A Season For Southern Gothic

by Rebecca Lange

written by Rebecca Lange
books, southern-gothic, recommendations, events
southern gothic literature
Southern Gothic Literature
Southern Gothic Literature
Southern Gothic Literature
Southern Gothic Literature
Southern Gothic Literature
Southern Gothic Literature

7 Fall Reading Recommendations

With a resident black cat roaming the bookshelves, there is no better place to find your next October read than at your local independent bookseller. And if you are looking for something literary as well as of regional interest, now is the best time of year to discover the spellbinding world of Southern Gothic fiction.

But what is Southern Gothic? From the post-apocalyptic visions of Cormac McCarthy to Karen Russell’s alligator-infested swamplands, the genre portrays the cultural history of the South through grotesque characters, disjointed family structures, the presence of social alienation and violence, as well as the collision of the supernatural with the natural.

Set amid desolate landscapes, Southern Gothic explores the uncharted depths of human nature. It pulls back the layers of normal, domestic society to peer at our true motives and to reveal the darkness that often lies beneath.

Below are a few recommendations from Sandman Book Co. to get you hooked on the genre:

  1. “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee. A classic of American literature, Lee gives her famous novel a gothic atmosphere through her young narrator, Scout. Telling of her adventures in sleepy Maycomb County, the story features the reclusive Boo Radley whose mysteriousness takes the form of the “grotesque” in the eyes of the children. This contrasts with the townspeople who play a role in carrying out a serious injustice, bringing the children’s innocence to an end.
  2. “In Cold Blood” by Truman Capote. A childhood friend of Lee’s, perhaps it’s no surprise that Capote also became a well-known Southern writer. His true-crime novel centers around the multiple murders that shook a small farming town. Although set in Kansas, it is often thought of as Southern Gothic due to Capote’s style and gory retelling of events.
  3. “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” by John Berendt. Set in Savannah and based on the actual 1981 shooting and killing of Danny Hansford, a male prostitute, this popular novel features richly drawn characters, detailed prose, a tense courtroom drama and voodoo spiritualism to create a gorgeously gothic true-crime novel that is also distinctively Southern Gothic.
  4. “Swamplandia!” by Karen Russell. For something more local, you can’t go wrong with a tale set off the coast of Florida. Ava Bigtree tells about her unconventional family, their alligator-wrestling entertainment business and the loss of her mother. Complete with gators and ghosts, the setting illustrates both the family’s physical separation as well as cultural isolation from the mainland.
  5. "The Violent Bear it Away” by Flannery O’Connor. Pick up anything by O’Connor and you’ll find a gothic story that is also richly Southern. Her second novel is about Tarwater, a boy whose life is altered when his uncle passes away. A classic of Southern Gothic, it’s replete with religious imagery, a feeling of isolation and a protagonist caught between two converging destinies.
  6. “A Streetcar Named Desire” by Tennessee Williams. Williams’ play is filled with violence, mental instability and family dysfunction. When sophisticated Blanche Dubois moves in with her sister and brother-in-law in the French Quarter of New Orleans, tensions arise as personalities clash and murmurs surrounding her past are brought to light.
  7. “The Feast of All Saints” by Anne Rice. Richly Southern Gothic both thematically and in its Antebellum South setting, this historical novel tells of a freed black community in 1840’s New Orleans. Although technically free, Marcel and his sister Marie struggle against abuse, social alienation and a fractured family life as they each seek happiness, self-determination and true freedom.

Discover these as well as thousands of other books at Sandman Book Company, southwest Florida's largest independent bookshop.

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