I have to admit that somewhere around the middle of this book I started fear my adoration for our saucy heroine was going to be permanently soured. II have to admit that somewhere around the middle of this book I started fear my adoration for our saucy heroine was going to be permanently soured. I started questioning her decision making abilities and almost put the book down. Luckily, the second half of the book redeemed her in my eyes and I was able to enjoy the rest of the book. ...more
It seems I am forever giving classic titles three star ratings. I think it's because while I may enjoy them, I can't imagine myself ever reading themIt seems I am forever giving classic titles three star ratings. I think it's because while I may enjoy them, I can't imagine myself ever reading them a second or third time. This is certainly true for this book. I did enjoy it - mostly - and I'm glad I read it, but I won't read it again when there are so many other books out there waiting for me to discover them.
Spoiler alert! Stop reading now if you intend to read this book....
The story of Ambrosio, Abbot of a Capuchin Monastery, is one of sin. His famed piety is tested several times throughout the novel and he fails each test miserably. He commits rape and murder, falls prey to sorcery, and in the end is so fearful that he sells his soul to Lucifer. His fall from grace is rapid, although it is not without its struggle. After all, he is an Abbot and well versed in his religion. His belief in God and Heaven and Hell is solid. He simply is not able to resist the pleasures of the flesh and falsely relies on his reputation to protect him.
There are other dominant characters in this story that deserve attention. They either contribute to Ambrosio's downfall or they are the victim of his machinations. There is the lovely Antonia whose innocence and beauty are an aphrodisiac impossible to resist. Her world-wise mother who tries to save her from lechery. The rich and powerful lord who wishes to make Antonia his bride but must first deal with his sister's scandalous situation. The sister, Agnes, who gets pregnant after she joins the convent and tries to arrange an elopement that goes hopelessly awry. The powerful lord who loves Agnes and their unborn babe but is powerless against the authority of the prioress running the convent.
The most interesting character, though, in my opinion, is Matilda. She first appears under an assumed identity of the lowly novice, Rosario. Hidden by a cowl, she passes for a boy and is soon a favorite of Ambrosio's. When their friendship is firmly established, she reveals her true self and throws herself upon his mercy. She confesses to loving him and pleads his continued protection, promising that only he will know her gender. Serving him is her only concern. She cannot imagine a life distant from him.
Ambrosio's ego is appropriately stroked and she ends up seducing him. She is the motivating voice behind all of his bad choices. When he tires of her body and finds another woman more appealing, there is no evidence of jealousy. Instead, she coaches him on how to seduce the young innocent. She provides him with a spelled hand mirror that allows him to watch Antonia in mundane activities and those most private. She fans the flame of desire and offers him the means to obtain that which he should not be able to touch.
Matilda is, of course, the devil's agent. It's all very Adam and Eve. The woman serves as the conduit for Satan's bad intentions. She is the madwoman, the witch, the monstrous female. She is everything that can ruin an otherwise good, upstanding man. Without her influence, the reader is led to believe Ambrosio would never have felt the first stirring of lust despite the biological imperative bred into his DNA. He would never have maneuvered himself into a position where the harm he causes was even possible. He is not responsible. He is as much a victim as he is the villain.
I realize this book was written in an age when this type of thinking was still quite rampant. Unfortunately, as I look at the world around me, I fear it is not quite as antiquated as it should be. I could riff on slut shaming now, but I won't. I'll just leave things here and go look for my next good read. ...more
I really liked this book. I can't speak to the accuracy of the science, but it doesn't matter. If I had wanted to learn scientific facts, I would haveI really liked this book. I can't speak to the accuracy of the science, but it doesn't matter. If I had wanted to learn scientific facts, I would have reached for a textbook. I picked up this scifi book in order to be entertained and I was....more