Emerald Fennell’s latest film Saltburn has had fans of film and literature alike hooked for months. With shocking and iconic scenes — the drain, the vampire, the grave — this film is heavily inspired by gothic literature and has left viewers pleasantly stunned. Set in the early 2000s, seemingly timid Oliver stumbles upon bold and beautiful Felix on Oxford University’s campus. After a tragic turn of events in Oliver’s life, Felix takes him home for the summer to his family’s estate — Saltburn. As you discover disturbing family dynamics, and Oliver’s true intentions, you’ll fall victim to the darkest side of the Saltburn estate. If this twisted tale wasn’t enough for you, check out these 10 novels for another story full of deceit, obsession, and friendship gone completely awry.
When introverted Richard Papen attends a New England university, he’s immediately taken under the wing of an affluent group of Greek history students — much akin to Felix’s cohort. Beginning the story with the death of one of these group members, the story tracks the events leading up to and after the murder. Determined to keep their names out of headlines and themselves out of prison, the remaining friends go to great lengths to ensure that no one finds out the truth. As Richard is swept into their world of wealth and deception, he must decide if the life that he felt so desperate to be a part of is worth the territory that comes with it.
Like Oliver, Eileen is alienated, aspirational, and unstable. Working as a secretary at Moorehead — a juvenile correction facility — Eileen gets her small joys from illegal activities of her own — including shoplifting and stalking. The inescapable bleakness of her life is punctuated by taking care of her alcoholic father and being forced to feed his addiction. Her ticket out of this mess seems unattainable until Rebecca Saint John arrives as Moorehead’s new counselor. Much like Saltburn’s Felix, Rebecca’s shiny exterior enchants Eileen, pushing her to do the unthinkable. Together, their unorthodox schemes to get confessions turn deadly and Eileen risks her chances of ever achieving her dreams.
Shibata’s antics put Oliver’s to shame as she fabricates a pregnancy to lessen the workload of her job. Having been forced to take on traditionally feminine tasks such as cooking and cleaning around her office, Shibata’s frustration leads her to say the one thing that would get everyone off her back — she’s pregnant. Though this works in her favor, keeping up with the lie becomes much more work than Shibata anticipated. Eating more and attending prenatal aerobics not only fools everyone else, but begins to trick Shibata too. Unsure of where her lie ends and the truth begins, Shibata has nine months to carry her lie to term — if it doesn’t catch up with her before then.
Traveling back to Harlem in 1959, Ray Carney is an upstanding furniture and appliances salesman, husband, and father. This could all fall apart if his loyal customers find out that Ray is the descendant of a line of crooks — or that he is one too. Desperate for extra cash that would get himself, his child, and his pregnant wife out of their cramped apartment and into a better life, Ray continues to pick up gigs with the help of his cousin Freddie. As Oliver knows, façades aren’t easy to maintain, but sometimes they’re all you have to hang on to. When a heist goes sideways and Ray gets into more trouble than he can manage, he risks far more than just his reputation in the wake of it all.
After a grieving Zoe Beech flees to Berlin after the death of her friend, she begins again as an exchange student alongside daring and art-obsessed Hailey Mader. When they get the opportunity to sublet from eccentric thriller novelist Beatrice Becks, they think they’ve scored the deal of the century — but are they somehow being watched? Influenced by Beatrice herself, the girls throw lavish parties that quickly escalate towards danger. Like Oliver desperate to shape himself into everything Felix wants, Hailey and Zoe manically work to ensure that Beatrice’s perception of them is worthy of one of her novels — no matter the cost.
Used as inspiration for Saltburn, particularly the grave scene — if you know, you know — comes the gothic tragedy of Cathy and Heathcliff. Taken in at a young age by the Earnshaw family, the orphaned Heathcliff was dearly loved by Cathy and her father, and despised by her brother Hindley. As they grow up and life becomes crueler and more complicated, a burning desire between Cathy and Heathcliff slowly turns into a fiery, passionate hatred. Like the estate of Saltburn, Wuthering Heights is a character in and of itself — housing a family intent on revenge, redemption, and reclaiming what — or who — they believe belongs to them.
Korede has a problem — her sister Ayoola can’t stop herself from murdering her boyfriends. After every date night that ends badly, Korede is sure to receive a call from her sister to come clean it up. To make matters worse, Ayoola has set her sights on the man Korede secretly loves — a doctor at the hospital she works at. Wracked with guilt for what he’s in for and determined to try to stop it, Korede balances this with the struggle to cover up Ayoola’s most recent kill. Amidst the chaos of it all, Korede must decide just how much further she can go, or if — like Venetia and Felix — sibling bonds are just too precious to break.
When accomplished poet and essayist Ester Nilsson is asked to give a lecture on the artist Hugo Rask, she doesn’t expect to become so captivated by him. Greatly interested in his work, Ester delivers a passionate address with Hugo listening in the audience. Impressed with Ester, and even more pleased with her fascination with him, Hugo sings his praises. Relishing his attention, the once serious scholar begins to obsess over every interaction with Hugo and even leaves her partner — convinced that she and Hugo are dating. But like Oliver and Felix, this obsession is one-sided, with both parties only interested in Hugo himself. As she loses herself in him, Ester risks losing everything else in the process.
For those who loved the intense gossip culture in Saltburn, Jillian is a story of Megan and the object of all her hateful thoughts — her co-worker, Jillian. Though Jillian is unaware of Megan’s true feelings towards her, the close, tense, and dull quarters of a gastroenterologist’s office give Megan reason to despise the chipper and high-on-life Jillian. But behind closed doors, Jillian has her own issues trying to make ends meet as a single mother — and near-felon. Though Megan and Jillian’s outside interests seem vastly different, their struggles with addiction, impulsion, and oblivion make them more similar than Megan could ever bear.
Musicology professor Bern Hendricks is the late Frederic Delaney’s biggest fan. When the Delaney Foundation reaches out to him and reveals that they have discovered RED, Delaney’s lost opera, Bern gets to work authenticating it. But when he’s puzzled by a peculiar notation, he enlists the help of fellow Delaney-enthusiast and musical analyst, Eboni. After tracking down Josephine Reed, a woman who knew Delaney before his suicide in 1936, the mystery only deepens. Now unsure of Delaney’s accomplishments, Bern is at odds with the Delaney Foundation. With flashbacks to 1920s Manhattan, unlock the mystery of the talented Josephine and the deal that immortalized Delaney’s name — à la Oliver.