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I live in Bedford, England. Having retired from teaching; I am now a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Threshold Concepts in the context of A-level Physics. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. I have also recently become a keen playgoer to London Fringe Theatre. I enjoy mostly classics and I read the playscripts and add those to the blog. I am a member of Bedford Writers' Circle. See their website here: http://bedford-writers.co.uk/ Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

"A Sicilian Romance" by Ann Radcliffe

This is a classic Gothic novel. There is a castle in Sicily; figures are seen in the closed and ruined southern part; strange sounds come from it. There is a secret which a dying man confides to a confessor. There is an evil stepmother, the Marchioness, who wants to be unfaithful to her husband with a young cavalier but he, in his turn, repudiates her advances for the love of her daughter which causes her to lay wicked plans to achieve revenge. People are imprisoned in dungeons. There are locked and bolted doors leading onto subterranean passages and spiral staircases where the steps crumble away. There are bandit gangs living in monstrous caverns. There is a monastery and a strange abbot, and a monk who is in love with a nun. There are mountains and forests and the pursuit of evil counts. There are tempests and shipwrecks. In short, this has everything.

Sources presumably include Shakespeare's Hamlet, and The Winter's Tale, also set partially in Sicily and involving a young heroine escaping from a cruel father who has allegedly killed his wife (lots of characters appear lifeless only to be revived much later, a bit like in Candide). Other obvious sources are The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole and The Monk by Matthew Lewis. There are hints of Cinderella and Snow White. But there is also the thought that this story may have helped to influence details in The Count of Monte Cristo and that spiral staircase reminded me of a scene in Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stephenson.

The first half is tight but the second half feels a bit padded as the characters are moved onto the stage in a variety of combinations and the action flits from scene to scene with no obvious plot development.

There are some great lines:

  • "Joy is as restless as anxiety or sorrow." (Ch II)
  • "in order to have due command of our passions it is necessary to subject them to early obedience." (Ch II)
  • "A young Italian cavalier ... who possessed too much of the spirit of gallantry to permit a lady to languish in vain." (Ch VI)
  • "When once we enter on the labyrinth of vice, we can seldom return, but are led on, through correspondent mazes, to destruction." (Ch XV)

A really enjoyable Gothic romp with lots and lots of liminality.

June 2016; 199 pages

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