Horror: A Literary History. Book review

Horror: A Literary History edited by Xavier Reyes,

British Library Publishing, h/b £16.59, 2016

Reviewed by Shona Kinsella

I really enjoyed this book. Written by experts in the genre, it was not always easy reading, with some sections seemingly aimed towards a more academic audience, but it was well worth taking the time to read.

Studying the development of the genre from the first gothic novel in 1764 to the present day, this is a truly comprehensive study, looking not only at novels but at short fiction, graphic novels, films and video games. The book argues that Horror is much more than the frivolous, low-brow genre that many of its critics would have us believe. Indeed, the genre is uniquely positioned to explore the fears of a time and culture, giving readers an insight into the world around them.

Horror: A Literary History covers all of the names you would expect to see – King, Barker, Lovecraft – but also many names that readers may be unfamiliar with, and even a few surprises, such as Louisa M Alcott, more commonly known for her popular sentimental work, Little Women.

Each chapter, covering a different time period, ends with an extensive suggested reading list of works that have had a major influence on the genre or caught the style and mood of the era particularly well. The book ends with a list of critical texts for readers who are interested in studying the genre further. Many of both types of title have now been added to my to-be-read list (which grows ever longer).

If you are at all a fan of the horror and genre and interested in understanding more about its development in the UK and USA, this book is well worth picking up.