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The language is wonderfully flowery at times, and the plot is very different to the type of book I normally read. The good are very, very good, the bad are very, very bad, and the secrets are very, very mysterious.
It was a riot of hilarity for this 21st century reader. The themes of the book have echoes in the potboiler historical romances of popular fiction today, but the style is quite fragmented and oddly breathless. The jumping between plot points was disjointed and occasionally felt as though the author had become caught up in one thread only to suddenly remember there were other strands to the story that she needed to spend time on. It was like listening to someone recount an exciting episode in their life in a tumbling tumult of words that they had little control over.
The story starts with a traveller gazing upon the ruins of a castle in Sicily. A passing Friar notices him and gives him a bit of background history, then takes him to the local convent so he can peruse the muniments in the library.
The daughters, Emilia and Julia, made me think of Jane and Lizzie Bennett and the Dashwood sisters in their differences — light and shade, sweet and feisty, calm and emotional. His passions were vehement, and she had the address to bend them to her own purposes; and so well to conceal her influence, that he thought himself most independent when he was most enslaved. As the opening chapter progresses, we discover that the Marchioness is a wicked stepmother of fairytale proportions.
The Marquis returns to the castle too late for Vincent to speak to him, and goes around vehemently dismissing the rumours that the disused part of the castle is haunted. His behaviour is Very Suspicious. Meanwhile, the Marchioness is making a cuckold of her husband with a handsome young Count. None of which is ever going to turn out well, especially not when Julia and the Count fall for each other.
The passages describing this adventurous action made me think of the role playing video games my husband enjoys, like Skyrim and Dark Souls, that have a medieval feel to them. Ferdinand spends a lot of time running around in the dark, sword drawn, with only a lantern to light his way through mysterious passages and cavernous halls. This is gloriously florid, with Hippolitus expressing himself in terms straight from the mind of a woman.
Still, Julia seems to like it. Poor Julia. Whenever they do something that could be of benefit to the whole group, the Duke takes the larger share of the bounty before passing what remains to the people who were responsible for obtaining it. Radcliffe plays with the sense of time and place, scaling up and down so that one moment the action is intense and claustrophobic, the next it seems as though time is dragging and the landscape around is overwhelmingly large and open.
The action passes from dense forest to hidden cave to open plain to ruined building, and Radcliffe gives us the colours, sounds and smells to make us feel as though we are in the thick of it with the characters. Although I found the novel to be a hilarious romp in many ways, with more twists than a curly wurly, there are also many serious points made in the narrative.
The position of women in male dominated society, their imprisonment within social convention, their censure if they step outside the acceptable norms, their lack of choice, and their dismissal as hysterical when faced with the seemingly inexplicable is one thing that jumped out at me. This is the main focus of the novel, depicted in almost every scene.
I felt sorry for each character who was at the whim and mercy of the Marquis. In the Marquis also, we have a model for the foolishness of the aging powerful man in the presence of a pretty face and a manipulative spirit.
In this, Radcliffe has a good grip on human nature. I got an e-copy of the book for free from Project Gutenberg. You can, too, if you click through the image of the book cover at the top of the post.
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Classics Circuit: A Sicilian Romance by Ann Radcliffe
Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course. Log in or Sign up. The Gothic is a genre of literature that focuses on the dark elements of the human experience, both physical and mental. Walpole was the first to include many of the elements and themes that would come to define the Gothic: castles, heroines in distress, malevolent fathers, and supernatural entities. Walpole's novel inspired many imitators, but the genre didn't become truly popular until Ann Radcliffe took over in the s.
A Sicilian Romance: Summary & Analysis
A Sicilian Romance is a gothic novel first published more than two hundred years ago, in When their father returns to the island and informs Julia that he has arranged a marriage for her, she rebels against his choice of husband, putting her life in danger. Is the castle haunted? All of her books are perfect examples of gothic literature and have everything you would expect from a gothic novel: An old castle with crumbling staircases and dark, dusty chambers, locked doors, family secrets, lonely monasteries, bandits, shipwrecks, dungeons and underground tunnels, thunder and lightning, and almost anything else you can think of. I hope not anyway! The characters also tend not to be as well developed as you would expect in a more modern novel and are usually portrayed as either completely good or completely evil. A Sicilian Romance features two beautiful heroines, a brave, handsome nobleman, and a wicked stepmother, among other stereotypes.
A Sicilian Romance
The language is wonderfully flowery at times, and the plot is very different to the type of book I normally read. The good are very, very good, the bad are very, very bad, and the secrets are very, very mysterious. It was a riot of hilarity for this 21st century reader. The themes of the book have echoes in the potboiler historical romances of popular fiction today, but the style is quite fragmented and oddly breathless.
ON the northern shore of Sicily are still to be seen the magnificent remains of a castle, which formerly be longed to the noble house of Mazzini. During my travels abroad I visited this spot. As I walked over the loose fragments of stone, which lay scattered through the immense area of the fabrick, and surveyed the sublimity and grandeur of the ruins, I recurred, by a natural association of ideas, to the times when these walls stood proudly in their original splendour, when the halls were the scenes of hospital ity, and festive magnificence, and when they resounded with the voices of those whom death had long since swept from the earth. He observed my emotion; and, as my eye met his, shook his head and pointed to the ruin. They exhibited a singular in stance of the retribution of Heaven, and were from that period forsaken, and abandoned to decay.