June 4, 2008

The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole

I'd been meaning to read The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole for ages. I'd been told many times by many people that any fan of gothic literature sort of has to at some point, and after having read it, I think those many people are right... on condition.

The Castle of Otranto is sort of the grand-daddy of gothic literature and its many permutations -Victorian gothic (Wilkie Collins and Bram Stoker), gothic romance (everyone from Anne Radcliffe to Victoria Holt), gothic mystery (Edgar Allen Poe), even Stephen King's modern psychological horror (The Shining) and Anne Rice's tortured, vampiric anti-heroes  owe something to Horace Walpole's novel of death, sexual obsession, religion and hidden identity, all of which revolves around various claims on the castle in the title.  It was stumbling across all of these instances of influence that I most enjoyed about reading The Castle of Otranto....

And here is where I have to admit that I didn't enjoy much else about it, which actually embarrasses me. The thing is, there was nothing particularly wrong with the book. In fact, it might just be that I wasn't in the mood for melodrama. I suspect if you read The Castle of Otranto with your tongue in your cheek it would prove to be pretty entertaining, especially if you have a passing familiarity with medieval romance, which Walpole both draws from and satirizes with the story and its narrative tone. Altogether well-done and entertaining. I just found it to be a bit tedious. Maybe I wasn't in the mood...

Regardless, I would recommend it. It's fairly short, so it isn't much to slog through if you are, in fact, finding it tedious, and the pay-off is pretty good from a lit. geek point of view. I couldn't help but enjoy reading the locus from which so many other genres and works grew, so even on those merits alone, The Castle of Otranto is worth the read.


3 comments:

Audie said...

I am totally reading your blog, I just haven't read the books that you are reviewing so I have no comments. Just wanted you to know that you are being read and that I have put several of you books on my "need to read" list! :)

Madeleine said...

Aw, thanks Audie!

Audie said...

Of course, daawlingk, any time. :)