Tuesday 16 October 2018

Gothic Book Tag

The Classics Club Gothic Book Tag coincides with the clubs #CCdare challenge for October to read a classic book that scares you, thrills you or challenges you somehow. I've been reading Mary Shelley's Frankenstein for the very first time, in tandem with a bio by Charlotte Gordon about Shelley and her mother Mary Wollstonecraft, Romantic Outlaws.

The Gothic Book Tag is a fun way to face your bookish fears although it feels odd to be contemplating Halloween-style posts about dark nights, harvests and the dead (walking or not) as we in the Southern Hemisphere embrace new life, spring blossoms and longer days. Not that you would know it right now. After the driest winter in a long time, we have now had nearly three weeks of non-stop rain. Daylight savings started a week ago, not that you would know it, as we wake up to yet another grey, damp day that eventually peters out into more rain and gloomy evenings.

Anzac Bridge, Sydney (I was a passenger, not driving!)

Perhaps this is the perfect time, after all, for me to tackle this gothic tag!

It would be very easy to fill this book tag with Stephen King books and characters, but I'm not sure he qualifies for all my rules about what is a classic and I want to challenge myself to look deeper and further back for some of my personal scare factors.

1. Which classic book has scared you the most?

Lord of the Rings - so many creepy creatures, frightening moments and heart-in-the-mouth scenes. By the end of the three books, I'm exhausted!

2. Scariest moment in a book?

The possibility of the rats eating Winston's face in 1984 - my worst fear as well as Winston's.

3. Classic villain that you love to hate?

Randall Flagg, the Walking Dude in Stephen King's The Stand (and other books).
Charming and enticing to start with, but evil personified once you get to know him.
A complete bad ass, with no rules, no compunction and no empathy.

4. Creepiest setting in a book?

More frightening than creepy, but the futuristic world of The Handmaid's Tale freaks me out.

5. Best scary cover ever?

This is a kids book? Really!
Deliciously creepy from start to finish.
But that cover!

6. Book you’re too scared to read?

Ulysses - very thick, very difficult, scared I won't understand it.

7. Spookiest creature in a book?

Gollum, or maybe the Sandworms in Dune or perhaps John Wyndham's Chocky?

8. Classic book that haunts you to this day?

The fate of Tess of the D'Urbervilles angers me and upsets me to this day.

9. Favourite cliffhanger or unexpected twist?

Atonement by Ian McEwan

10. Classic book you really, really disliked?

Lord of the Flies

11. Character death that disturbed/upset you the most?

Beth's death in Little Women and Matthew's in Anne of Green Gables are up there.
But the one that really upsets every single time is Judy's death in Seven Little Australians.

12. List your top 5 Gothic/scary/horror classic reads.

Jane Eyre
My Cousin Rachel
The Day of the Triffids
The Bloody Chamber
Picnic at Hanging Rock

13. Share your scariest/creepiest quote, poem or meme.

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost

This is not meant to be a disturbing poem, I believe, but ever since the episode of Roswell where Alex dies and leaves behind a cryptic message that references the final lines in this poem, I have imbued it was a sinister meaning. It gives me goosebump shivers every single time.



  1. Tess has the same effect on me... still haunting, but I loved it. Fun post!

    1. Tess is my favourite Hardy (to date) even though it's a book that makes me so very angry.

  2. Anonymous17/10/18

    I agree on Stephen King's work, the man and his novels are haunting me. As for Coraline, it's so disturbing novel. The scariest poem of yours sounds amazing, I will try to find the rest of it.

    1. There was something about the button eyes in Coraline that was truly disturbing, but I can't get enough of it at the same time!

  3. That's because Judy's death is awful!!

    1. So awful. And Turner writes about the after effects of it on her siblings and parents so beautifully that it wrecks me!

  4. How funny that your scariest poem is that one (whole thing is here https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/42891/stopping-by-woods-on-a-snowy-evening) when you posted a while back about poems by heart this one popped immediately to mind as it is one of the ones I know by heart. It isn't a scary poem at all, but once you have an association with a line you never see it the same way.

    1. It's weird how it happens isn't it Mary? I 'studied' this poem on my blog a few years back when our boys were studying it for their final school exams, but I'd already seen the Roswell episode in question several times by then and only knew the lines in that context.
      I wonder what Frost what think about his poem being mixed up in an alien murder conspiracy in early 2000 TV-land?

    2. Of all the alien stuff he would have to come to terms with in the early 2000s I doubt that would even concern him. He taught middle school so I would have to think he had a healthy understanding of pop culture.

  5. I agree with so many of these! I listened to 1984 just this week, pressed fast forward past the rats in the mask bit. And 10. Yes! Haven't (and won't ever) read LotF since high school. And yes, Chocky, Judy, Picnic. My only disagreement Ulysses which I love. Don't worry about not understanding it -you will - but immerse yourself in all that wonderful language.

    1. Thanks for the Ulysses encouragement Bill. I'd like to tackle it one day - probably a readalong or annotated version or both would work for me I think.

      Mr Books & I saw 1984 at the STC a couple of years ago - the rat mask scene was the most disturbing for me and I couldn't skip over it either! Implied violence is often so much more ghastly than actual violence in books/stage shows etc.

  6. This is the first time I heard someone disliked Lord of the Flies. It's actually one of my favorites.
    What aspect of it that you disliked?

    Now you have scared me with 1984. It's on my CC list, and for some time I have been considering whether I should swap it with another book. Now I'm almost convienced...

    1. 1984 is not an easy read (or show to watch) but it's so thought provoking that I think you really should give it a shot. It actually shares a number of themes with LoTF - group think versus individualism, civilisation and government, violence and war.

      But those awful awful boys in LoTF running around, running amok, where too much like the bully boys at school. I simply didn't want to be in that male-run world.
      I've wondered in recent times, whether an adult reread is required, except I'm not sure our world has moved on enough to make me feel any more kindly towards the story.

  7. Your list gives me hope that I can actually do this tag. Since I rarely read scary books I couldn't think what I'd add. Let's see if I can get one together.


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