The Mysteries of Udolpho – Ann Radclifffe (IV)

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

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7 Responses to The Mysteries of Udolpho – Ann Radclifffe (IV)

  1. Carl V. says:

    This is yet another book that hits my mental ‘to read’ list during RIP that I haven’t gotten to. I will one day, rest assured, because I have no doubt I will enjoy it.

    Northanger Abbey is a fun book and a very quick read, I hope you enjoy it.

    • Delia says:

      Hi Carl,
      This was an amazing book, the twists and turns, lots of mystery and the gloomy atmosphere in the castle, it was just perfect. It would make a great read for your RIP event (which I hope to join soon).
      I’m glad to see you enjoyed Northanger Abbey, I’m going to read it soon!

  2. Pingback: Readalong part 4 – The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe « Vishy’s Blog

  3. Vishy says:

    Nice review, Delia! Sorry for the delay in commenting. I finished reading the fourth part only today afternoon. I liked what you said about the things you liked in gothic fiction. I also liked the fact that Radcliffe’s reveals all the mysteries in the end and doesn’t leave any loose ends. It was interesting that Radcliffe gives rational explanations for all the mysteries. The scattering of poetry was beautiful. I am hoping to read some of my favourite poems from the book again. My favourite was ‘The Sea Nymph’.

    Thanks for hosting this readalong. It was fun reading this book alongwith you and comparing notes and sharing thoughts. I am sorry it took me longer to complete the book. But I am glad I persevered and completed it. This is my first gothic romance novel (probably) and now I want to read more.

    • Delia says:

      Hi Vishy,
      Better late than never. 🙂 This was a pretty straightforward book, no loose ends, and the poetry was beautiful although if I think about it my favorite lines were the ones by Shakespeare. 🙂
      It was good to have you read along with me so we can compare notes and see the book from different perspectives. Maybe we can do another read-along in the future.

      • Vishy says:

        Yes, the Shakespeare lines were good 🙂 I also loved the question and answer section we had for the first two posts. It was interesting to see the ways we responded to the book and our answers to different questions. Looking forward to a future read-along with you 🙂

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