Friday, October 7, 2016

Ten gothic gems of historical fiction

Adrian Van Young's first book of fiction, The Man Who Noticed Everything, won Black Lawrence Press' 2011 St. Lawrence Book Award. His gothic historical novel Shadows in Summerland was published earlier this year. One title on the author's top ten list of gothic gems of historical fiction, as shared at Electric Literature:
Jack Maggs by Peter Carey (1997)

Australian novelist Peter Carey’s shadowy appropriation of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations is equal parts meta-fictional puzzle box, sinister murder mystery, and a gaslight panorama of Victorian London. The central character, Jack Maggs, is a literary double for Dicken’s Magwitch. The monstrously self-absorbed, second-rate writer he befriends in the course of the novel, Tobias Oates, is a lackluster double for Dickens himself. Jack Maggs, a fugitive of New South Wales missing two fingers from his left hand, sets things in motion when he comes to London to see to the fortunes of his erstwhile charge, Henry Phipps (see: Pip) whom he raised from a boy. Oates, a lay metaphysician, imprisons Maggs inside a mesmeric rapport in exchange for good info to help him find Phipps, seeking to decipher in the process the “[cartography]” of the “Criminal Mind.” If this sounds cheeky, never fear. Carey subverts the posturing of Victorian melodrama and channels it steeply toward moody despair. Caryn James, writing for the New York Times, wrote: “In Jack Maggs, the bright 19th-century surface masks a world-weary 20th-century heart.”
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue