The Castle of Otranto – Horace Walpole
Download The Castle of Otranto ebook. The Castle of Otranto is a 1764 novel by Horace Walpole. It is generally regarded as the first gothic novel. In the second edition, Walpole applied the word ‘Gothic’ to the novel in the subtitle – “A Gothic Story”. The novel merged medievalism and terror in a style that has endured ever since. The aesthetics of the book shaped modern-day gothic books, films, art, music and the goth subculture.
The novel initiated a literary genre which would become extremely popular in the later 18th and early 19th century, with authors such as Clara Reeve, Ann Radcliffe, William Thomas Beckford, Matthew Lewis, Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, Edgar Allan Poe, Robert Louis Stevenson and George du Maurier.
I went looking for a Gothic romance and, of course, Castle of Otranto kept coming up as a ‘must read’ and it sounded like the place to start. Knowing it had been written in the 1700’s, I was expecting a weighty tome, hundreds of pages long and full of endless sentences and flowery prose. When it arrived, at first I thought I must nt have read carefully and had accidentally ordered something like a study guide or Cliff Notes. It was only about 127 pages and the first 30 pages seemed to be prefaces and introductions. (No, it said ‘unabridged’ right on the cover.)
The book itself is only about 90 pages long. The story moves along so fast that the author barely used paragraphs. Dialogue is exchanged in the same way. It’s a cut-and-dried story without much atmosphere; absolutely no frills. Not what you’d call spellbinding at any point; it lacked the kind of tension and suspense that I was hoping for in a Gothic novel. I found myself rereading lots of times because characters seemed to just suddenly be there and I wasn’t sure, at times, where they had come from. The general feel of the pacing is like your teenage daughter relating what happened in the last episode of Once Upon a Time.
The story itself is not bad and I kept thinking that this book needs a good rewrite with a little more atmosphere and color.
For me, a good book is one that is written in such a way that I’m not aware of the act of reading; the words, images and feelings just flow. This book isn’t that. Yet I had to give it at least enough stars to indicate I enjoyed it, you know, once I was through it.
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Horace Walpole, the 4th Earl of Orford (24 September 1717 – 2 March 1797) was an English art historian, writer, antiquarian and Whig politician.
Nick Groom has published widely for both academic and popular readerships, with particular interest in questions of authenticity and the emergence of national and regional identity. His books include The Gothic (2012) for the Very Short Introductions series, The Union Jack: the Story of the British Flag (Atlantic, 2006), and The Seasons: an Elegy for the Passing of the Year (Atlantic, 2013).
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