For the 2017 Back to the Classics Challenge category “Gothic or Horror Classic”, I actually have two books to post about.
The first book is The Monk by Matthew Lewis, which was published in 1796 and it fits pretty much all the criteria of a classic Gothic novel: virginal maidens, evil clergy, wholesome heroes, bandits, dark forests, haunted castles, monasteries with secret passages…check, check and check. This title would actually also work in the horror category I think with its depiction of the supernatural, persons buried alive, putrid corpse, etc.. But I didn’t really like it. It was all too ridiculously over-the-top for me to really enjoy. Which isn’t to say it won’t be someone else’s cup of tea! I suggest anyone interested check out some of the five star reviews on Goodreads for a second or third opinion. I also think, if readers enjoyed The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe, they might like The Monk as well, although The Monk is much more salacious and violent.
My second book I adored, but I don’t think it really falls under the Gothic rubric. It is No Name by Wilkie Collins which was first published in 1862. Instead, it is a pretty good example of a Victorian sensation novel which draws from the Gothic tradition, but is its own special sub-genre and most certainly includes aspects of Victorian social realism, in my opinion. This is the fourth book by Wilkie Collins that I have read and while No Name doesn’t quite knock off The Woman in White from its top spot in my mind, it does come pretty close.
The story starts off idyllically with the Vanstone family, mother, father and two daughters, happily and comfortably ensconced in the English countryside. The older daughter, Norah, is quiet and obedient, but her younger sister Magdalen is a firecracker: impetuous, manipulative and fairly spoiled.
I don’t want to give too much of the plot away, since I personally prefer to go into books knowing as little as possible. However, I will say that Norah and Magdalen are disinherited from their father’s fortune due to a legal technicality and are thus forced to fend for themselves in the world with only their loyal former governess, Miss Garth, to aid them.
Norah obediently accepts her fate and determines to eke out a living as a governess or similar but the passionate Magdalen is determined to regain the fortune which she feels was stolen from them and she will stop at nothing to achieve her aims. And when I write, stop at nothing… I mean it. There is almost no length that she will not go to which must have scandalized some Victorian readers. The joy in reading this book for me was Magdalen’s transformation from a petulant teen to a vengeful Fury. I also adored the antiheroic Colonel Wragg, Magdalen’s partner in con-artistry, and their attempts to cross, double cross and triple cross anyone who stands in the way of their goals. The plotting and characterization in this No Name made it enormously satisfying to read.
Isn't The Monk one of the books they talk about in Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey? I've read a couple of Anne Radcliffe's books, but never The Monk. It sounds "perfectly horrid". :) And No Name is another of Wilkie Collins' books that I still need to read. (I have read The Woman in White and loved it!) But still... sometimes I feel so far behind in my reading. ;DReplyDelete
Thanks for the comment Lark! I need to re-read Northanger Abby and see if I can catch the references now that I have read The Monk and The Mysteries of Udolpho.Delete
No Name was so fabulous and it read so quickly for me because the plot was so fun to follow. If you get 'round to it, I hope you like it as much as I did.
Despite my love for Austen and Northanger Abbey, I have no desire to read The Monk--I've read enough about it to know I would give up in disgust. I ended up liking Mysteries of Udolpho but I think The Monk is in even a different category from that.ReplyDelete
I really like Wilkie Collins and No Name is on my list for someday! I love Woman in White, so if this comes close, that's saying something! I also don't like spoilers, even for classics, and will never understand people who read "Introductions."
Thanks for the comment Jane! I always read the introduction last. No Name is very different in story from The Woman in White, but so very good. Such a page turner! I don't think Collins' other titles get the attention they deserve.Delete
I read The Moonstone over a decade ago and have somehow never returned to Wilkie Collins. No Name sounds very interesting.ReplyDelete
The Monk also sounds like it could be fun. I think this is the first I've heard of it.
Thanks for the comment Rob! If you liked the Moonstone, I think you will also enjoy No Name.Delete
The Monk would definitely be a fun read for the right reader...it was really out there!
I preferred No Name over The Moonstone. No Name has a strong female protagonist and a rip-roaring villain. Collins’ experimentation with narrative also works for me; the story never dragged for me. The Moonstone has some dead spots and hinges on highly improbably\e events. My review of No Name is atReplyDelete
Thanks for the comment Major! I agree, I also prefer No Name over the Moonstone. This makes me wonder why No Name isn't as highly touted as his other titles.Delete