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Uncle Silas

3.73 of 5 stars 3.73  ·  rating details  ·  3,511 ratings  ·  258 reviews
In Uncle Silas, Sheridan Le Fanu's most celebrated novel, Maud Ruthyn, the young, naïve heroine, is plagued by Madame de la Rougierre from the moment the enigmatic older woman is hired as her governess. A liar, bully, and spy, when Madame leaves the house, she takes her dark secret with her. But when Maud is orphaned, she is sent to live with her Uncle Silas, her father's ...more
Kindle Edition
Published (first published December 1864)
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Bill  Kerwin

“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
...more
Hannah
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
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Sean
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
...more
Chris
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
...more
Kim

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
...more
Alex
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, as Gothics do, with many of the same issues that your realist novels do. I recently read The Way We Live Now, from around the same time, so let's compare to that.

- 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 corrosi
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Cphe
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
...more
Marvin
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
Laura
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
...more
Ali
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
...more
Paul
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
Kay
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
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
...more
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
Dillwynia Peter
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
...more
Denae
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
Sarah
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
...more
F.R.
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
...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
...more
Marialyce
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
...more
Leonie
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
Sluggo
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
Lori Anderson
Jan 14, 2012 Lori Anderson rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lori by: Juliette
Shelves: mystery
A friend recommended this gothic Victorian horror thriller. "Horror thriller" might seem a little slow for modern-day thriller readers, but this particular book was written in 1864.


The premise -- a young girl/teenager's father dies, leaving her a fortune. Her uncle, Uncle Silas, is the black sheep of the family, yet the girl's father sends Maud to live with Uncle Silas, in part to try to prove to high society that no, Uncle Silas was NOT involved in a murder later deemed a suicide in his home.
...more
Judy
Sep 02, 2011 Judy rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: lovers of classics
Recommended to Judy by: Reading the Chunksters Group
This is my first foray into gothic horror. I must admit that I'll probably never read another in the horror genre in my life, but this book was enjoyable. Enter Maud Ruthyn, teenage heiress, living fairly isolated at Knowl with an eccentric father in ill-health. Her father tells her he is planning to go on a journey and reveals the contents of his will which allows for her to be under the guardianship of Uncle Silas, whom she has never met but heard disparaging rumors about. To make matters wors ...more
Kate
Oh Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, why has history so maligned you??! You were easily five times the writer and the man Bram Stoker was.

You also have this great ability to write convincing enough female characters- whether or not that springs from a voyeuristic interest in lesbian sex, I don't care! I also have a voyeuristic interest in lesbian sex!

And your great name! All those s and f and l sounds. It's practically impossible to form the name in the mouth or mind without thinking about sex. I mean, B
...more
Myles
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
...more
K.B. Goddard
Uncle Silas,

what is the books about? :

The book is the Story of Maud Ruthyn; Maud lives a solitary and quiet life, but a happy one. She lives with her father, a quiet man of unorthodox religious opinions and solitary habits. Her mother died when she was young and so the main female influences in her life are the maid and the housekeeper, both of whom she is very fond of.

But Maud’s peaceful life is interrupted suddenly when her father decides she is in need of a finishing governess. The woman he
...more
Justin
Uncle Silas follows the musings of Maud Ruthyn, an anxiety-riddled, soon-to-be wealthy heiress whose life is placed in the trust of her estranged, elderly uncle after her father's death. Le Fanu provisions the reader with a cast of colorful characters from Pegtop, the cruel milliner with a wooden leg to the sinister French governess Madame de la Rougierre, who constantly toys with Maud. While the book's tagline refers to Uncle Silas as, "a gothic novel of mystery," I didn't not find much of eith ...more
Ruthiella
Uncle Silas was my choice for the “Classic by an Author Who is New to You” for the Back to the Classics 2014 challenge hosted at http://karensbooksandchocolate.blogsp... .. This was also the first book I have read that was based solely on a goodreads algorithmic recommendation. Normally I would distrust a computer generated suggestion for something as diverse and personal as what to read, preferring to rely on human capabilities, but the cover of the Penguin Classic edition simply jumped out at ...more
Sheri
I generally like gothic novels and the picture on the cover of this one was appealing. Yet again, I found a reference to Ann Radcliffe's Udolpho, which I am going to read next. Overall this was as expected. Young girl in trouble, unable to identify the true villian and in the nick of time she gets her courage and saves herself.

The plot did not hold together as well as it might; we never understood how/why Madame knew Dudley (certainly her attempt for Dudley meet Maud in the Scarsdale Churchyard
...more
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Reading the Chunk...: Uncle Silas 187 87 Nov 10, 2011 07:28AM  
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Joseph Thomas Sheridan Le Fanu was an Irish writer of Gothic tales and mystery novels. He was the premier ghost story writer of the nineteenth century and had a seminal influence on the development of this genre in the Victorian era.
More about Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu...
Carmilla In a Glass Darkly Best Ghost Stories of J. S. Le Fanu Madam Crowl's Ghost & Other Stories Green Tea and Other Ghost Stories

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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.” 8 likes
“Knowledge is power-and power of one sort or another is the secret lust of human souls; and here is, beside the sense of exploration, the undefinable interest of a story, and above all, something forbidden, to stimulate the contumacious appetite.” 5 likes
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