Gothic literature — with its depictions of doomed aristocrats and centuries-old family estates — is predominantly non-Jewish. In The Hotel Neversink (whose plot as well as title carry shades of Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher”), Adam O’Fallon Price upends the tropes of the genre by placing them in an intrinsically Jewish setting: the Catskills.
Here, we are introduced to “Foley’s Folly,” a mansion built at the turn of the twentieth century by an eccentric tycoon — and bought by a Jewish immigrant, Asher Levem Sikorsky, who turns it into a hotel. In vignettes from different characters’ points of view, we follow the descent of the once grand building into ruin.
As in traditional Gothic literature, the threat of the uncanny lingers throughout the novel. But O’Fallon Price also masterfully evokes historical detail, and this blend of sensationalism and realism allows him to question the class and gender assumptions that underpin Gothic fiction — as well as Jews’ place in literary genres usually closed off to them.
—From the introduction to an excerpt of The Hotel Neversink in the 2019 Paper Brigade. Read the excerpt here.
Becca Kantor is Jewish Book Council’s editorial director. She received her B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania and her M.A. in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia. She has lived in Estonia, England, and Germany.