31 July 2011

Uncle Silas, by Sheridan LeFanu

This is a classic of Gothic fiction, so I'd been feeling obliged to read it for awhile. Gothic novels are especially appealing in the summer - the heat pairs really well with dark, "chilling" fiction. Stifling heat seems just right for reading books densely packed with trauma and ghosts and tension. The best is to read southern Gothic, where you get all of it pre-mixed for you. But the Irish do a pretty good job of it too, and reading about rain is very pleasant when it's 38C outside.

It's an odd book. It's all atmosphere and suspense, but it's quite convoluted. A large part of the suspense would appear to be whether or not the main character (Maud) survives, but given that she's the narrator of the book, it seems pretty clear that she will. The other aspects, whether or not certain characters are villainous or not, would be interesting, if not for the fact that a. They are SO many ambiguous characters that you can't really care about all of them. b. Maud repeatedly tells us that she's of a nervous disposition and overreacts to things - ie, she's somewhat unreliable.

The writing is good, the characters are sympathetic, it's just that the overall plot is kind of meandering and somehow not compelling, despite being strange and mysterious. There are plenty of references to Radcliffe, and it's honestly hard to tell if they're meant to be parodies or not.

Overall, meh. Not a must-read, sad to say.

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