Southern Gothic Novels

Unattributed Image via Pinterest
Unattributed Image via Pinterest

When I’m looking for a summer read, I frequently browse through Southern Gothic novels. The steamy locales juxtaposed with chilling tales rife with repression, make an appealing combination for hot summer nights.

The New York Public Library shared a list of “southern gothic” novels. Since I lived in Texas, I was interested in seeing what they included. Most people consider Texas to be part of the west, but Texas is so big that the eastern part of the state has strong southern influences. I’ve read several of the listed books; many by Anne Rice, and Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil, of course.

Here is their list:

The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt

A Visitation of Spirits by Randall Kenan

A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams

Blackwood Farm by Anne Rice

Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice

“Barn Burning” by William Faulkner

Nothing Gold Can Stay by Ron Rash

Beautiful Creatures series by Kami Garcia

The Violent Bear It Away by Flannery O’Connor

Beloved by Toni Morrison

NPL defines a Southern Gothic novel:

“Dark in tone and set in an atmosphere of decay and decline, Southern Gothic lit is colored by that intense, damp, uniquely Southern heat pressing down on its characters and stories.”

There are some novels I would like to add, in fact, some of them are rather famous and I’m surprised were left off the list.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

With its recent resurgence in popularity, I’m surprised they didn’t include this one. Maybe they felt since they mentioned Harper Lee in the introduction they could leave it out, but I have to include it on my list.

Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell

Set in the Ozark Mountains, this relentlessly bleak novel showcases a young girl struggling under the weight of family responsibilities.

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

This Pulitzer Prize winning novel languished, unpublished until after the suicide of the author. Fans of the book liken its complexity to Dickens’ novels, and its protagonist to the questing Don Quixote.

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café by Fannie Flagg

Many of Flagg’s novels are set in the steamy south, are populated with unforgettable characters, and often have a dark undertone. My favorite is A Redbird Christmas, but most readers are probably more aware of the Academy Award nominated film based on Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café.

Deliverance by James Dickey

This book was instrumental in launching the creepy-redneck-don’t-go-into-the-woods genre, which is still a staple in film and horror stories. It may seem a bit dated, but it is still a compelling read.

Tobacco Road by Erskine Caldwell

It is hard to imagine a more southern tale than one which features sharecroppers toiling in Georgia during the depression. Hunger, sexual longings, and fear drive the protagonists to the bottom of the social hierarchy.

Kindred by Octavia Butler

Since it’s classified as SF, some may leave this off the list, but I think the slave narrative warrants its inclusion as a Southern Gothic.

Do you have a favorite Southern Gothic novel?

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