If you saw Crimson Peak and left wanting more — more! then this is for you. What books can you read to satisfy your need for dark mansions, forbidding women, handsome but mysterious gentlemen, and echoes of the Industrial Revolution? (we’ll go a bit lightly on that last part.) The 13+ books below will aid you in this quest, and hopefully fill up your time until the next brooding Victorian film comes along.
Crimson Peak by Nancy Holder.
YES THERE IS A NOVELIZATION. It reads pretty much like all novelizations, but she tries a little by throwing in some Poe quotes, and there’s some backstory if you’re the kind of person who craves that.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
If you’re a true Peakanite (new fan name, just coined it, I know it’s not good, just roll with me), you know that director Guillermo del Toro has cited a number of books that influenced CP and that Jane Eyre is obviously one of the main ones.
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
DITTO FOR REBECCA. Du Maurier’s 1938 novel has a Gothic house, mysterious husband, and a creepy housekeeper. It’s basically Crimson Peak in the 20th century, only with less clay-that-looks-like-blood dripping from the walls.
Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews
Crimson Peak: The Art of Darkness by Mark Salisbury
It’s got extra backstory! And tons of pictures! Pictures + backstory are the way to my and presumably your heart, so I’m not sure why we’re not having a Crimson Peak: The Art of Darkness party right now, complete with dramatic readings and flowy dresses.
Castle Eppstein by Alexandre Dumas
A mysterious castle, a haunted room, and the ghost of a countess. And I left out like half of the super-dramatic things.
Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu
Lesbian vampires. SYMPATHETIC lesbian vampires. And a dark house and storms, etc etc. Read Carmilla then come back and we’ll talk about how under-appreciated Le Fanu is.
Uncle Silas by J. Sheridan Le Fanu
Two Le Fanus! Because he is that important to this aesthetic. Del Toro himself says Uncle Silas “defines the link between fairy tales and Gothic romance” and that it was “crucial to Crimson Peak.”
Anything By Victoria Holt
The pseudo-Gothic genre got a big boost in the 1960s and ’70s, and authors like Victoria Holt and Madeleine Brent (A Heritage of Shadows, Stormswift) took full advantage. Because ladies are on TOP of things like that. “Oh, people want to read about heroines with mysterious husbands in isolated houses? BOOM. Done. Here’s your book.”
We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
Like Shirley Jackson’s not gonna be on this list. Jackson is the master of making you feel like something-is-wrong-I-just-can’t-put-my-finger-on-it.
The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Ghosts! Feminism! And it’s a short story, so you can knock this out real quick and then be 0.5% on your way to a minor in Women’s Studies.
The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe
This was mentioned in several interviews with del Toro, and the parallels are clear. Unsettled family, Gothic house, mysteries upon mysteries. While this is THE Crimson Peak Poe, you should probably just go ahead and read all his stuff.
Honorary mention goes to Algernon Blackwood’s short stories “The Willows” and “The Wendigo,” as well as Louisa May Alcott’s surprise-Gothic novel A Long Fatal Love Chase. Yes. Louisa May Alcott wrote a Gothic novel. Although I suppose any fans of Little Women will in fact not be that surprised.
Amy never quite figured out that acting thing.