Blackbriar, William Sleator

I like it when it rains on a weekend that I don’t have any outside plans.  This weekend, I curled up in my comfy chair and read Blackbriar.  (Originally I opened up my blinds, too, so that I could see the rain, but there was THE HUGEST BUG EVER on the outside of my window, seriously, it was as big as a grown hummingbird, and it wouldn’t go away when I rapped on the window, so I closed the blinds again and just enjoyed the sounds of the rain.)  Ella was right.  It is indeed extremely Gothic.

Fifteen-year-old Danny and his informal guardian Philippa move out to the country, to a remote old house.  The people in the village are very weird about the house, for reasons they won’t explain, and it is indeed a mysterious house: there are names and dates carved into one of the doors; the cat, Islington, keeps acting strange; someone comes asking for Mary Peachy, whose name is carved into the door along with other names from four hundred years ago.  Oh, and – eek! – Danny and Philippa keep coming home to find that somebody has lit a fire in the house while they were gone.  Danny makes friends with a local artist’s daughter, Lark, and they all become set on solving the mystery.

I wish I’d read this years ago!  It was such an enjoyable read.  I love the image of the names and dates carved into the door.  But just generally I like Gothic novels.  I read Elizabeth Peters’s The Camelot Caper, which is a spoof of Gothic novels, before I read very many actual Gothic novels, and I always think of it when people are in remote, spooky houses in books.  I am always in the mood for a good Gothic novel.  Northanger Abbey really charms me, and I love Daphne du Maurier also.

Thanks for this, Ella!

Anyone have a favorite Gothic novel they want to recommend me?  Or another William Sleator book I shouldn’t live my life without reading?

  • I read this for the first time when I was about ten, and it was so terrifying I couldn’t think about England without picturing it as chockfull of Mary Peachy ghosts. His other books never quite reach this level of Gothicness, but he’d worth checking out at the library – “Interstellar Pig” was pretty good, and then there’s one about a bunch of kids who wake up in a house full of stairways, and another interesting one about a boy who finds a way into a parallel universe where ketchup is a narcotic…

    But, anway, Gothics are fab! I like American ones. “A Rose for Emily” is one of my very favorites, as is “Fall of the House of Usher”.

  • jennysbooks

    I love the sound of the one with the house full of stairways! I will be checking out more of his books soon.

    Oh, yes, “A Rose for Emily” is creepy, and I have a soft spot for Poe as well. Have you read Shirley Jackson’s short stories? I haven’t read it in years, but I remember “The Possibility of Evil” being quite unsettling.

  • This sounds so so good! Hmm, all my favourite Gothic novels are ones you’ve probably read, like the ones by Du Maurier and Shirley Jackson. Oh, I know – have you read Tideland by Mitch Cullin? It’s southern Gothic and wonderful, and it doesn’t get enough love.

  • jennysbooks

    I actually haven’t read anything by Shirley Jackson – I have The Haunting of Hill House, so I’m going to read that when I’m in London later this month.