!
Things We Say In The Dark by Kirsty Logan (Harvill Secker)
Some things can’t be spoken about in the light of day. But we can visit our fears at night, in the dark. We can turn them over and weigh them in our hands and maybe that will protect us from them. But maybe not.
The characters in this collection find their aspirations for happy homes, happy families and happy memories dissected and imbued with shimmering menace. Alone in a remote house in Iceland a woman is unnerved by her isolation; another can only find respite from the clinging ghost that follows her by submerging herself in an overgrown pool. Couples wrestle with a lack of connection to their children; a schoolgirl becomes obsessed with the female anatomical models in a museum; and a cheery account of child’s day out is undercut by chilling footnotes.
These dark tales explore women’s fears with electrifying honesty and invention and speak to one another about female bodies, domestic claustrophobia, desire and violence. From a talented writer who has been compared to Angela Carter, Things We Say in the Dark is a powerful contemporary collection of feminist stories, ranging from vicious fairy tales to disturbing horror and tender ghost stories.
I bloody love Kirsty Logan’s writing and this short story collection had me hooked. So much so that I read it all in one go! This collection absolutely NAILS unease! My review is here.
Naomi’s Room by Jonathan Aycliffe (Corsair)
Charles and Laura are a young, happily married couple inhabiting the privileged world of Cambridge academia. Brimming with excitement, Charles sets off with his daughter Naomi on a Christmas Eve shopping trip to London. But, by the end of the day, all Charles and his wife have left are cups of tea and police sympathy. For Naomi, their beautiful, angelic only child, has disappeared. Days later her murdered body is discovered.But is she dead?In a howling, bumping story of past and present day hell, Jonathan Aycliffe’s haunting psychological masterpiece is guaranteed to make you sink to untold depths of teeth-shaking terror.
I’ve left the most traumatising one for last! If I ever see anyone asking for scary book recommendations anywhere, THIS is the book I always suggest! It absolutely terrified me! I really couldn’t read it alone and that’s the gods honest truth! You have to check it out! My review is here.
Phew! I think that’s it! I hope you see something you like the look of! If you do read any of these, please let me know your thoughts.
Enjoy Halloween and I’ll see you all soon!
Amanda – Bookish Chat xx