A Foray into Gothic Fiction

Book cover image for RebeccaReading Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier in 7th grade was a formative moment for me: I learned the vocabulary word sepulchre; I was deliciously creeped out. It wasn’t until this year, though, that I realized Rebecca was part of a larger type of fiction that I really, consistently enjoy: Gothic fiction. The good news for readers like me – those who love creepy old mansions, sinister family secrets and the sense that something is not quite right – is that there are a steady crop of titles to keep us busy. This year I’ve read two titles that I’d like to suggest you snuggle up with on a cold and dreary night.

Book cover image for The Death of Mrs. WestawayThe Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware
Young Hal is struggling to get by, working as a tarot card reader at Brighton Pier and in debt to a ruthless loan shark. She receives a notice that her grandmother has died and left her a bequest in the will – except Hal’s grandparents are long dead, so it must be a mistake. She travels to the family estate anyway, hoping to employ the same cold reading skills she uses in her work to con her way into a little inheritance. Instead, she finds herself in over her head in another family’s twisted history of secrets. Hal is a great character to root for, struggling with grief over her mother’s death and the daily realities of being poor and alone, and the Westaways are a fascinating, unhappy, secretive family. Add in the hulking gothic mansion and a sinister housekeeper, and I was hooked. Atmospheric and genuinely surprising.

Book cover image for The Silent CompanionsThe Silent Companions by Laura Purcell
In 1860s England, Elsie, pregnant and recently widowed, travels to the crumbling country estate of her husband’s family. Kept company by only a few servants and her husband’s maiden cousin, Elsie discovers a realistic life-size wooden figure in the attic garret. As the figure and others like it begin popping up around the house, seemingly moving around on their own, grisly deaths begin to occur. Where did these silent companions come from? Is Elsie going crazy? Or is something more sinister at play? This book is deeply, consistently creepy, with a suspenseful tone that made me want to read it with all the lights on. A great take on the Gothic ghost story.

Two more titles that I haven’t read yet, but am excited to crack into, are The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton and Melmoth by Sarah Perry. And then I need to finally pick up Shirley Jackson’s classic The Haunting of Hill House.

~ posted by Andrea G.

A trio of novels for Native American Heritage Month

November is Native American Heritage Month, a time designated to honor the histories, cultures, and contributions – historical and ongoing – of American Indians and Alaska Natives. You can check out a booklist of novels by Native American authors published in the past five years in our catalog. Highlighted here are three outstanding novels from 2018.

Book cover image for Where the Dead Sit TalkingWhere the Dead Sit Talking by Brandon Hobson is narrated by Sequoyah as he looks back on 1989, the year he was 15. That year, after his mother is sent to jail on a drug charge, Sequoyah finds himself in foster care with the Troutts, alongside another Native American foster kid, Rosemary. He reflects back on his friendship with Rosemary, the strangeness of that time, and the way it contributed to who he became. A masterful coming-of-age novel. Shortlisted for the National Book Award. Continue reading “A trio of novels for Native American Heritage Month”

New Fiction Roundup – November 2018

11/6: The Best Bad Things by Katrina Carrasco – In 1887, Alma Rosales goes undercover as a man to hunt for an opium shipment missing from a Washington Territory outpost.

11/6: The Colors of All the Cattle by Alexander McCall Smith – In this latest installment of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, Precious Ramotswe finds herself running for office, much to her dismay.

11/6: The Feral Detective by Jonathan Lethem – Phoebe enlists the help of a loner with a pet possum to look for her friend’s missing daughter in California’s Inland Empire. Hailed as Lethem’s return to detective fiction. Continue reading “New Fiction Roundup – November 2018”

Intriguing Middle Eastern Fiction

In a return to our intermittent series on interesting international fiction, enjoy this snapshot of titles by Middle Eastern novelists published in the US in the last year.

Beginning in Turkey, check out Elif Shafak’s latest novel The Three Daughters of Eve, a story set over a single evening in contemporary Istanbul, as Peri attends a dinner party at a seaside mansion while terrorist attacks occur across the city. Surrounded by well-healed guests, Peri reflects on the two friends she made as a student at Oxford, and the betrayal that ripped them apart but which she still might be able to fix. Continue reading “Intriguing Middle Eastern Fiction”

A trio of reads on Western land

The land and coasts that make up the West are many things to many people: recreation areas, sacred sites, grazing land, just to name a few. In the past five years we’ve seen an escalation, reflected in mainstream news stories, of the conflicts among groups with differing visions for public lands: from the ongoing fight over the designation of Bears Ears National Monument, to escalating action over federal land management that culminated last year in the occupation of Oregon’s Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, to a newly urgent discussion about what steps should be taken to save the orca whales of Puget Sound. No matter which side you agree with on these issues, there’s no denying that human actions have had a dramatic and direct impact on land, flora, and fauna. To dig deeper on a few issues, check out these recent books about our Western geography: Continue reading “A trio of reads on Western land”