4x4th Estate: Better The Devil You Know

• Jan 30, 2013 • Tags: , ,

4 books to scare the living daylights out of you, cheerfully presented by us at 4th Estate.

 Uncle Silas by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu


Crumbling mansion? Check. Innocent heiress left at the mercy of a sinister relative? Check. Strange goings-on in darkened woods and overgrown graveyards? You guessed it. Sheridan LeFanu’s 1864 tale has all the elements of a classic Gothic mystery, with an occult twist. The orphaned Maud Ruthyn – the last of an ancient but withered family – recounts her trials at the hands of her opium-addled Uncle Silas, who stands to inherit the fortune should anything mysteriously happen to her. Will Maud escape a forced marriage to her loutish and violent cousin Dudley – or will a far worse fate befall her?  Forever teetering on the brink between supernatural and all-too-human evils, it’s Uncle Silas’s refusal to come down on either side that ensures you’ll feel spooked for days.

 The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates


The elite families of Princeton have been beset by a powerful curse — their daughters are disappearing. A young bride on the verge of the altar is seduced and abducted by a dangerously compelling man—a shape-shifting, vaguely European prince who might just be the devil. On the edge of town, a mysterious and persuasive evil takes shape. When the bride’s brother sets out against all odds to find her, his path will cross those of Princeton’s most formidable people, from presidents past to its brightest literary luminaries, from Mark Twain to Jack London, as he navigates both the idyllic town and the Danteesque landscape of the Barrens. A creepy historical thriller that dances purposefully on the cusp of fantasy and reality.

 The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

Little Stranger

It isn’t only ghosts that haunt people. Old customs, ways of life, beliefs and prejudices can exert a chilling grip, too. In Sarah Waters’ fifth novel, The Little Stranger, it’s hard to tell the difference. This is 1947 in dreary, battered post-war Britain, and Dr Faraday is a country doctor called out to minister to a patient at Hundreds Hall. This once-elegant Georgian pile has fallen on hard times, and the once-grand Ayres family who inhabit it are in equally bad shape, unable to accept the gradual decline both of their home, their status, and possibly even their sanity. As mysterious and increasingly gruesome incidents begin to shatter the family’s brittle front of fine manners and good breeding, Dr Faraday’s rational instincts are tested to their limits…

 The Green Man by Kingsley Amis


The Green Man is one of several almost-forgotten works of Amis Senior. Despite its ghostly elements, it still has all of the hallmarks of his more popular books: self-deprecating comedy, sexual awkwardness and total drunkenness. At the beginning of the novel we see its central character – and owner of ‘The Green Man’ pub – Maurice Allington, pursuing an affair with a doctor’s wife. Unfortunately, he fails to inspire a ménage a trois situation with her and his own wife, and in a surprising turn of events the women grow enthusiastic  towards one another, deciding that they actually don’t need him at all. As is often the result of a situation like this, he begins to see dead people. Maurice finds himself in a world of ghosts, and of God and the devil, where his failures as a man will ultimately come back to haunt him.

Many thanks to Claire Strickett and Michael Appleton for their contributions to this post.

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