It is time for the build up to Halloween or Oiche Samhain in Irish and as I really like this time of year and Halloween I thought a special Halloween Book Bag Bundles would be good. There is so much happening this year as Halloween seems to have grown in the UK – costumes, pumpkins, horror films, parties and much more. But witches seem to be the trend this year. Here are some of my highlights –
This time of year is perfect to catch up on the old gothic stories – Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde and Dracula by Bram Stoker. But the British Library went one step further and put on an exhibition called Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination which depicts the influence of Gothic imagination in film, art, music, fashion, architecture and our daily lives. I haven’t had a chance to go to this exhibition yet but it sounds great. I like gothic literature. There is something captivating about it – reality with a twist of the sinister but the books really keep you reading to the end. The Monk by Matthew Lewis published 1796 is an early example of a gothic book and I really like this book. It has lots of twists and some shocking moments but it is a good example of a genre of literature that still influences us today. The gothic genre may be seen as scary but it also has a romanticism about is as well as an idealist view of life e.g. Dorian Gray striving to be young and perfect but in life no-one is and a price must be paid for that. Or Frankenstein striving to bring the dead back to life in his monster but as much as this would be a great breakthrough there are consequences. And so the romantic view of life the character may have in what they are doing also communicates the moral to each story. I think the gothic genre will always be around in old books and new as we are still fascinated by the genre and we can still learn from the values and morals in the stories. What do you think?
How were witches depicted in history?
For me witches seem to be the main theme of this Halloween season. The British museum has an exhibition called Witches and Wicked Bodies which is prints and drawings of witches from classical times up to the end of the 19th century. It is a very interesting exhibition and even though more art than literature we get to see an extract from King James about witches and illustrations from some books. These definitely were not Quentin Blake illustrations for Roald Dahl’s book The Witches but were more detailed and a lot were sensual. It does make me ask the question of what people actually thought witches were like – pretty, ugly, sensual, mad etc.. as there were so many depictions visually and in literature. Reality is they were normal people victimised due to their skill with herbs, because someone didn’t like them or they didn’t fit into society. But they still captivate us at all ages as can be seen by the many books for all age ranges.
To tie in with this exhibition was a book call the Penguin Book of Witches by Katherine Howe. I have been looking forward to reading this book as it sounded so amazing. Katherine Howe is a direct descendent of three witches accused at Salem and I have read one of her books called The Lost Book of Salem or as you may know it as The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane. Her new book is a factual book and draws on primary sources to tell each story with a little introduction by Katherine. I was going to review this book as a separate blog post but to be honest even though it is really interesting it is dry reading. It can be hard to read at times as we are reading primary sources from centuries ago and overall I would find it hard to review as it is made up of many short stories. It is a book to read little bits now and again rather that read in one go. But I would recommend it if you are interested in witch history but it may take some time to read.
Who wants to go ghost hunting?
We recently went to York and went on one of the many ghost tours there. Again witches featured and a lot of ghost stories including a Roman army of ghosts! It was fun but it got me thinking about how many of those stories are actually written down. Most would have been passed down through generations in Ireland and places like York via word of mouth but our ghost guide seemed to be drawing on a particular book this time. There are so many books out there that tell ghost stories and even though I love books it lost a little bit of credit as I wanted the word of mouth tales that change over time but have the essence of the story still there. Books capture facts from the stories but they sometimes don’t capture the storyteller’s personality and own take on telling the story. We didn’t see any ghosts on our tour but have you on any ghost tours you have been on?
Halloween books and films
You will not be at a loss with the amount of films and books there are this Halloween. Films such as Annabelle, and The Babadook will definitely scare you and show a trend to move back to real horror films. We recently watched Dracula Untold and it is definitely a new take on Bram Stoker’s great book. I thought it was a good film and less cheesy than some adaptions I have seen but the central themes of love, hate and power were still there, just with a modern twist. I must say Dracula was much more appealing and believable in this film compared to other films! But I don’t think any film will beat reading the book as it is so creatively written and unique.
There are lots of books to read for Halloween but I choose to read Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep as my Halloween reading. All I can say is that it was brilliant and my review will be posted soon. Stephen King’s books are perfect examples of where books are made into films which I discussed in October Book Bag Bundles but the chill factor is definitely kept in those films and I am glad some films this year have been following in these steps.
Well that is it from me for another Halloween and I am off to carve some pumpkins. But I hope you have a great Halloween. Also let me know what you are reading this Halloween?