“The Bloody Chamber,” by Angela Carter

Fiction, 1979 Series of short stories in which erotic subjects and themes are woven in and bring new perspectives to old fairy tales. The appeal of the project may also put some readers off – while there’s much to admire in the narration and gender power shifts, the use of the fairy tale form can lead to the text feeling quite slow and almost over-balanced … Continue reading “The Bloody Chamber,” by Angela Carter

“Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children”, directed by Tim Burton

Movie, 2016 Beautiful looking Gothic adventure, featuring themes of outsider children, magical powers and the struggles against darkness and evil. All very Tim Burton territory, but put together a little awkwardly, so that while personal fights and relationships feature heavily, they’re a little undone by all the special powers of each of the peculiar children of the title. The result is a little flat and … Continue reading “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children”, directed by Tim Burton

“The Vet’s Daughter”, by Barbara Comyns

Novel, 1959 Slim fiction featuring the titular, deeply unreliable narrator trying to find her way in the world with a dominated mother, abusive father, deaf and dumb best friend and a hint and a suggestion of a life partner. This is a gothic tale which deals with vivisectionists and levitation with a sing-song, almost matter of fact tone, given a rich immediacy through the use … Continue reading “The Vet’s Daughter”, by Barbara Comyns

"White is for Witching", by Helen Oyeyemi

Novel, 2009 A novel which pulls on a load of shapes and guises, from coming of age, to a twins’ psychodrama, to haunted house thriller. This is a book in which too much goes on without much seeming to actually happen. The result is a confusing hodge-podge, which may be an intentional device reflecting the struggles of Miranda, the main protagonist. There’s some really outstanding … Continue reading "White is for Witching", by Helen Oyeyemi

"Clock Without Hands", by Carson McCullers

Novel, 1961 Gloomy novel set in the American South, where dramas and the coming of age, death, social class and family relationships are set against a backdrop of racial tension and the emergence of integration. This is a story of high drama and incident, although the handling and writing are well measured. It’s quite a page turner too, and all the characters are compelling, even … Continue reading "Clock Without Hands", by Carson McCullers

"Inferno," directed by Dario Argento

Movie, 1980 Dreamy horror, full of deserted buildings, surreal sets, a progressive rock soundtrack and blood. All these elements are wonderfully realised, giving the film an excellent tension, although the story seems a little confused and the acting, every now and again, stultifying. The violence is nasty, although this goes with the territory. An effective piece, all in all; at least it would have been … Continue reading "Inferno," directed by Dario Argento

"The Woman in Black", by Susan Hill

Novel, 1992 Effective ghost story, packing suspense and creating an evocative, oppressive atmosphere. Much of this is probably attributable to the first person narrative, taking the reader into a world which is written in what appears to be very deliberately ‘olde worlde’, with a groaning bucket load of mist, marshes, haunted houses and phantoms. While the style occasionally threatens the power of the narrative, in … Continue reading "The Woman in Black", by Susan Hill

"We Have Always Lived in the Castle", by Shirley Jackson

Novel, 1962 Terrific Gothic tale of two sisters and a deranged uncle living in an unfriendly village which marginalises them due to the belief the elder sister poisoned and killed the rest of the family. This is a story focusing on Merricat, the younger sister, a fiercely independent, disturbing narrator who brings a very focused view on unfolding events. There’s a real tension in this … Continue reading "We Have Always Lived in the Castle", by Shirley Jackson