Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole

Synopsis From Goodreads:

On the day of his wedding, Conrad, heir to the house of Otranto, is killed in mysterious circumstances. Fearing the end of his dynasty, his father, Manfred, determines to marry Conrad's betrothed, Isabella, until a series of supernatural events stands in his way. . . .

I fell hard for the Gothic genre last year.  From the moment I opened the first book, I was hooked.  I love the way a good Gothic novel can suck you into this realm that, at first, seems as solid as your own, but the further you get into it, the sands start to shift beneath your feet.  What you think is real, starts to become fuzzy.  The boundary between reality and the supernatural starts to wobble a bit.  You many not always cross over the line, but you are pulling and stretching it the entire time.  So needless to say when I saw someone mention The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole, and the fact it's one of the founding fathers of the genre, I had to check it out.    Now that I've done it, I'm still not sure what I'm thinking.  Those sands have never stopped shifting around on me.  Regardless of what I think of this one, I'm glad I read it.

Written in 1764, after the author had a rather haunting dream, The Castle of Otranto is full of the melodrama and over the top dialogue, so common of the era.  Most of the time, those two things get on my nerves and I'm forced to put a book down.  They are amongst the many problems I have with reading the "classics."  I can rarely ever take them seriously or really allow myself to get to involved with what I'm reading.  I'm not sure if it's the subject matter or the way in which Walpole constructed the story itself, but this book actually lends itself to those factors that makes other books intolerable for me.  

The Castle of Otranto is full of underground labyrinths, family curses, prophecies, betrayal, secret identities,  and plenty of death.   Giant pieces of armor come crashing down, sometimes with fatal results. Ghostly apparitions are seen walking the halls and speaking words of doom.  Young women are forced to go on the run, one in order to save herself, the other to save a young man she may love.  For a book that is less than 100 pages, it's chock full of every cliche that Gothic literature has come to be know by.  

I'm of two minds on whether I liked the book or not, but I can say I enjoyed every second of it.  For those of you who love Gothic literature, you should give this book a read so you can appreciate where the genre came from.  If you aren't a fan, this may not be the book for you, but I would almost be willing to bet, you would enjoy it anyway.


Michael @ Literary Exploration said...

I will check it out

JaneGS said...

Loved your review of this classic and genre-starter. I haven't read it yet, but definitely plan to. I enjoy gothic...in small doses. I read Mysteries of Udolpho a couple of years ago, and, like you with Otranto, enjoyed it more than I liked it!

bermudaonion said...

I don't know if I've ever read a gothic novel - don't laugh!

carol said...

Sounds like one to add to my list. Course it doesn't hurt that it's less than 100 pages and still counts as a "classic."