Book: A Moonlit Path of Madness
Author: Catherine McCarthy
Publisher: Nosetouch Press
Why You Should Read It
A gorgeous modern gothic by one of my favorite contemporary authors, beautiful prose, descriptive imagery and vivid, realistic characters.
Why I Liked It
Gothic fiction is difficult for many to get into, partially I think because the writing from some of the classic masters of the genre can be read as tedious and dated for modern readers. I myself love gothic literature, but also find that reading anything from 100+ years ago feels like doing homework. That is why I am absolutely in love with the new gothic movement that can be found in small presses like Ghost Orchid, Brigid’s Gate and Nosetouch, from authors like Catherine McCarthy.
I first read Catherine’s grief novella IMMORTELLE last year and instantly fell in love with her style of writing. Catherine beautifully weaves all that I love about gothic lit (ominous settings, dark corners, shady characters, lush description) and paints it with a modern brush. Her characters are likable, imperfect and relatable and I can practically feel the salty spray of the Welsh shoreline on my cheeks as I read her sad and sweeping tales.
In A MOONLIT PATH OF MADNESS, we follow Grace, a woman born into a family with money during the early 1900s. Grace’s parents immigrated to America from Wales, and after her mother passed, Grace learns that she has inherited a beloved grandfather clock as well as her ancestral family home in Wales. The Owen side of my family has roots in Wales and so any story set there is intriguing to me. I also have fond memories of going to my Gigi (Grace) and Papa (David) Owen’s house and helping them to wind their grandfather clock whenever I would visit, so this story had extra special meaning to me.
We follow the main character, Grace, as she starts her life over in a coastal town in Wales. Her ancestral home is grand, but in need of some care. Grace has brought her trusted family domestic worker and now friend, Lilah, with her to help out with the transition, and together they open the house up and discover its hidden treasures. Lilah is more of a companion/friend/surrogate mother than a hired worker and Grace treats her as such, a detail that makes our heroine all the more likable.
As Grace settles into her new life in Wales, she uncovers dark family secrets and awaits the arrival of the grandfather clock from America. This clock has always fascinated her with its beautiful illustrations of the moon and sea and is very dear to Grace. The importance of the moon and antiquated ideas of lunar cycles, hysteria and women's mental health are recurrent themes throughout this story. Grace’s story of hidden family secrets, downplayed mental health issues and inherited trauma is one that will be familiar to many.
This is not a happy story, so stop now if you don’t want any spoils. There are themes of suicide, mental illness and child death that are difficult to swallow, and the ending is open to the interpretation of the reader. If you’ve been wanting to give gothic literature a try and like your horror on the quiet side, be sure to check out A MOONLIT PATH TO MADNESS.