The Classics Club Gothic Book Tag

I don’t often take part in book tags, but I couldn’t resist this Gothic-themed one hosted by The Classics Club.

If you want to join in too, here are the rules:

* Answer the 13 questions with classic books in mind.
* How you define ‘classic’ is up to you.
* How you define ‘scary’ is up to you (it could be content, size of book, genre etc).
* If you’re feeling social, visit other blogs and leave a comment or share your thoughts on twitter, fb, instagram or goodreads using #CCgothicbooktag
* Join in if you dare.

1. Which classic book has scared you the most?

The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe. Not all of his tales and poems are scary ones, but there are definitely some very eerie, atmospheric ones in that collection.

2. Scariest moment in a book?

The scene from Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes where the blind Dust Witch hovers over the rooftops of Green Town in a hot air balloon.

3. Classic villain that you love to hate?

I thought Madame de la Rougierre, the governess from Uncle Silas by Sheridan Le Fanu was a truly horrible villain!

4. Creepiest setting in a book?

Hill House in The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. Haunted houses are always the settings I find the creepiest!

5. Best scary cover ever?

6. Book you’re too scared to read?

Are Stephen King’s books considered classics now? I think they probably are. If so, I’m scared to re-read my copy of The Shining, although I loved it when I was about fifteen!

7. Spookiest creature in a book?

I’ll have to say the triffids in The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham. The thought of seven-foot tall plants walking the streets and lashing out with their long, stinging arms sounds terrifying to me!

8. Classic book that haunts you to this day?

I first read Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier as a teenager and when I re-read it last year I still found the atmosphere, the sense of place, the characters and the beautiful writing as haunting as ever.

9. Favourite cliffhanger or unexpected twist?

The moment in Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None when the solution to the mystery is finally revealed. Still my favourite of all the Christie novels I’ve read.

10. Classic book you really, really disliked?

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. Maybe I was just too old for it by the time I read it – I think I was probably past the age when I might have been able to appreciate it.

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

One death scene that I found particularly disturbing occurs in Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure. I don’t want to spoil anything for future readers, but anyone who has already read Jude will know exactly what I’m talking about!

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

I’ve already mentioned some of my top reads in my answers to the previous questions above, so I’m going to choose a different five to list here:

The Monk by Matthew Lewis
The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
The Italian by Ann Radcliffe

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

Linking back to my answer to Question 1, here is the beginning of Edgar Allan Poe’s Ulalume:

“The skies they were ashen and sober;
The leaves they were crisped and sere –
The leaves they were withering and sere;
It was night in the lonesome October
Of my most immemorial year:
It was hard by the dim lake of Auber,
In the misty mid region of Weir –
It was down by the dank tarn of Auber,
In the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir.”


What are your favourite spooky or Gothic classics?

Looking back at the Women’s Classic Literature Event

Womens Classic Literature Event

During the last three months of 2015 and throughout 2016, I have been taking part in the Women’s Classic Literature Event hosted by the Classics Club. The idea was simply to read classics written by women, a classic being defined as any type of work (novels, essays, biographies etc) which was preferably published before 1960.

Here are the books I’ve read for this event which were already on my Classics Club list:

My Ántonia by Willa Cather
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
Mary Anne by Daphne du Maurier
Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset
The Heir of Redclyffe by Charlotte M. Yonge
Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell
The Romance of the Forest by Ann Radcliffe
The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot

Wide Sargasso Sea was published in 1966, but I think most people would agree that it’s a classic!

There are also two more books by Woolf which I read for Ali’s #Woolfalong:

Flush by Virginia Woolf
A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf

I can’t say that I loved all of these books, but I did find them all interesting, worthwhile reads. I particularly enjoyed Kristin Lavransdatter, Wives and Daughters, Flush and my re-read of Jane Eyre.

However, I have also read other books by women which may or may not be considered classics in the same way as the books above. Because they fit the Classics Club’s definition of a classic for this event, I’m going to mention some of them here.

Non-Combatants and Others

* I’ve read books by authors who are new to me – Non-Combatants and Others by Rose Macaulay, The Nutmeg Tree and Cluny Brown by Margery Sharp and Mauprat by George Sand – and by authors I’ve read before – Amberwell by D.E. Stevenson, Troy Chimneys by Margaret Kennedy and Poor Caroline by Winifred Holtby.


* I’ve read some historical fiction published before 1960: The White Witch by Elizabeth Goudge, The Rider of the White Horse by Rosemary Sutcliff and several novels by Marjorie Bowen, Dora Greenwell McChesney and Georgette Heyer.

