Definitions, I’m learning, are often a matter of one’s experience and taste. I’ve read a lot of gothic novels and have tried to pinpoint what it is that creates a gothic feel for me. I say “for me” because other people sometimes suggest works that I would put into a different category. In any case, it’s clear that The Little Stranger, by Sarah Waters, is a gothic novel by any measure. A large, isolated house. A tainted family slowly fading away. A remorseless, 400-page winter. Inevitable decay. The story is ambiguous and moody as Dr. Faraday, the narrator, falls in love with Caroline Ayres, the only daughter of an aristocratic family in decline. The house may be haunted. Or the family may be breaking down mentally. Like The Turn of the Screw, it’s up to the reader to decide.
My preferred gothic has elements of the supernatural in…
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