Historical Fiction: Autumn Edit (part two)

In my last blog I shared with you the historical fiction which I’m most looking forward to reading over the coming months. This time it’s all about the spooky and autumnal reads that I highly recommend:

The Familiars

A tale of witchcraft, suspense and familiars, the front cover of Stacey Hall’s debut immediately screams autumn to me. Something about all the imagery of woodland animals and the historical setting just feels cosy. 

You can read my review here

The Animals of Lockwood Manor

This gothic tale, which makes a respectful nod to Jane Eyre and Rebecca, is an unsettling and suspenseful read. The sense of claustrophobia as you reach the final pages is breathtaking. 

We join our heroine Hetty as she and the natural history museum’s collection of mammals evacuate to Lockwood Manor. Far from offering a place of safety the Manor seems a threat to not only the collection but to Hetty herself. Hetty begins to suspect that someone, or something, is stalking her through the corridors and playing havoc with the animals. 

It poses the question: is a gothic horror novel really a gothic horror without an apparition in white?

The Taxidermist’s Daughter

Kate Mosse provides all the gothic chills with this tale of suspicion and murder. Set in 1912 it opens with the inhabitants of a Sussex village gathering in a churchyard to see the ghosts of those who will not survive the year. In the shadows a woman lies dead and our heroine Connie lives marooned in a decaying house, filled with fragments of memories of a childhood she has forgotten. 

Everything about this novel just oozes creepy, chilling vibes. Each scene and character, every setting, seems dark. 

Conjure Woman

Another one I have reviewed on the blog before and probably one of my top reads of 2020. 

Set in the years following the emancipation of slaves in the southern states of American this is a tale of witchcraft, of curses and of ghosts. Rue, like her mother before her, is a healer, midwife and suspected witch. When a sickness sweeps through her small community she finds herself under suspicion, but Rue has her own secrets which link her irrevocably to the past, to The Big House and a relentlessly cruel slave owning family.   

Silent Companions

Another pick which makes a nod to classic gothic fiction, this time Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw. 

Newly married, newly widowed Elsie is sent to see out her pregnancy at her late husband’s crumbling country estate, The Bridge. Met with hostile servants and a strange relative of her husband Elsie begins to feel lonely. That is until she comes across a diary and a deeply disturbing painted, wooden figure which bears a striking resemblance to her. That is not all – the figure, or Silent Companion, exudes a sense of menace. 

Things in Jars

A thrilling, twisted and shiver inducing historical thriller, set in Victoria London with a hint of the supernatural. 

This story of Bridie Devine, the finest female detective of her age, is a genuine joy. On a case to find a missing child, Bridie battles deranged medical men, bitter servants and her own ghosts.   

The Dolly Factory

Another book set in Victorian London (is there a more spooky setting?). This is a tale of art, obsession and… taxidermy (a theme seems to be developing here). 

Painter Louis Frost plucks our heroine Iris from obscurity by asking her to pose as a model; she agrees but only if he teaches her to paint. Unfortunately for them both Iris’ bewitching looks have also captivated Silas Reed’s attention. Silas is the aforementioned taxidermist and collector of curiosities, whose obsession threatens Iris’s life. 

What books will you be reading this spooky season?

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