You lot know me well enough by now to know that I love a dark, spooky or twisted read. I have kept my eyes and ears to the ground recently in terms of picking up spooky book recommendations and trying to extend my ghostly reads well past the Halloween season.
So today I’m bringing those books to you before I make a start on scaring myself witless. Maybe you’ll see something that tickles your fancy, maybe you don’t like being scared (in which case you better leave this post now and I’ll see you next time) but for those of you with strong nerves, let’s crack on!
The Haunting Of Alma Fielding by Kate Summerscale (Bloomsbury Circus)
London, 1938. Alma Fielding, an ordinary young woman, begins to experience supernatural events in her suburban home. Nandor Fodor – a Jewish-Hungarian refugee and chief ghost hunter for the International Institute for Psychical research – begins to investigate. In doing so he discovers a different and darker type of haunting: trauma, alienation, loss – and the foreshadowing of a nation’s worst fears. As the spectre of Fascism lengthens over Europe, and as Fodor’s obsession with the case deepens, Alma becomes ever more disturbed.
A bit of non-fiction for my first choice. I love a good real life haunting and this book looks corking! I’m drawn to the fact that it’s from the 1930’s, I’m drawn to the poltergeist element and I’m drawn to an investigation. This book has my name written all over it. I have a feeling it’ll be a good ‘un!
Hag – Forgotten Folk Tales Retold (Virago)
Here are sisters fighting for the love of the same woman, a pregnant archaeologist unearthing impossible bones and lost children following you home. A panther runs through the forests of England and pixies prey upon violent men. From the islands of Scotland to the coast of Cornwall, the mountains of Galway to the depths of the Fens, these forgotten folktales howl, cackle and sing their way into the 21st century, wildly reimagined by some of the most exciting women writing in Britain and Ireland today.
I can’t tell you how excited I am to get stuck into this one. Some of the authors in this short story collection are amongst my most favourite. Daisy Johnson, Naomi Booth, Kirsty Logan, Imogen Hermes Gowar….YES PLEASE. I love a dark folktale and apparently this collection has a ‘feminist tang’ which I am here for! Let’s not even get me started on that cover! Stunning!
The Invited by Jennifer McMahon (Anchor Books)
In a quest for a simpler life, Helen and Nate have abandoned the comforts of suburbia to take up residence on forty-four acres of rural land where they will begin the ultimate, aspirational do-it-yourself project: building the house of their dreams. When they discover that this beautiful property has a dark and violent past, Helen, a former history teacher, becomes consumed by the local legend of Hattie Breckenridge, a woman who lived and died there a century ago. With her passion for artifacts, Helen finds special materials to incorporate into the house–a beam from an old schoolroom, bricks from a mill, a mantel from a farmhouse–objects that draw her deeper into the story of Hattie and her descendants, three generations of Breckenridge women, each of whom died suspiciously. As the building project progresses, the house will become a place of menace and unfinished business: a new home, now haunted, that beckons its owners and their neighbors toward unimaginable danger.
I saw this one being discussed on Booktube and I was interested in the premise which kind of turns the traditional ‘old haunted house’ story on its head a little. This house is a new build and the ghostly aspects are actually brought into the building from the outside. I don’t think I’ve ever read a haunted house book without it being an old gothic mansion steeped in history. This time it’s items brought in that hold the mystery. It also starts with this killer paragraph: ‘It has started when Hattie was a little girl. She’d had a cloth bodied doll with a porcelain head called Miss Fentwig. Miss Fentwig told her things – things that Hattie had no way of knowing, things that Hattie didn’t really want to hear…’ I’ve never read any Jennifer McMahon but I have heard good things about The Winter People too. I’ll give The Invited a whirl and maybe visit her backlist.
The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones (Titan Books)
Ricky, Gabe, Lewis and Cassidy are men bound to their heritage, bound by society, and trapped in the endless expanses of the landscape. Now, ten years after a fateful elk hunt, which remains a closely guarded secret between them, these men and their children must face a ferocious spirit that is coming for them, one at a time. A spirit which wears the faces of the ones they love, tearing a path into their homes, their families and their most sacred moments of faith.
