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Uncle Silas

3.73  ·  Rating Details ·  4,420 Ratings  ·  322 Reviews
One of the most significant and intriguing Gothic novels of the Victorian period and is enjoyed today as a modern psychological thriller. In UNCLE SILAS (1864) Le Fanu brought up to date Mrs Radcliffe's earlier tales of virtue imprisoned and menacedby unscrupulous schemers. The narrator, Maud Ruthyn, is a 17 year old orphan left in the care of her fearful uncle, Silas. Tog ...more
Paperback, Penguin Classics, 477 pages
Published June 1st 2001 by Penguin Books (first published December 1864)
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Elizabeth Stephens One of my top 5 favorite books of all time. If you've read anything by Jackson this is very much HER stylistically. Very reminiscent of The Haunting…moreOne of my top 5 favorite books of all time. If you've read anything by Jackson this is very much HER stylistically. Very reminiscent of The Haunting of Hill House and the Lottery, as well as The Yellow Wallpaper (Charlotte Perkins Gilman) and Where are You Going, Where have you Been? (Joyce Carol Oates)(less)

Community Reviews

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Bill  Kerwin
Jan 04, 2017 Bill Kerwin rated it really liked it

Uncle Silas isn’t a great novel, but it does exactly what it sets out to do. It is an effective “novel of sensation” in the tradition of The Woman in White, presenting us with a likable heroine in increasingly perilous situations, leading to a hair-raising—and extremely well-executed—climax.

There are not many thrills in Uncle Silas” but the thrills themselves are indeed thrilling, and Le Fanu knows exactly how to administer them—sometimes by the dollop, occasionally with an eye-dropper—in order
I had such high expectations for this old classic that seemed almost impossible to get my hands on. My idea of a “cozy mystery” is a Gothic/Victorian Era mystery so when this finally became available to me I was thrilled to read it. I loved the sound of the premise: After the death of her father, a 17-year-old heiress is sent to live under her uncle’s care, of whom rumor has it he may or may not have committed a murder. I was concerned for her safety among a whole slew of suspicious characters. ...more
Oct 24, 2011 Hannah rated it liked it
Rating Clarification: 3.5 Stars

I'm happy to report that Uncle Silas has made the cut of classic gothic literature that I've read (and even more important- enjoyed ). Although I'll never have the intellectual reading prowess to make a sustained diet of 19th century literature, I've tried over the years to add more of it into my reading sphere. There is a richness and a depth to it that isn't duplicated in modern literature, IMO. While I can't yet compare it to those giants of gothic literature l
Oct 08, 2012 Sean rated it really liked it
I wanted to give this book five stars but I just couldn’t do it. According to my rating system, a five star book is one of the best I have ever read. Uncle Silas is not. Don’t let this mislead you. This book had one of creepiest and most sinister plots in all of Victorian literature but it somehow doesn’t have the complexity of the more famous Gothic masterpiece, The Woman in White, by Wilkie Collins.

The story follows a young rich orphaned girl named Maud who is forced to move in with her poor
This is the most frightening book I have ever read. Before I picked this up, I had read some of Le Fanu's short fiction, the ghost stories based on Irish legends, and, of course, CARMILLA. This book, however, is horrifying. Too often, writers and directors of horror regie solely on blood and gore to convey fear. For me, it doesn't work. All it conveys is a love of gory. Such gore might not make me hungry, but it doesn't scare me.

Le Fanu relies on mood and atmosphere to get the job done. He also
Jul 28, 2016 Alex rated it really liked it
Shelves: gothic, 2014, rth-lifetime
Uncle Silas is a perfect book to use in a discussion about whether Gothic novels are any less respectable than non-Gothic ones. It deals with many of the same issues that your realist novels do. I recently read The Way We Live Now, from around the same time to (1875 to Silas's 1864), so let's compare.

