I was extremely excited to learn that this was actually a real book, as I’d first heard it mentioned in Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey when one of her characters was reading it and had just presumed that it was a made-up title. Ever since I’d learnt it actually existed, I had been determined to read it so couldn’t wait to do so when I eventually found a copy (in a Lyme Regis bookshop while there visiting The Cob; a favoured place due to its appearance in Jane Austen’s Persuasion!).

I have enjoyed reading the book, but have to admit I have found it hard-going at times. There is an extraordinary amount of detail, particularly at the beginning of the book regarding Emily and her father’s travels through the Pyrenees, which I found at times a bit too in-depth and felt, personally, could have been shortened. However, I did bear in mind that the book was written a long time ago and also (as I gather from Jane Austen’s mention of the book’s reception) in a time when novels were frowned upon, so wondered if the geographical detail helped to make the book more acceptable as suitable reading. I am also not a huge fan of poems so found the large amount of poems in the book a little distracting, however perhaps this is again a reflection of the time in which the book was written. I also found it quite frustrating that Emily is privy to knowledge that the reader isn’t, i.e. the glimpse of her father’s papers, and what is hidden behind the veil at Udolpho castle – usually the reader shares the shocks and horrors and worries and puzzlements of the hero/heroine and I was disappointed that this didn’t happen here.

However, although I felt the book could have been more concise at times, there are some great characters introduced and a slow building of tension and apprehension of dark deeds. It is a beautiful and delicious Gothic novel, moving from the dramatic scenery of the Pyrenees full of dangerous passes and paths, to mysterious instructions given by her father as to the destroying of papers should he die, to the orphaning of Emily and her powerlessness under her new guardians (aunt, Madame Cheron, and her aunt’s new husband, the dark and mysterious Signor Montoni), to the removal to Venice with its waterways and gondolas which are charming but slightly threatening as there is no quick escape route from them, to the sudden flight to Montoni’s remote castle of Udolpho.

I am delighted that I now own a copy of this book; one that was clearly extremely influential on future novelists and the Gothic thriller genre, and I did enjoy reading it.

Her present life appeared like the dream of a distempered imagination, or like one of those frightful fictions, in which the wild genius of the poets sometimes delighted. Rreflections brought only regret, and anticipation terror.' Such is the state of mind in which Emily St. Aubuert - the orphaned heroine of Ann Radcliffe's 1794 gothic Classic, The Mysteries of Udolpho - finds herself after Count Montoni, her evil guardian, imprisions her in his gloomy medieval fortress in the Appenines. Terror is the order of the day inside the walls of Udolpho, as Emily struggles against Montoni's rapacious schemes and the threat of her own psychological disintegration. A best-seller in its day and a potent influence on Walpole, Poe, and other writers of eighteenth and nineteenth-century Gothic horror, The Mysteries of Udolpho remains one of the most important works in the history of European fiction. As the same time, with its dream-like plot and hallucinatory rendering of its characters' psychological states, it often seems strangely modern: 'permanently avant-garde' in Terry Castle's words, and a profound and fascinating challenge to contemporary readers.ABOUT THE SERIES: For over 100 years Oxford World's Classics has made available the widest range of literature from around the globe. Each affordable volume reflects Oxford's commitment to scholarship, providing the most accurate text plus a wealth of other valuable features, including expert introductions by leading authorities, helpful notes to clarify the text, up-to-date bibliographies for further study, and much more.
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