Rainy Day Gothic: 6 Modern Gothic Novels

Gothic spire with crows and clouds.
Photo courtesy [Duncan] on Flickr under CC License.
We’re actually getting two days full of rain here in Southern California, much needed for the environment to be sure, and an interesting change of atmosphere from the perpetually sunny days we usually enjoy. So let’s embrace these two straight days of rain by grabbing a hot beverage, snuggling down under the covers, and indulging in some mysterious, romantic, and spine-tingling stories of the Gothic persuasion. All of these stories are “modern Gothic” so you’ll find none of the Gothic classics like Jane Eyre or Dracula here, though those are also excellent choices, instead here we point out some authors from the twentieth-century trying their hand at Gothic tales.

Rebecca book coverRebecca by Daphne du Maurier

Our nameless orphaned heroine is abruptly swept off her feet and into matrimony with handsome millionaire widower Maxim de Winter while working as a lady’s maid in Monte Carlo. When she travels with him back to his home, Manderley, it quickly becomes clear that Maxim has many secrets not yet revealed to our heroine. It is at Manderley that she meets Mrs. Danvers, the frighteningly severe housekeeper that still seems overly devoted to her late mistress Rebecca, de Winter’s first wife who died suddenly. Rebecca’s presence is everywhere at Manderley, casting a dark shadow over the heroine’s new life and marriage that she struggles to comprehend. As she delves more deeply into Rebecca’s history and into the history of her new husband however, she may find that some secrets are best left undiscovered.

Mistress of Mellyn book coverMistress of Mellyn by Victoria Holt

Martha Leigh first comes to Mount Mellyn as a governess to Alvean, and though Mellyn itself is as grand as she had imagined and Alvean is as spoiled and difficult as she had feared, Martha does not know what to make of Connan TreMellyn, Alvean’s father and the Master of Mellyn. At first distant and arrogant towards Martha, Connan is surrounded by rumors of tragedy and his mere presence unlocks hidden desires in Martha. More mysterious still is the question of what really happened to Alice, Connan’s late wife, who supposedly died in a train crash. Martha becomes convinced that there is more to this story than she was told and feels Alice’s presence all over the house. As she is drawn deeper into the secrets of Mellyn and the family that inhabits it, Martha cannot tell whether she will find evil or love at the end of her search.

The Forgotten Garden book coverThe Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

Shattered by the recent loss of her beloved grandmother Nell, Cassandra is surprised when receives a bequest from Nell that leads her on a journey to discover the truth of her family’s past. Beginning with Nell’s childhood in Australia the story traces Nell’s life as her sense of self crumbles when she finds out that she was abandoned as a child and adopted by the people she always thought were her parents, and as she sets out on her own journey to find out where she came from. This is a quest that will lead her halfway around the world to England and to Blackhurst Manor where she finds that hers is not the only family with secrets. The journey is finally finished by her granddaughter as Cassandra returns to Blackhurst Manor and finds the secret garden from her grandmother’s strange book of fairytales and unlocks the mysteries of her family.

The Thirteenth Tale book coverThe Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

Margaret Lea is startled when she receives a letter from one of Britain’s most celebrated writers, Vida Winter, asking her to write her biography. While pondering this request Margaret becomes captivated by the twelve beautiful stories in the author’s collection Thirteen Tales of Change and Desperation and by the mystery of the unwritten thirteenth tale. Though Vida has told many different fascinating tales about her life, in the end, none of them have been true and Margaret agrees to write her biography only if she will now give her the whole truth of her past. What she finds though is a story almost beyond belief full of ghosts, madness, strange gardens, and a devastating fire, all centered around the now ruined estate of Angelfield, Vida’s childhood home. As Margaret confronts the ghosts of Vida’s past, she may end up finding answers to the pain in her own past as well.

Nine Coaches Waiting book coverNine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart

Desperate to find a good position, young, orphaned Linda Martin leaves England for a position as a governess to a young French boy, heir to a grand estate called Chateux Valmy. When she arrives at Valmy Linda finds the estate beautiful and grand, her young charge sweet but cowed, and the atmosphere tense and revolving around Leon, uncle to her pupil and current caretaker of the estate. Leon is confined to a wheelchair, but is does not hinder his magnetic and volatile nature or his obsessive care for the estate. When his son Raoul returns home, Linda finds herself wrapped up in an improbable romance, but that spell is broken when Phillipe is almost killed in the woods and Linda becomes convinced that someone in the family wants him dead.

The Shadow of the Wind book coverThe Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

In 1945 Barcelona, in a Spain still reeling from the civil war, young Daniel is taken by his bookseller father to a place called The Cemetery of Forgotten Books where he is told to choose one book which he will protect from oblivion. Daniel chooses The Shadow of the Wind by Julian Carax, a book that he quickly comes to love and devote his life to protecting, an unusually difficult task in this case as a mysterious disfigured man has been travelling around the world burning every copy of Carax’s works he can find. As his quest to discover more about Julian Carax and find the man who is destroying his work leads him around the world, Daniel is joined by a cast of strange characters and finds frightening similarities between Julian’s life and his own. As he delves deeper into the mystery it seems that behind each truth he uncovers, Daniel finds more secrets surrounding the man and his work.