I have long had an interest in Gothic stories. I re-read my favourite stories every few years. Australian Gothic is not so well known but it was an early part of nineteen century Australian literature.
A list of my favourite novels in this genre includes (in no special order):
Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
Rebecca – Daphne du Maurier
The Thirteenth Tale – Diane Setterfield
Interview with the Vampire – Anne Rice
The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
Afffinity – Sarah Waters
Thornyhold – Mary Stewart
The Turn of the Screw – Henry James
The Chosen Vessel – Barbara Baynton
It is an electic list and the only Australian story on it is The Chosen Vessel a short story by Barbara Baynton written towards the end of the nineteenth century. The title of the story refers to the Virgin Mary who was chosen to give birth to Jesus Christ. The woman in The Chosen Vessel was chosen to be murdered by a passing swagman. It is a chilling story and the sense of atmosphere is oppressive.
Australian Gothic in the nineteenth century often depicts rural isolation. Marcus Clarke wrote about the ‘weird melancholy’ of the Australian bush and the outback. Australian Gothic offers disturbing images: a land haunted by the ghosts of lost children, crumbling colonial homesteads, and a place where fire or drought can turn the landscape to dust.
Terror (both psychological and physical), mystery, death, decay, and madness, a sense of overwhelming hopelessness, claustrophobia, and horror are features of all Gothic stories. In Australian Gothic the threatening atmosphere, the harshness of the bush, and a claustophic sky that traps people, is as terrifying as a haunted European castle.
In medieval times, areas known to be dangerous or uncharted were often labeled on maps with the warning: ‘Beware, here be dragons’. Australia, the great southern land, was once marked on maps with these words and the early settlers had much to be afraid of. There is, however, an extraordinary beauty and magic about the Australian bush and this is what I am writing about in my WIP.
I write dual narrative stories and set them in Australia ( sometimes with a few chapters set in other countries). I lived for many years in Western Australia: on a vineyard, a 5000 acre farm, and on the coast north of Perth in a place where the sun slips down into the Indian Ocean and I felt I lived on the edge of the world. So many images to draw on when I am writing.
In my WIP I have one narrative strand set in southwestern Australia and the other in the Tumut Valley of New South Wales. I enjoy writing historical fiction but it’s hard to describe what genre my stories belong to: historical fiction and contemporary fiction seems the closest I can get.
Good writing to all,