Author: Ann Radcliffe
First published: 1794
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20 pages into this book I already regretted putting it on my Classics Club list. OK, it's an iconic Gothic novel, which has inspired a lot of followers since it was written, but it's very, very tiresome to read. Seriously, I was wondering how come Catherine Morland found it so exciting and how could Henry Tilney have read it in three days? It took me three months, on and off.
Let's be a little more organised than usual today and make a bullet list of things that I didn't particularly enjoy in the novel.
- The first problem of the book is, of course, the abundance of cumbersome poetry. The reader is lucky if there are only epigraphs from Milton or Shakespeare, as they are quite bearable, but sometimes it's real crap, which I can't even make sense of. Moreover, some of the heroes write "their own" poetry from time to time, which is even more horrible. Sorry, Mrs. Radcliffe, you are no Shakespeare.
- Second thing that bothered me was the descriptions of nature. They are everywhere and occupy nearly one third of the book, or so it seems. Imagine a heroine being led through the dark forest by a couple of ruffians at night and then just stopping to admire the stars. Yep, that's what happens here.
- It's slow! It's so slow that the castle of Udolpho is first mentioned only on page 188 out of 650. Argh!
- All the FEELINGS! The main heroine is particularly sensitive and is always fainting, blushing, crying, trying to find words, shocked, etc. I know, I know those were the times when it was considered desirable, but really?
- All the characters are either unreasonably evil or are saints. The only well-developed character in the book is Annette, Emily's maid, who is generally good, but talkative, shallow and superstitious. Her voice is the only one that is different from others.
Maybe for its time it was a super exciting novel, and there are some twists of the plot that liven it up a bit, but for a modern reader, even the one familiar with some old classics, it's a bit too much
In my book:
The only reason to read it is to get acquainted with the source of the genre. If you are not famous for your patience, skip it!