Friday, December 16, 2011

Udolfo, the Abbey, and the Affair

I can't believe it has been a month since I last posted.  I feel very neglectful.  It's not that I was posting everyday before, but at least once a week.  The good thing is that I have been doing a lot of reading.  I've read the last two Sookie Stackhouse southern vampire books and am eagerly anticipating the next one that is due out in May of 2012.  I've read two more in the Pink Carnation series, The Mischief of the Mistletoe, and The Orchid Affair.  In addition to these, I find myself still plugging along with The Mysteries of Udolpho. I am a fairly fast reader, but this one is taking me awhile.  That's not to say that I'm not enjoying it. 

The interesting thing about The Mysteries of Udolpho is that by chance, it is popping up everywhere in the other books that I'm reading.  I should mention that I have also started Northanger Abbey, in which Austen parodies Radcliffe's gothic novel.  This was completely unkown to me when I checked Northanger Abbey out of the library.  In addition to this, in the book I've just finished, The Orchid Affair, one of the novel's characters is reading Romance of the Forest, yet another gothic novel by Radcliffe.
As if these conincidences were not serendipitous enough, I did a quick check on the word serendipitous, only to find that it was first used by Horace Walpole, himself the author of what is considered the first gothic novel, The Castle of Otranto, which novel has been much on my mind of late due to the appearance of a character named Fouche' in The Orchid Affair, who was inspired by the real life Joseph Fouche', Duke of Otranto.  So very, very many connections.

An interesting fact regarding Ann Radcliffe: Despite extensive, and I mean extensive, descriptions of the French and Italian landscape in Udolpho, she had not yet travelled to the European continent. In fact, she never saw Italy in her lifetime. Her descriptive details of the landscape are, at times, overwhelming, but all the more impressive when considering they were inspired solely through her imagination and the artwork of Claude Lorrain and Salvator Rosa.


  1. I admire you for reading Udolpho. I have been wanting to read it for years and started it some time this year. However, after 50 pages or so I gave up. What bored me most were her elaborate descriptions and that the plot never moved along. Maybe after I read your review I will get motivated to pick it up again.

  2. Hi Rikki,
    I don't know how this happened but I am just coming across your message now!
    I definitely agree with you about the descriptions. I had to really force myself through the first 90 pages. But then things got a bit more exciting. And I can say that I really enjoyed it. There are lengthy descriptions throughout the entire novel but they are easier to get through as the action and mystery keep things moving along.