A Shilling for Candles

* I’ve read some classic crime, including A Shilling for Candles by Josephine Tey, Death in Berlin by MM Kaye and two Agatha Christies (Hercule Poirot’s Christmas and The Labours of Hercules).


* And one non-fiction book – A Chelsea Concerto by Frances Faviell.


So, that sums up my reading over the year-and-three-months of this event! Have you been participating too? What are the best classics written by women that you’ve read recently?

Classics Club Monthly Meme: Question #42 – Science Fiction and Mysteries

The Classics Club

On the 26th of each month the Classics Club post a question for members to answer during the following month. It’s been a while since I last participated so I’ve decided to join in with this one. The question below was contributed by club member Fariba:

“What is your favourite mystery or science fiction classic? Why do you think it is a classic? Why do you like it?”

I haven’t read a huge number of classics from either of these genres, so rather than pick favourites I’m simply going to write about a few books I’ve enjoyed which fall into each category. First, let’s look at classic mysteries…


And Then There Were None The first author to come to mind when I think about classic mysteries is Agatha Christie. Although I haven’t read all of her books yet (not even half of them), I’ve loved most of those that I have read, particularly And Then There Were None. It’s such a simple idea – ten strangers are cut off from the world on an isolated island and start to be killed off one by one – but the solution is fiendishly clever!

My next choice is from the Victorian period: a book which TS Eliot famously described as “the first, the longest, and the best of modern English detective novels”. It’s The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins, a novel which centres around the disappearance of a valuable Indian diamond. As anyone who has read it will know, the mystery itself is almost secondary to the wonderful array of memorable narrators, especially Gabriel Betteredge, the elderly servant.

With my interest in history, I also enjoyed The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey, in which a detective recuperating in hospital decides to amuse himself by trying to solve the mystery of Richard III and the Princes in the Tower. In 1990 this book came top of the British Crime Writers’ Association’s Top 100 Crime Novels of All Time list. I haven’t read any of Tey’s other mysteries yet, but I have A Shilling for Candles on my shelf to read soon.

Science Fiction

The Midwich Cuckoos A few years ago I read and loved The Midwich Cuckoos, a classic science fiction novel about a mysterious phenomenon which occurs in a quiet English village. I was (and still am) intending to read more of John Wyndham’s books, but haven’t got round to it yet. I know some of his other novels are regarded as being better than this one, so I’m looking forward to trying them for myself.

HG Wells is one of the most famous authors of classic science fiction and so far I have read two of his books – The Island of Doctor Moreau and The Time Machine. I enjoyed both of these novels but I didn’t find either of them entirely satisfying. In the case of The Time Machine in particular, I felt that there were a lot of ideas which could have been explored in more depth. I’m sure I’ll read more of Wells’ novels eventually.

If I can also class dystopian novels as science fiction, there are quite a few that I’ve read including, years ago, 1984 by George Orwell and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley and, more recently, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. Otherwise, I really haven’t read much science fiction at all and would love some recommendations!

Have you read any classic mystery or science fiction novels? Which are your favourites?

A new reading year begins…

Image courtesy of Happy New Year!

I did have a book review scheduled for today (still trying to catch up on a backlog of books read near the end of 2013) but as most other bloggers are posting about their plans and resolutions for 2014 today, I decided to do the same and keep my scheduled post for tomorrow instead. And this will probably be the easiest post I write all year, because I don’t actually have a lot of reading or blogging plans for the year ahead! I have signed up for two reading challenges – the Historical Fiction challenge, which is never a difficult one for me as I read so much historical fiction anyway, and the What’s in a Name? challenge, for which I already have my five choices in mind and will be starting the first one soon. Other than that, I have avoided the temptation to commit myself to any more year-long challenges or projects. One thing I’ve learned during my four years of blogging is that I’m happiest when I can choose to read exactly what I want to read and when I want to read it – and that’s what I would like to do in 2014.

The Classics Club However, one reading event that does fit in with my plans for this month is the first of the Classics Club’s Twelve Months of Classic Literature. Each month, the club will be hosting a month of themed reading based on a different literary period or movement. The theme for January is William Shakespeare and his contemporaries, which is perfect for me as I’m starting a FutureLearn course on Hamlet later this month. I’ll be re-reading Hamlet in January, then, but beyond that I’ll be looking forward to seeing what other Classics Club members are reading for the event.

I do have one other goal for 2014, in terms of blogging: I will be trying to write about every book I read within two or three days of finishing it. I hate being behind with my reviews and would like to avoid any more situations like this, where I’m starting a new month with five books from the previous month still to write about!

Do you have any exciting reading or blogging plans for 2014?