Tag Archives: Gothic

The Job of the Wasp by Colin Winnette

The Job of the Wasp by Colin Winnette Title: The Job of the Wasp
Author: Colin Winnette
Publisher: Soft Skull Press
ISBN: 978-1593766801
Genre: Coming of Age, Gothic, Ghosts
Pages: 208
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 Stars

An unnamed narrator shows up at a mysterious facility for orphaned boys. The world is strange, eerie and everything seems to be sinister, even the Headmaster. He hears whispers at night. His classmates are volatile and always angry and for some reason, the Headmaster is sending him cryptic messages to confess. But confess about what? What is going on? And then beware, because the corpses start showing up.

This is the plot, to put it loosely of “The Job of the Wasp”. I have just given you the gist. There is so much more to this book that perhaps cannot be put into words. This is such a dark book that for most of the time I found myself jumping in my skin as I was reading it late into the night. I have always found myself strangely attracted to ghost stories, even though I can’t sleep a wink after reading them.

“The Job of the Wasp” will make you paranoid even if you aren’t that person. There are layers of what’s happening and why and though you think you have it all figured, the book takes a sharp turn and leaves you breathless. The writing is in the atmosphere – from the facility to its surroundings to the dark characters, Winnette’s skills just show us the chaos of the world and what goes on in people’s hearts.

The book is so many things – surreal, entertaining, witty, and so bizarre, that it not only takes you by surprise but also leaves you gobsmacked and wanting more and more. I wish I could put the brilliance of this novel in more words, however, all I can say is that you have to get up, go to the nearest bookstore, and pick this up. Don’t drop it till you are done reading it.

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The Sundial by Shirley Jackson

The Sundial by Shirley Jackson Title: The Sundial
Author: Shirley Jackson
Publisher: Penguin Classics
ISBN: 978-0143107064
Genre: Horror, Gothic
Pages: 240
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

So it had been a while since I read something gothic or along the lines of horror. I then thought of Shirley Jackson. I had heard of her now and then but never got around to reading her. Friends did tell me about, “We Have Always Lived in the Castle” and the more famous, “The Haunting of Hill House” but somehow I never got around to reading her. I am amazed and a little sad that I did not read her before. Well, it is never too late. I am going to devour every book written by Ms. Jackson in this year itself.

“The Sundial” is a book which really come to think of it cannot fall under any genre. While reading it, I thought it could be classified as Goth or Horror, but somehow that does not do justice to a book of this range and magnificence. The book’s central character is the Halloran mansion, belonging to the Halloran family. The book starts with the death of the son of the family and the story kicks in from there.

Aunt Fanny has always been the peculiar one in the family. The one, who wanders, gets lost and then eventually returns on her own. This time she returns with a revelation: Her father, the late Mr Halloran appeared to her – a vision and revealed that the world will come to an end and the only people who will survive will be the ones who are in the house. The household is rather calm about it, they believe her and wait for the end to arrive. There is Mr Halloran (Fanny’s brother) and his wife, Mrs. Halloran, their daughter-in-law, Maryjane, their granddaughter Fancy, the help (so to say) Essex and Ms. Ogilvie, who are the principal characters of the house, and more start entering the house, once the news spreads.

The family believes that the new world is just for them. There are a lot of undertones in the book – which I had a ball reading and identifying. The strained relationships sometimes lead to violence. The hatred for one another is apparent and the new world also perhaps cannot do much for them. There is a part in the book which is my most favourite – that said by the young child, Fancy, about the new world. I thought it would be best to make it a part of my review:

“Look. Aunt Fanny keeps saying that there is going to be a lovely world, all green and still and perfect and we are all going to live there and be peaceful and happy. That would be perfectly fine for me, except right here I live in a lovely world, all green and still and perfect, even though no one around here seems to be very peaceful or happy.”

For me the above quote somehow sums up the entire book and yet as a reader, I had to keep turning the pages to know how it ends. The title of the book comes from the huge Sundial which is in the Halloran’s garden and of course indicative of passing time and how time is no longer of essence really, but still is.

The characters created by Shirley Jackson are spooky, brave, fearsome and at the same time, willing to work towards a change for the better. Their lives are fractured to that extent that they want to put their belief in anything. The writing is packed with punch at every single page. My only grouse (a slight one at that) was that some characters did not get enough of the limelight, but that is alright. It is a great book nonetheless – spooky, weird and contemplative as well. Shirley Jackson for now is my favourite writer of this genre and like I said, I will only read more.

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387 Short Stories: Day 23: Story 23: Heat by Joyce Carol Oates

Heat and Other Stories by Joyce Carol Oates Title: Heat
Author: Joyce Carol Oates
Taken from the Collection: Heat and Other Stories

“Heat” by Joyce Carol Oates, like all her other works is supremely disturbing and Gothic in nature. She tends to write stories that grab you by the throat and leave you breathless. This story is also something like that. It is of twins – Rhea and Rhoda Kunkel and how they meet their end one summer at the hands of a neighbour – a mentally unstable teenager, Roger Whipple. That in short, is the crux.

However, Oates makes it more than just this. The adjectives and the style of writing are enchanting. She knows how to create an atmosphere of sorts and then to ruin it with the harsh reality surrounding it. As a reader, I thought the story got its closure quite well. I did not hanker for more, nor did I think she could have written more when it came to this one. The undertones are brilliant – jealousy, the nature of God, families’ need to protect, and the idea of being a bully also is depicted vividly. A story that gives you the chills.

Book Review: The Taker by Alma Katsu

Title: The Taker
Author: Alma Katsu
Publisher: Arrow Books, Random House UK
Genre: Fantasy Fiction
ISBN: 978-0099552840
Pages: 512
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

The Taker by Alma Katsu has to be one of my best reads of 2011. The minute I put it down, I had the urge to pick it up and re-read it, though the mystery had unraveled itself for me. The Taker is not like anything else you’ve read before. I say that almost about a lot of books I read, however this one truly takes the cake.

The story centers on Lanny, who has become immortal. I will not reveal how and spoil it for you. That’s for you to read and figure. The book begins when Luke, a small town doctor in Maine is drawn to Lanny, who has admitted to a murder. While helping Lanny, she tells him the story of her life and love for Jonathan, and the readers are drawn back and forth in the book from the 1800’s to present day.

Lanny’s story is that of love and how she did everything in its name, only to be ensnared and captured and has to suffer as she loves. I am not going to give anything away in the review, however I must say that The Taker had me gasping in certain places and yes I was scared to some extent as well.

The Taker is not your vampire fiction or paranormal teenage romance book and I was thanking Alma Katsu for not giving it that shape and form. Lanny’s character is so well-etched that you catch yourself feeling both – angry and sympathetic towards her. On one hand her love for Jonathan is heart-wrenching and on the other, the extent to which she will go to in order to acquire his heart is ruthless. This makes her even more humane and extraordinary at the same time.

Katsu never for once misses the spot while telling this tale. Her writing is taut and elegant and it has to be considering the plot that she has invented is fascinating. Love is of many kinds and in The Taker, Ms. Katsu reveals the obsessive nature of love and yet not once will it leave a bad taste in your mouth. The Taker has all elements of a great goth romance and it so delivers. Alma’s writing is beautiful and fluid – it transported me for sure to different worlds and honestly I did not want the book to end. I have been told that this is a trilogy and that has now kept me waiting for the second book in the series.

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