Faber Academy Recommends: Our Favourite Dark Fiction Reads

3 minutes read

Looking for some reading inspiration for the darker evenings?

Align your reading with the season by upping the chill factor. We have the perfect recommendations for you: works of fiction that are full of suspense, darkness and unsettling atmosphere. Explore the Faber Academy team’s favourite dark fiction reads below and find the perfect book to spend time with this spooky season.

Arlington Park by Rachel Cusk
Sara Sherwood, In-Person Courses Manager, picks:
Arlington Park by Rachel Cusk

I find darkness most affecting when it’s nestled at the centre of something seemingly mundane. And as someone who grew up in a new-build housing estate and moved away to a big city as soon as I could, there’s nothing scarier than suburbia. Cusk brings that run-of-the-mill darkness to life in Arlington Park, following a group of characters going about their daily domestic duties in a London suburb. The darkness lies in the moral indifference of the characters, their fading ambitions, their anger and resentments and secrets that rot them from within.

Keir Batchelor, Academy Assistant, picks:
The Violent Bear It Away by Flannery O’Connor

The Violent Bear It Away is a chilling Southern Gothic that haunts me to this day. Like all O’Connor, what’s most disturbing is how you’re forced to get into the mind of someone truly reprehensible. All the characters here are rendered in surreal and grotesque ways, and the journey our young protagonist goes on is one of pure horror. Read with caution is my advice!

My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell
Jade-Louisa Pepper, Academy Coordinator, picks:
My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell

My Dark Vanessa is, as protagonist Vanessa would have you believe, the story of her first and greatest love – her teacher, Jacob Strane, when she was just 15 years old. The novel unflinchingly examines the life-warping nature of sexual abuse, without sugarcoating or allowing the reader to shy away. Russell’s writing has the uncanny ability to simultaneously repel and compel you, sweeping the reader up along with Vanessa. While hard to read, this beautiful but disturbing book manages to examine the blurred lines between manipulation and consent, power imbalances and the agency of a ‘victim’ in such a compelling way I found it hard to put down. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Lisa Murphy, Senior Marketing Executive, picks:
We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

I’d be remiss not to mention Shirley Jackson here, and I’ve chosen one of her more well-known works since it was my first encounter with her writing. Suffused with tension and unsettling atmosphere, We Have Always Lived in the Castle is a masterpiece of Gothic suspense and mystery. (Though if you’re short on time, and have yet to read it, her short story The Lottery is also well worth spending a portion of your evening with!)

Feeling inspired and want to master techniques from the darker side of fiction? Delve deep into atmosphere, fear and dread in our week-long Writing Darkness: Horror, Mystery and Suspense course, beginning 16 October. Find out more about the course here.


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