If you’ve read any of Cathi Unsworth’s many novels, you will know that her skills as a weaver of tales and a chronicler of times past, often in fictional form, is second to none. Season of the Witch: The Book of Goth sees her turn her hand to telling the social, sartorial and musical history of Goth, starting with the point in 1979 when Margaret Thatcher walked to power through the doors of 10 Downing Street, and breaking off when she left more than a decade later. So, as you can see, the title ‘Season of the Witch’ has an overt double meaning, as Thatcher goes head to head with Siouxsie Sioux. We are left in no doubt of this author’s contempt for Mrs Thatcher and her government, and we are reminded throughout that there is no doubt that Goth, in all of its beautiful, dark, alienated glory, emerged largely because of the politics of that era.
As a testament to the lasting legacy of Goth, this book has never been bettered. Cathi’s taken a large chunk of history – much of this readers of this book are likely to already know the nuts and bolts of – and weaved it into a contemporary narrative. Over the course of more than 400 pages, we are treated to a broad overview of the music and context of Goth, including some great, short ‘Gothfather’ and ‘Gothmother’ snippets, talking about key public figures who are influential to the Goth scene. You may not immediately think that Johnny Cash or Lee Hazlewood fit into a book about Goth, but you quickly come to see that indeed they do.
Unlike the majority of countercultures, which burn bright then die out as they're overtaken by the next one, Goth is still alive, kicking and deeply influential/ongoing today. This book serves the dual purpose of providing a lace-covered trip down the time tunnel for anyone who was there the first time around, but also serves as an ideal ‘lived history’ lesson for anyone who is coming up through the ranks of Goth right now.
I took my 14-year-old Goth daughter to Liverpool Waterstones in May 2023 to see Cathi speak with her old Sounds magazine alumni Tim Peacock about the book, and her rationale behind writing it. She’s a compelling, deeply knowledgeable and visually striking speaker, and the dialogue between the two added a pleasant, thought-provoking extra dimension to this gripping tale. Signing the book for my daughter after the show Cathi wrote to her that ‘this is your grimoire now. Use it wisely’. I think that sentiment could apply to many people picking up on this slice of history, either newly or as a veteran.
Season of the Witch: The Book of Goth is available from all of the usual bookbuying channels. You can support Bopcap Books directly by purchasing this book for £20.90 via our partnership with uk.bookshop.org (spend £25 to qualify for free shipping). Click here to purchase.
Review by Suzy Prince