Again this was a Booktube recommendation which I was drawn to by the idea of a vengeful spirit targeting specific men after an incident in the past. I recently read The Nesting by C.J Cooke which had elks in and I think this drew me in too.
The Grip Of It by Jac Jemc (Titan Books)
A chilling literary horror novel, Jac Jemc’s THE GRIP OF IT tells the story Julia and James, a young couple haunted by their new home. The move – prompted by James’s penchant for gambling, his inability to keep his impulses in check – is quick and seamless; both Julie and James are happy to leave behind their usual haunts and start afresh. But the house, which sits between lake and forest, has plans for the unsuspecting couple…The architecture becomes unrecognisable, decaying before their eyes. Stains contract and expand, mapping themselves onto Julie’s body in the form of bruises; mould taints the water that James pours from the sink. As the couple search for the source of their mutual torment, they become mired in the history of their peculiar neighbours and the mysterious previous residents of the house.
Again this was another booktube recommendation (you gotta love Booktube!). I love the idea of a house having physical affects on the residents and almost becoming a dark living thing. The only other book I’ve read that involved a house having an effect on someone’s health is The Upstairs Room by Kate Murray Browne, which I would highly recommend. Also ‘peculiar neighbours’ was an instant hook for me too. Sign me up! Looking forward to this one.
Florence & Giles by John Harding (Borough Press)
1891. In a remote and crumbling New England mansion, 12-year-old orphan Florence is neglected by her guardian uncle and banned from reading. Left to her own devices she devours books in secret and talks to herself – and narrates this, her story – in a unique language of her own invention. By night, she sleepwalks the corridors like one of the old house’s many ghosts and is troubled by a recurrent dream in which a mysterious woman appears to threaten her younger brother Giles. Sometimes Florence doesn’t sleepwalk at all, but simply pretends to so she can roam at will and search the house for clues to her own baffling past. After the sudden violent death of the children’s first governess, a second teacher, Miss Taylor, arrives, and immediately strange phenomena begin to occur. Florence becomes convinced that the new governess is a vengeful and malevolent spirit who means to do Giles harm. Against this powerful supernatural enemy, and without any adult to whom she can turn for help, Florence must use all her intelligence and ingenuity to both protect her little brother and preserve her private world.
Someone recently asked on Twitter for the most scary books people had read. I offered up Naomi’s Room by Jonathan Aycliffe (honestly, look into it), and then I sat back and watched other people’s suggestions in the thread. Florence & Giles by John Harding was a suggestion that came up and the comparison to The Turn Of The Screw was enough for me. Gothic house? Tick. Dead governess? Tick. Strange phenomena? Tick tick tick. Yes please!
The Lost by Jonathan Aycliffe (Constable)
British born Michael Feraru, scion of a long line of Romanian aristocrats, leaves his country of birth and his love, to reclaim his heritage – a Draculian castle deep in the heart of Transylvania. He plans to turn his inheritance into an orphanage in the new post-Ceausescu, post-communist country. There he enlists the help of a young local lawyer, Liliana Popescu, to search for the missing Feraru millions, and battle through the complex maze of old bureaucracy in the scam-rich, newly-born state. Feraru describes his journey into the heart of the Romanian countryside, wasted by years of neglect and caught in a time-warp, as though the twentieth century had never reached it. When he eventually arrives at his inheritance, he finds the castle of the Ferarus, in a sunless valley in the Carpathian Mountains, is home to much more than memories…
I really wanted to try more of Jonathan Aycliffe’s work after he scared me witless with Naomi’s Room. The Lost was suggested on the spooky book Twitter thread I mentioned above so I thought I’d give it a go. To be honest after reading the blurb it probably wouldn’t be a book I would naturally pick up but I’m willing to trust other people’s judgement on this one and give it a whirl!
So there we have it. Have you read any of these? Do any of them tickle your fancy? And perhaps more importantly, can any of you recommend some more dark and spooky reads to me? I’m all ears!
Until next time…..don’t have nightmares.
See you soon.
Amanda – Bookish Chat xxx