Maggie O’Farrell’s debut novel, After You’d Gone, won the Betty Trask award. Her follow-up, My Lover’s Lover, plays with the supernatural: it is an unnerving story of obsession and the strange connection we have with our partners’ past lovers.
1. The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner by James Hogg
A strangely lucid tale of a man haunted and pursued by Gilmartin, a sinister figure who seems capable of taking on any form. Proof that the Scots do Gothic better than anyone else.
2. The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
A woman diagnosed as ‘nervous’ is confined to a room by her overprotective husband and forbidden to write. While she’s imprisoned there, she becomes obsessed by the labyrinthine pattern of the wallpaper. A brilliant and horrifying account of a suffocating marriage.
3. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
A passionately independent orphan falls for the perfect romantic anti-hero. But then she discovers what he keeps in his attic…
4. The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by RL Stevenson
Another genius Scottish take on the theme of split personalities. Needs no further introduction.
5. The Dead by James Joyce
Hauntings don’t have to be literal for the living to be affected and afflicted by the dead. I think this short story, the final in his collection Dubliners, is the most perfect piece of literature I’ve ever come across.
6. Hotel World by Ali Smith
Narrated by the ghost of a chambermaid on a quest to find out why she died, this book is breathtaking and original. I’ve never read anything like it.
7. O Caledonia by Elspeth Barker
Janet is found stabbed to death at the bottom of the stairs, wearing her mother’s black lace evening dress. Her family are so barking mad that it’s less a case of ‘who did it?’ than ‘who didn’t do it?’ A surreal, hilarious and dark story of a troubled adolescence deep in the wilds of Scotland.
8. Bartleby by Herman Melville
A strange, pale man takes up residence in a legal office in mid-19th-century New York … and refuses to leave.
9. Hallucinating Foucault by Patricia Duncker
A shy postgraduate student goes in search of the presumed-dead subject of his thesis, a charismatic French poet. Tracking him down to an asylum, the student helps him escape. This is an incisive dissection of love, madness and human motivation.
10. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
A hypochondriac uncle, two girls who look identical, a count with a penchant for mesmerism and vanilla bonbons, a lunatic asylum, an evil husband… What more could you want?