Top 10 Dark Fiction Books Written by Women

Join Deborah Sheldon, author of The Long Shot from Twelfth Planet Press, as she shares her unranked list of favorite dark novels written by women.

As a reader, I have eclectic tastes. I tend to avoid bestseller lists, which is why my shelves are filled mainly with novels from the early-nineteenth to late-twentieth centuries. Putting aside a few staple classics, such as Frankenstein by Mary Shelley and Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë, this list comprises 10 books that rank among my all-time favourites. So, here they are, presented in no particular order—too bad—because I love each and every one of them.

The Scapegoat by Daphne du Maurier

Rebecca gets a lot of attention—and deservedly so—but don’t overlook this gem. Vivid and atmospheric, The Scapegoat is a fascinating exploration of identity, family ties and love, with surprising conclusions. Du Maurier’s character studies are, as usual, in-depth and on point.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

What a shocking, shattering dystopia. One of the best I’ve ever read.

 

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

Jackson lanced me through the chest in the first page and didn’t let me go until her very last sentence. Even then, I had to go back and re-read. Part horror story, part psychological exploration, the result is fabulous stuff.

 

We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

Compulsively readable. A disturbing exploration of nature-versus-nurture, with no easy answers.

 

The Member of the Wedding by Carson McCullers

This deceptively simple story has incredible emotional depth and resonance. And the characters are wonderful.

 

The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

Wow. No one does charismatic and complicated bad guys quite like Highsmith.

 

The Complete Stories by Flannery O’Connor

So beautifully written and filled with unique characters, this collection deserves to be read over and over again.

 

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

When a novel makes me cry, you bet I’ll worship its storytelling. The Secret Garden is undeniably sad and tragic, yet inspiring at the same time. Masterful.

 

Complete Stories by Dorothy Parker

Funny. Satirical. Insightful. Profound. Heartbreaking. Parker examines the macrocosm of life, death and the whole damn thing via the microcosm of phone calls, parties and drunken arguments. Plus, her ear for dialogue is spot-on—you can even hear the regional American accents, and I’m an Australian!

 

Angel, All Innocence: and Other Stories by Fay Weldon

Sure, I give five stars to Weldon’s most popular novel, The Lives and Loves of a She Devil, but this collection deserves more love. Weldon doesn’t pull any punches, examining the female psyche with a ruthlessness that often makes you wince.


 

About The Long Shot by Deborah Sheldon:

After a six-year estrangement from her troubled family, Simone Parker returns home to the small Australian town of Brownbeck to attend a funeral. She hopes to reconcile with her younger sister, Claire. Their father, now dead, was a violent and abusive drunk yet Claire always pretended otherwise, which is one of the reasons why Simone cut all ties.

When Simone is the only witness to a brutal and near-fatal bashing, she discovers that Brownbeck harbours a criminal gang trafficking in illegal firearms. At the funeral, she recognises Claire’s new partner as one of the assailants.

How can she help police officer Mitchell Ross in his investigation if her own sister might somehow be involved? To complicate matters, Simone is falling for Mitchell.

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