I recently decided to read Wuthering Heights, which is really good once you get to the Cathy and Heathcliff parts. Once I got well into the book, I could see stylistically why Bronte had narrators tell almost the entire story, but man, it does make it hard to start.
I then picked up an anthology of classic Gothic literature, and staying up all night reading them probably wasn’t my brightest idea (I had to leave the bathroom light on and crack the door before I could fall asleep). Bret Harte’s “Selina Sedilia” is hysterically funny once you’ve read a few Gothic romances and have become familiar with their conventions. Selina’s monologue once her beloved Edgardo is safely out of earshot is hilarious.
She considers blowing the western tower (where her children are hidden) and the parish church (where the record of her first marriage is kept) but is stopped by the ghost of her great-grandfather, who complains that there’s too many ghosts already and not enough room in their Gothic manor for more.
Edgardo has some secrets of his own.
Burke the Slogger is a ruffian whom Edgardo hires to destroy the bridge, so that the train carrying Wife #4 and Edgardo Jr. will plummet into a chasm. But, um, things don’t go according to plan.
The next scene, with Selina getting the news, is maybe the funniest moment I’ve read in months.
I won’t give away the ending, save to say it’s explosive, and rife with enough coincidences and cliches to please anyone.
I just reread one of my life’s favorite books, Sigrid Undset’s The Master of Hestviken. It’s a thousand pages of medieval Norway. Just, astonishing. I’ll never be able to understand how she creates such a real, solid world around the reader, with ZERO exposition: all the details are folded naturally into the dialogue and action. And you can still smell every smell and hear every sound.
I haven’t read this one but you describe Undset’s writing perfectly. When I was reading Kristin Lavrandsdattar, I was sure she was channeling or drawing on past life experiences. It’s not Gothic though, is it?