- Class, especially the fortune of landed gentry vs. their non-landed relatives: check
- The powerlessness of women to control their own destinies: check
- The quest for power and money, and its corro
Nov 14, 2011 Kim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle

This quintessential gothic tale, first serialised in 1864, has its origins in Le Fanu's 1839 short story, "A Passage in the Secret History of an Irish Countess". A first person narrative (with some deviations from this technique) the story takes place in 1845, when the teenage narrator, Maud Ruthyn, is sent to live with her guardian - the mysterious Uncle Silas - upon the death of her father. The central mystery in the novel is whether Uncle Silas is the innocent man Maud's father believed him t
A tale of murder and greed. This is a fairly straightforward tale of an heiress who is left to the tender mercies of her enigmatic Uncle Silas.

I enjoyed the dark and sinister atmosphere of the novel, and I loved the "lock room mystery". The characters were well portrayed from the slightly "hysterical" young Maud whose narration delivers the story, through to the "over the top" portrayal of the French governess, the creepy Madame.

Loved the beginning the expectation of the novel, but by reaching t
ღ Carol jinx~☆~
Sheridan Le Fanu was famous for beginning Gothic/Horror.
Uncle Silas was from this genre.
The plot of the novel seems quite simple, Maud Ruthyn is a rich heiress, daughter of an eccentric recluse. He dies and places her in the guardianship of her Uncle Silas. She’s never met Uncle Silas but knows he was disgraced by gossip of suicide or murder that took place in his house. The plot thickens,of course, and it ends up being a spine tingling Gothic story with hints everywhere of the supernatural. I
Mar 04, 2012 Marvin rated it liked it
Shelves: horror
This 19th century novel is considered an icon of Gothic horror. That it is, but it can also be seen as an early model of psychological horror. Le Fanu excels in characterization and in slowly molding his characters into either a standard of virtue as he does for poor little Maude, or a model of villainy as he does for the title character. While the novel occasionally hints of ghosts, there are no supernatural events. It has a lot in common with Wilkie Collins' The Woman in White but is not nearl ...more
 (shan) Littlebookcove
Uncle Silas I must admit I do like a good Victorian Literature! It's just disappointing that Le Fanu doesn't have the same reputation as many other classic Victorian writer's.This story tells the tale of a young and Naive Maud Ruthyn, whose father's death leaves her under the care of the mysterious uncle of the story's title.One of the most striking points about this book is that apart from a few scattered incidents and a wonderfully melodramatic ending very little happens!I found myself hooked ...more
May 03, 2014 Ali rated it really liked it
It is some years since I read any Sheridan Le Fanu novels, I read The House by the Churchyard, The Wyvern Mystery and The Rose and the Key although I find I can no longer remember anything much about them, I do know they were fabulously atmospheric reads. Le Fanu was an Irish writer of gothic fiction, in his time he was a leading writer of ghost stories, although is probably now best known for his novels of mystery and horror.
“Knowledge is power-and power of one sort or another is the secret l
Oct 08, 2011 Laura rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: all Le Fanu's fans
Buddy read with Hannah and Kim.

More detailed discussion at The Readers Review Literature from 1800 to 1910

After her father's death, Maud Ruthyn is sent to live with her Uncle Silas who is follower of the Swedenborggism. In this "religion", people could freely visit heaven and hell, and talk to angels, demons and other spirits (Wikipedia). According to her father's will, she will be forced to live there until her twenty first birthday.

