Do houses take on the characteristics of the people who live in them? Or do they, instead, shape the personalities of the people dwelling inside their walls?
For centuries, authors have found inspiration in the creaky hallways and haunted histories of manor houses — first in England and then throughout the world. Stately homes, often isolated and rife with secrets, are transformed from places of refuge — a home — into an atmospheric backdrop for secrets, betrayal, desperate love, revelations, and redemption.
In literature, as in life, a home is often seen as a reflection of a person’s status, motivation, and values — a nifty shorthand for conveying what’s important to a character. The physical description of a character’s surroundings tells us plenty about what makes them tick.
Authors can play twisted games with their characters by giving and taking away their sense of home. They’re orphaned (Jane Eyre, Oliver Twist), have their homes burned to the ground (Gone with the Wind), sent on unwanted adventures (Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz), or given the home of their dreams, only to find that reality falls short of the fantasy (The Great Gatsby).
And though Gothic English manor houses have become the archetypal abode for atmospheric storytelling — think Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White and Emily Brontës Wuthering Heights — other eras and locales have made significant contributions to the genre: 1930s Barcelona in Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s novels, 19th-century Italy in E.M. Forster’s A Room with a View, modern Scotland Lucy Foley’s The Hunting Party, 1990s Sweden in Stieg Larson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and so many more.
From classics 'Jane Eyre' and 'Northanger Abbey' to Agatha Christie and Tana French, the creaky halls and haunted histories of manor houses are the ideal backdrop for secrets, ghosts, betrayal, and romance.
Set in Sweden, Scotland, England, Canada, and Salem, Massachusetts, these stories place memorable characters in dire circumstances so we can live vicariously — and safely — through them. Welcome home.
In literature (and life), a home is often seen as a reflection of a person's status, motivation and values — a nifty shorthand for conveying character. The stately manors in these six classics speak volumes.
These books — set between the two world wars — feature houses that could be a safe haven for the characters, if it weren't for all the tension, the close quarters, the haunted feelings, and oh, yeah... muuuurder.
In honor of what would have been American artist Edward Gorey's 95th birthday, we invite you to creep into his gleefully macabre world of Victorian manor houses, elegant characters, with plenty of murder and mayhem.
This weekend, travel back in time in Yorkshire and meet Helen Graham, a surprisingly independent woman who finds herself stuck in the social mores of the Victorian age — until she forges her own path to happiness.
How idyllic! A group of old friends from Oxford gather in a remote hunting lodge in Scotland to relax by the fire, drink bubbly, and reconnect. Then their New Year's Eve celebration goes horribly, fabulously wrong.
This weekend, take an unsettling but stylish adventure to an isolated mansion in 1950s Mexico. Yes, the Doyle family is creepy and the house is quite sinister, but our heroine Noemí is a charming and feisty companion.
This weekend, you're invited to a destination wedding on an island off the coast of Ireland. Pretty people, blue skies, crashing surf, open bar, love in the air, and... oops! a little murder at the wedding reception.
Who could possibly resist the allure of secret family history, a crumbling mansion, a hidden 17th-century book, and an antique key?! Certainly not our heroine Connie Goodwin, which makes for a great story, indeed.
This weekend, you'll find yourself languorously lolling around a sun-lit garden with three unusual girls. These are not your buttoned-up and bespectacled governesses of classic lit. It's sexy times in fairytale land.
If a rich older man is murdered, his much younger, very curvaceous, and maybe promiscuous wife must be guilty. Right? Not so fast! Agatha Christie makes everyone a likely suspect and keeps you guessing 'til the end.
The heroine of this super-gothy Gothic novel is a combination of Jane Eyre, Alice in Wonderland, and Wednesday Addams. There's also a secret diary, a maybe-haunted painting, and a murder. What more could you need?
On the upside, if you were to find yourself at Vida Winter's isolated mansion, you'd get to spend a lot of time in the well-appointed library. On the downside, (deliciously) devastating secrets lurk within its walls.
This sun-drenched and somehow still Gothic-tinged novel has so many things we love: an abandoned mansion, intertwining timelines, family secrets, true love, betrayal, redemption. Basically, it's all the good stuff.
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Top image courtesy of Ethan Kent/Unsplash.