Thursday, October 28, 2010

Some books I recommend...

As Halloween Approaches

A Good and Happy Child by Justin Evans. 2007.

Halloweenish Features: Demonology. Mysticism. Psychological drama.The uncanny. Coming of age?

This truly chilling story unfolds as a man discusses his childhood with his therapist, adroitly moving between two time frames. Was he haunted/possessed by a demon as a child or is the demon a metaphor for other trauma?

Pilgrim by Timothy Findley. 1999.

Halloweenish Features:
Immortal, moody man. Burning mental institution. daVinci as an asshole. The uncanny. Jung and the Collective Subconscious.

This is an astoundingly ambitious book. It's the least Halloweenish of this bunch, but it is moody and eerie and mystical. And scary smart.

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. 1859.

Halloweenish Features:
Madwoman/misused eccentric. Mistaken identities. Count Fosco and his creepy love of white mice. Isolated, decaying country estate. Burning church.

Even better than Jane Eyre and Rebecca, I promise. Fosco is as unforgettable a villain as Cruella Deville.

The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher by Kate Summerscale. 2009.

Halloweenish Features:
True crime, mystery, scary early scientific theories like phrenology and physiognomy.

Everything we take for granted about forensic science and detective work, both in real life and in fiction, are traced meticulously back to the Road Hill murder case. How did Summerscale write something so painstakingly informative yet so thrilling?

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger. 2010.

Halloweenish Features: Eerie twins. Haunted London flat. Highgate Cemetary. OCD. Harshly reviewed novel nonetheless well-liked by me.

Julia. Valentina. Elspeth. Great names, no? You might find the ghost story here annoying, but there are some really great characters in this novel--hard-to-like characters that you end up liking despite yourself are the best, aren't they? Oh and there are some cool details about the history of Highgate Cemetery, conveyed through Robert, a graduate student writing his thesis on the topic.

Falling Angels by Tracy Chevalier. 2002.

Halloweenish Features: Highgate Cemetery. Discontented Edwardian Women. Precocious children.

Only a medium on the halloweenish scale, but about half of this novel takes place in Highgate Cemetary. Its historical scope includes the Women's Suffrage Movement and Victorian customs of mourning made fashionable by Queen Victoria. It's moody and voice-y (it is narrated in the voice several characters, young and old, male and female). I recommend absolutely everything by Chevalier but absolutely nothing Amazon says you'll like if you like Chevalier.