The plot is a truly turmoil of events and emotions where we ca
Matthew Hunter
I can't say I've often wondered what the offspring of the movie Deliverance and Bronte's Wuthering Heights might resemble. But now I know--Uncle Silas. The residents of Bartram-Haugh are more hillbilly than Jethro Clampett, and at least as dangerous as the guy who tells Ned Beatty to "squeal like a pig." And Madame de la Rougierre (aka, "The Governess")? A priceless character almost as colorful as Wilkie Collins' Count Fosco. Despicable Madame does things like threaten to break pinkies to get he ...more
Nov 09, 2012 Paul rated it it was amazing
Maud Ruthyn, the narrator, is a young woman not quite of age. Early in the book, her father places her under the care of a devious governess, Madame de la Rougierre, with unknown motivations. Madame torments Maud and her father doesn't appear to believe her when she begs for help. He does eventually discover the treachery and dismisses Madame. Shortly afterwards, Maud's father dies and her Uncle Silas, a marginalized member of the family, is made her sole guardian at the protest of her cousin. M ...more
Terrific Gothic atmosphere and aura of menace. Maud Ruthyn, the heroine of the tale, is an orphan who comes to live with the titular uncle, and she enlists the reader's full empathy from the get-go. We and she both know that her uncle is a murderous villain, but of course to outside eyes he is an upright Victorian gentleman, or should I say reformed gentleman -- his unsavory past is not, it seems, in the past at all, even though he puts on religious trappings. (And thus one of the themes of the ...more
Mar 06, 2014 Bettie☯ rated it really liked it
Recommended to Bettie☯ by: Brazilliant Laura
Could a book get any more gothic? An orphaned “girl” (she is 17 after all, a young woman really), a sinister uncle, a crumbling house on a neglected estate, a conniving cousin, a sinister governess, and everyone with mysterious reasons for their actions.

The horror of this novel is all atmosphere and the unknown. Our main character, Maud, is a strange combination of naïve and knowledgeable, with just enough knowledge to keep her alive and enough naiveté to keep her bumping along into trouble.

A m
Sep 26, 2011 Marialyce rated it really liked it
Shelves: classics, sept-2011
I thought it was just the perfect read for those nights when it is dark and gloomy. I loved the easy flow and direction that this story took. The writing kept me engaged for the entire time and really did keep me guessing about Uncle Silas until the end. Was he a good guy or was he something sinister? was the inevitable question and depending on where you were in this book, your opinion could change. I like being "kept on one's toes" while reading a novel

Mr Le Fanu created a true Victorian nove
Dillwynia Peter
May 13, 2014 Dillwynia Peter rated it liked it
The last 120 pages moved like an interstate express train! The suffocating evil just ripped along & was an enjoyable read.

I lost the stars from not liking the narrator at all. Normally, naive young women don't bother me, but this one did. It is purely personal, so I'm sure many others won't feel the same. The premise is very realistic and the way Uncle Silas manipulates young Maud is excellent psychological drama. The majority of the female characters have strong personalities, and the villa
Mar 14, 2010 F.R. rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
For a melodramatic Sensation novel, with a plot containing all kinds of familial deception, this is actually quite dull. To be fair the opening is well crafted and tense, with the heroine menaced by a sinister French governess. However the middle (ironically, from when Uncle Silas himself is introduced) is far too long and uneventful and it’s only the last fifty or so pages when genuine drama resurfaces.

Furthermore, even by the standards of Victorian male writers, Le Fanu’s heroine is limp and
Bilbo Baggins
Jul 18, 2016 Bilbo Baggins rated it it was amazing
7/5 stars~~~~~~~
This book.........
There was so much depth and darkness to this book, but it also had so much joy and it was funny! I found my self laughing outloud tons of times!
Then again, this book is TERRIFYING. I was so freaked out while I was reading it!
Along with this amazing plot, the characters were fabulous! Maud, the main character, was so relatable to me
Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu does bone-chilling creepiness exceedingly well. This book made the hairs on my neck stand up at least twice; not the easiest thing to accomplish with fiction. The story contains several villains, with varying degrees of overt nastiness and subtlety. That being said, I found myself repeatedly grinding my teeth at or wanting to shake the heroine into using her brain at least once in a while. Admittedly, I am relatively unversed in the gothic horror sub-genre having only pre ...more
Oct 19, 2012 Sarah rated it it was amazing
I was amused that this book starts with a longer version of the cliched mystery beginning sentence, "It was a dark and stormy night": "It was winter--that is, about the second week of November--and great gusts were rattling at the windows, and wailing and thundering among our tall trees and ivied chimneys--a very dark night, and a very cheerful fire blazing, a pleasant mixture of good round coal and spluttering dry wood, in a geniune old fireplace, in a sombre old room"!

