Autumn; the most wonderful time of the year!
To help you transition nicely from sun, and that lovely stretch in the evening, to cosy nights in by the fire, I’ve chosen five books that I think will get you in the mood for pumpkin spice lattes and kicking leaves in your ankle boots.
The Immortalists By Chloe Benjamin
This book only came out this year and I read it during the Summer but literally everything about it screams Autumn. Aside from that cover, there’s also the somewhat creepy undertone that follows the characters throughout the book. Four siblings sneak out of their New York building in 1969 to discover their fortunes from a travelling psychic. Each hears the disconcerting news of the exact date they will die and after that, their lives are changed forever. From that fateful day, we’re swept along on an epic journey, through the AIDS epidemic in 80s San Francisco, flashy Las Vegas magic shows in the 90s, the life of an army doctor post-9/11, right up to modern-day research labs where the boundaries are tested between science and immortality. Each era is told from the perspective of a different sibling and it’s hard not to become attached. You’ll be hooked!
Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman
You could definitely include the prequel The Rules of Magic in here too, as both have that lovely warm seasonal quality to them. Obviously the main themes are witches and witchcraft but the possibilities that love can bring also feature heavily in both. Set in a small Massachusetts town (the home of Fall and leaf-peeping…it’s a thing!), Sally and Gillian Owens are used to being social outcasts, having been brought up by their elderly and extremely unconventional aunts. Owens women have been blamed for everything that’s gone wrong in the town for over 200 years and the girls’ aunts haven’t done anything to change that. If anything, they encourage and revel in the accusations against them of witchcraft. Gillian and Sally have been taunted all their lives for this and as soon as they can, they escape, but somehow they are drawn back to each other and their childhood home. Witchcraft may or may not be involved in this (spoiler, it is).
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
Although this classic Gothic novel starts off in sunny Monte Carlo, it takes us to Manderley in England for the main part of the story, where an overwhelming atmosphere of mystery and terror, sparked by descending fogs and terrible storms will make you feel grateful to be snuggled up indoors reading! Our protagonist is working as a lady’s maid when she meets widower Maxim de Winter and is swept off her feet by a sudden and unexpected proposal. She’s delighted with life until they get to the imposing Manderley, a large country estate which still bears the imprint of Rebecca, the first Mrs De Winter, everywhere she looks. Aside from the extremely creepy Mrs Danvers, Rebecca’s forever loyal lady’s maid, there’s a general feeling that they are being haunted from beyond the grave by an evil spirit that’s threatening to destroy their marriage, and possibly their lives.
The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters
Set in post-WWII rural Britain, Dr. Faraday, a country physician, is called to see a patient at Hundreds Hall, a declining old Georgian house. The owners, the Ayers, have lived there for almost two centuries but now all that’s left are an ageing mother and her son and daughter. They’ve failed to move with the times and struggle with their own conflicts. But are they haunted by something more sinister than their secrets and can the good doctor escape being embroiled in their potentially supernatural problems? This is set up very much like a Gothic novel but at its heart it’s a subtle commentary on the plight of the landed gentry post-WWII, told in the style of a psychological thriller. It’s actually set in the Summer but, as the film adaptation of it is currently out, starring Domhnall Gleeson and Ruth Wilson, you might want a read pre-watching it. Plus; Gothic mansion and post-war ghosts have a serious Autumnal vibe! Waters is the queen of historical literature and is a great shout for this time of year in general, so I’d also recommend The Night Watch.
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
Very much set in the style of a Gothic novel, but with a modern twist, The Thirteenth Tale is also a book within a book. Reclusive and enigmatic author Vida Winters has spent decades producing imaginative and wildly creative accounts of her past that have brought her fame and fortune through her writing but now as she’s nearing the end of her life, she finally wants to tell the truth. She enlists biographer Margaret Lea, a woman who also has a question mark over her own head surrounding her secretive birth, to write the novel of the real story of her life. Margaret moves into Vida’s creepy old mansion, where she becomes engrossed in the story Vida tells her of the Angelfield family, including; feral twins, a ghost, a governess and a devastating fire. Through the power of Vida’s storytelling, the two women share their secrets and confront the ghosts that have haunted both of their lives. This is a real love letter to reading, it feels like an old-school spooky story from decades ago that sweeps you up and keeps you gripped from start to finish.
Further suggestions include; Jane Eyre, Autumn by Ali Smith, A Little Life by Kate Atkinson, Anne of Green Gables, Little Women and anything by Tana French or Stephen King.
For more great articles on books, check out Chloe’s 7 Books for Women in Translation Month or her 10 Books to Bring on Holidays.