It’s the right time of year for a little atmospheric reading material. I’m not much into gore, and “horror” movies are really hit and miss for me, since there is so much of that built into so many of them, so curling up with a good spooky book is more my cup of tea.
In the misty, chilly nights of October, my preferences lean toward novels that are suspenseful, eerie, know how to set the mood with imagery…and preferably feature a ghost (or at least the possibility of a ghost) in them.
Here are three novels that I can recommend. Well, only two, really, because I’m still reading the third. But the writing so far is good, and she’s the author of Book #2, so I’m going to predict it will be a good story as well.
Classic psychological suspense/ghost story by Henry James
Book #1 – The Turn of the Screw, by Henry James
This has got to be one of the most masterfully written suspense/thriller/psychological studies I’ve read. It’s short – a novella, really. And it’s Victorian in setting and style, so be forewarned that there is a lot of description and long, complex sentences. The author also leaves it to the reader to decide whether there is a ghost or a case of paranoid delusion, brought on by the stifling Victorian societal pressures/a case of sexual hysteria, so if you despise a story that doesn’t leave everything neatly tied up in a bow, then this one may not be for you. There is also a pretty good and faithful-to-the-novella film version put out by PBS and starring Jodhi May, with a smaller role played by Colin Firth.
The 1983 novel that spawned the 2012 movie with Daniel Radcliffe
Book #2 – The Woman in Black, by Susan Hill
Yes, this is the novel that inspired the recent film starring Daniel Radcliffe, of Harry Potter fame. However, the novel uses a framing technique (beginning in the “present” for one of the characters and then shifting to the story itself) and ends quite differently from the film. There was also a play made from the story, along with several earlier screen versions. The British television version from 1989, while low budget, has plenty of atmosphere and chills, and I saw it before I read the novel or watched the more recent 2012 film.
Another Susan Hill ghost story
Book #3 – The Mist in the Mirror, by Susan Hill
This is the one I’m reading now, and so far, so good. I don’t know much about it yet, except that I enjoy the author’s use of description to set the mood and tone. As a writer, I admire the development of atmosphere, along with character and plot, and Susan Hill seems to do this quite well. Stay tuned to hear more about this one….or if you’ve read it, feel free to tell me what you thought of it – or any of these texts – in the comments. If you have other recommendations that would be great too. 🙂 Happy reading!