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?

4 thoughts on “Blackbriar, William Sleator

  1. 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”.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

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