This was such an entertai
Jun 08, 2008 Sluggo added it
I am not a big fan of horror- I dont like slasher stuff and a lot seems just gratuitous. But Le Fanu- WOW! He's known as the guy that perfected the "gothic horror" tale. He's a master at conjuring up an atmosphere and was even when there are ghosts, they relate the the psychology going on in the tale. In Uncle Silas, the main character is a girl well socialized in the victorian ideal of refined womanhood. She always tried to think the best of people, chooses the most positive explaination (frust ...more
Mar 05, 2016 Kathrin rated it really liked it
Shelves: horror, 19th-century, uk
This book truly surprised me. It happens quite a lot that I already know the general plot of a classic which unfortunately means the ending won’t surprise me. I still love to read those books a lot since I’m a big fan of their wording and settings. In this particular case I haven’t heard of the book before – it was a recommendation on a ‘the best books of…’ list that I got curious about.

Uncle Silas is the story of Maud, an heiress to a big fortune who lives alone with her father. Her uncle is a
Jan 30, 2016 Myles rated it it was amazing
Fine gothic horror. Le Fanu promoted his novels as romances, in the tradition of Sir Walter Scott, but with Uncle Silas he created a sly and suspenseful gothic horror. The novel was originally published in three volumes, but it is tightly written - with every scene and every observation of the characters vital to the atmosphere of the story and to the needs of the plot. That is something his contemporaries Dickens and Collins can rarely boast.

The novel is also a mixture, full of social commenta
Jan 18, 2016 Nicola rated it it was amazing
This was a wonderfully engaging read which I have to say was a bit of a surprise. Considering the time period it was written in and the fact that it is a famous 'gothic' horror novel I was braced for fainting and hysterical heroines, supernatural mysteries and a plot improbable enough to make Walpole proud (the author of The Castle of Otranto). I was also listening to an audio reading from librivox and I wasn't expecting to be able to stomach it as I don't have a particularly high opinion of the ...more
Sir Michael Röhm
A truly great book that deserves to be better known.

Maud Ruthyn is a young woman who lives at home with her austere and eccentric father, Austin, and some servants. The Ruthyns are part of a wealthy family, and her father's brother, Silas, is a man to whom scandal and disrepute are attached.

Maud is fascinated by Silas, and wishes to clear his name, but as a mere girl in her father's house, she can do little.

Her father institutes for her a governess, a truly remarkable villain, a French woman nam
Dec 07, 2011 Leonie rated it it was amazing
I don't think I've ever read a Victorian novel that read so much like a novel written later and set in the nineteenth century. By which I don't mean that it's modern and innovative and more explicit than would have been allowed at the time, but that it seems oddly self-conscious of its tropes and atmospherics. Like it's trying to be a Victorian gothic novel, in a way that, to my mind, seems to go more with someone who has the concentrated retrospective view and, in my view, succeeds beautifully. ...more
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Joseph Thomas Sheridan Le Fanu (28 August 1814 – 7 February 1873) was an Irish writer of Gothic tales and mystery novels. He was the leading ghost-story writer of the nineteenth century and was central to the development of the genre in the Victorian era. M.R. James described Le Fanu as "absolutely in the first rank as a writer of ghost stories". Three of his best-known works are Uncle Silas, Carm ...more
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“The stream of life is black and angry; how so many of us get across without drowning, I often wonder. The best way is not to look too far before-just from one stepping-stone to another; and though you may wet your feet, He won't let you drown-He has not allowed me.” 12 likes
“Perhaps other souls than human are sometimes born into the world, and clothed in flesh.” 9 likes
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