The Hallowreadathon is nearly upon us – it’s this coming weekend! If you didn’t see my announcement post, then hop over here to see the prompts!
The first prompt is to read a book with a prominent house, so I’ve scoured my shelves to show you some of my favourites that would be perfect for this, and a few I’m looking forward to… There’s pretty much no cohesion to these in genre or age range, but you’ll get a glimpse into my varied reading tastes!
Obviously my very first rec has to be the book that I’d probably pick as my all-time favourite if you absolutely forced me to choose – Howl’s Moving Castle! Yes, the house is technically a castle, but it’s always felt like a very small, home-y castle to me, so there. I’ve been rereading this most years since I was about 7 (you can see how well loved my copy is), and when Sophie steps through the door of the castle it always feels like coming home.
Another life-long favourite of mine is I Capture the Castle – again, it’s a castle, but it’s definitely more of a house/home. This coming of age story is seared into my heart as one of the most utterly perfect depictions of being a teenager, though I find it fascinating that as I’ve aged with it (I first read it at 15, and I’m in my late 20s now), I’ve found it much easier to empathise with the older characters as well as Cassandra. Gorgeous writing and character work.
I feel like Mexican Gothic has been on everybody’s reading lists this year, and I’m no exception! I’m really looking forward to this gothic horror set in a creepy isolated mansion – and it’s supposed to be reminiscent of Rebecca, which is my next rec for you!
With the new film coming out (whether you love it or hate it!) it’s a great time to read one of the most classic suspense stories, Rebecca. Manderley, Maxim de Winter’s house, looms large over the story from the opening line – the book is a real favourite of mine for the creeping sense of dread.
Something a little more light-hearted now (although it’s another castle-house…)! Romancing the Duke is a fantastic Regency romance that had me laughing out loud and really rooting for the main couple – when Izzy inherits a castle, she decides to move in straightaway, but she’ll have to contend with the grumpy Duke who thinks he owns it… It’s cute, funny, and very romantic!
Okay, even though this one has ‘castle’ in the title it actually is about a house this time! Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House is the obvious choice for a Halloween read, but although I loved it, my favourite of hers is We Have Always Lived In The Castle – it’s the story of Merricat, a strange little girl living in a decrepit house with her older sister – oh, and she may or may not have murdered her family. It’s a brilliant example of an unreliable narrator and I reread it often.
I read White is for Witching about four years ago after picking it up at the library, and I really wasn’t expecting it to be so scary! It’s stuck with me for its originality – sometimes the house itself narrates the story, which is a brilliant touch! This is probably the most straight-forwardly horror book on this list, since I’m a bit of a wuss…
I (and most of my friends) raved about Other Words For Smoke when it came out, and with good reason! This is a fierce, creepy modern story about totally relatable experiences like dealing with your first crush and avoiding being eaten by a malevolent owl that lives in the wallpaper of your great-aunt’s house. Check out my full review here!
An earlier version of this list recommended Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie, but due to Adichie’s support for JKR’s transphobia, I no longer recommend this book.
I reviewed Eva Evergreen, Semi-Magical Witch fairly recently (see that review here!) but one of the main elements of the book is Eva setting up home in the official (but dilapidated) Auteri witch’s cottage – fixing up the house is symbolic of her growing confidence in her combination of magical and practical skills. This is the perfect book if you love Kiki’s Delivery Service!
Any Beauty and the Beast retelling would work for this prompt, really, as they all involve Beauty being trapped in the Beast’s castle or house, but I thought I’d rec you one with a particularly interesting setting. Cruel Beauty has a really creepy Escher-esque castle, and it’s really vividly described. One of my other favourite Beauty and the Beast retellings is T Kingfisher’s Bryony and Roses, but that focuses more on the Beast’s gardens than his house.
I’m a huge fan of a country house mystery, and James Anderson’s are some of my favourites – they sit pretty much halfway between Sherlock Holmes and PG Wodehouse. I have an omnibus edition of all three, but start with The Affair of the Bloodstained Egg Cosy for an excellent locked-house mystery full of wry humour and clever tricks!
I’m always meaning to make time to fully immerse myself in Aliette de Bodard’s The House of Shattered Wings and its sequels – thriller-fantasy set in a gothic Paris, full of angels and darkness. The house link here is more metaphorical, since it refers to dynastic houses, but I’ll let it slide given how much I want to read them…
I’m only a few chapters into The Good Luck Girls, but it’s brilliant so far! The house featured here is a brothel, which the five main characters must escape – it may not be a main setting, but it definitely has a big impact. I’m intrigued by the dystopian Old West vibes too!
Last but by no means least, I can’t resist the chance to recommend Laura Laakso’s Wilde Investigations series. While you should start at book one, Fallible Justice, for the full experience (review here!), book three, Roots of Corruption, centres on the house and gardens of plant shaman Lady Bergamon, and what magical mysteries lurk within. These are great urban fantasy detective stories – if you like Rivers of London, but want a queer, chronically ill female detective, you should be reading these!
So, there you go: fifteen books with important houses, ranging from middle grade up to adult – hopefully something there has caught your eye! You can check out Imogen’s personal recommendation post or her house prompt options post for even more ideas, including one of my favourites, Undead Girl Gang! Have you chosen your books for this weekend yet? I’d love to know what’s on your TBR!