A read-along. Part IV/Volume IV
This is the fourth week of the read read-along I am doing with Vishy in which we discuss the last part of The Mysteries of Udolpho.
In this last volume, all mysteries are being revealed and everything comes together, explanations are given and a happy end ensues. Between the drama played by Valancourt and Emily – who was still caught between what was “proper” and what her heart really wanted (a timeless dilemma, isn’t it) the story of the strange goings on at the castle of the count de Villefort, and the nun with a terrible secret at the monastery of Saint Claire, there are banditi attacks, a shocking disappearance and of course, a double wedding. The bad guys get their just punishment, a dark family history is revealed and everything ends on a happy note.
I enjoyed the book – in spite of its happily-ever-after ending and a few high drama moments that had me roll my eyes, there was still enough tension, unpredictability and plenty of mystery to keep me engaged until the end. I liked it better than “A Sicilian Romance” (by the same author) – it was darker, scarier and more mysterious, not to mention much longer and with a more intricate plot. Reading this book only confirmed my preference for Gothic novels which combine romance with mysteries and of course, if there’s a haunted castle and a few ghosts, real or not, even better.
Published in 1794 and the fourth of Ann Radcliffe’s six published novels, The Mysteries of Udolpho was considered the archetypal Gothic novel; while at first sight it appears to be just a novel where romance and elements of the supernatural are combined, the author later provides an explanation for those “supernatural” elements – I’m not sure if that’s good or if an unsolved mystery would have been better but I liked it nevertheless. Sometimes it’s good to have closure.
The book is also mentioned in Jane Austen’s “Northanger Abbey”, which is the reason why I now have this book on my to-be-read pile. Would I recommend The Mysteries of Udolpho? With all my heart, but then it depends on what you want to take away from it – if you’re looking for some deeper meaning, this is not the book you want, but if you’d like something entertaining, with poetry scattered here and there and a wonderfully old language, this is just perfect. Enjoy.
You can find Vishy’s review here.
*Read in August, 2012