Hannah's Reviews > Uncle Silas

Uncle Silas by J. Sheridan Le Fanu
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Oct 03, 2011

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bookshelves: 2011-reads, classics, gothics
Read in October, 2011

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 like The Woman in White or The Mysteries of Udolpho (both of which remain future reads for me), I can say that this novel was personally more enjoyable then Wuthering Heights, but less so then my all time favorite, Jane Eyre. I mean, how could anything beat Jane Eyre?

Uncle Silas has all the hallmarks of a Victorian gothic melodrama:

- A young and impressionable heroine, isolated from the wider world and forced by personal tragedy to make her way through a maze of menacing circumstances.

- Darkly threatening characters who seek emotional and physical destruction of the heroine contrasting with sympathetic characters who may be hiding a dark secret.

- The richly iconic elements of the genre like moldering houses, hints of the supernatural, violent death, subtle sexual overtones, and the BIG.SECRET that will be revealed.

- And of course by the end (view spoiler).

If at times my modern sensibilities railed over a swooning and dithering heroine with her "woe-is-me" attitude and her inability to see the writing on the wall, there were just as many other times that I cheered her spunk and "can-do" attitude, and praised the male writer who would write her so.

This is a well developed and page turning novel at the beginning and in the final 4 chapters. I felt the middle section dragged with material that didn't advance the plot, but that's probably due to my impatience with Victorian literature in general.

I would recommend Uncle Silas to those interested in exploring this period and this genre.
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Comments (showing 1-26 of 26) (26 new)

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message 1: by Christine (new)

Christine Honsinger I've wondered about this one for years...i will be interested in your final review! :)


message 2: by Hannah (last edited Oct 05, 2011 04:44AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Hannah Christine wrote: "I've wondered about this one for years...i will be interested in your final review! :)"

Christine,
So far, so good. I know how much you enjoy gothics. This might prove to be one of the "classics" among gothic literature.


Laura You didn't enjoy it so much....


message 4: by Hannah (last edited Oct 18, 2011 11:02AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Hannah Laura wrote: "You didn't enjoy it so much...."

Oh, but I did.
3.5 stars is more then "liked it" but not quite "really liked it". I thought the beginning was good and the final 4 chapters were excellent. IMO, the middle part meandered and dragged a bit too much for my taste. Altogether my 3.5 rating is the highest rating I could apply to it for overall personal enjoyment of a book of this period. Does that make sense?

I'll try to post my review within the next few days.


Laura yes, it does makes sense now. Looking forward for your review. I started to read Daniel Deronda which is being discussed at the Victorians group.


message 6: by Christine (new)

Christine Honsinger excellent review, hannah...and,you sold me, as you often do! :)


Hannah Christine wrote: "excellent review, hannah...and,you sold me, as you often do! :)"

I really appreciate it, Christine. I look forward to reading what you think of it.


message 8: by Pat (last edited Jul 29, 2012 04:50PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Pat "...and praised the male writer who would write her so."

This is the point where I KNEW the book had done its job! I loved this novel even better than "Woman in White", and though I am not (as an English Lit major) allowed to prefer it over "Wuthering Heights" (which I was given to understand was generally considered the greatest English novel ever written) I too, enjoyed it more. Le Fanu's "Camilla" is on my Groups reading list, but can you imagine reading a vampire story by him? Terrifying!


Hannah PatK wrote: ""...and praised the male writer who would write her so."

This is the point where I KNEW the book had done its job! I loved this novel even better than "Woman in White", and though I am not (as an..."


While I cannot travel the path with you on the love of Wuthering Heights, I'm glad to know you had a similar opinion of Uncle Silas. I'm willing to cut these Victorian male writers some slack when it comes to depicting females, so when they exceed my expectations, I'm a happy camper.

I've got Carmilla on my TBR list as well. Loved Dracula so much (why did I wait so long to read it??), so have high hopes for Carmilla as well. I think my GR friend Laura from Brazil liked it alot.


Laura I loved Carmilla, very gothic in my opinion.


Hannah Laura wrote: "I loved Carmilla, very gothic in my opinion."

Good to hear. I'll try to tackle it next year.


Laura Why do you have to wait until 2013??


Hannah Laura wrote: "Why do you have to wait until 2013??"

No reason, really. I just thought I'd try it then :D


Laura I'm just teasing you...


Hannah Laura wrote: "I'm just teasing you..."

haha - I'm not good at picking up on these things. I just figured you REALLY wanted me to read this pronto :D


Laura Take your time, we've already plenty of books in our TBR.


message 17: by Dorcas (new)

Dorcas oh, woman in white beats jane Eyre hands down and sitting on them! if you haven't already read it (I know this is an old review) you need to bump it up your tbr pile. Its probably my favorite Gothic of all time and "the moonstone " isn't far behind.


Hannah Dorcas wrote: "oh, woman in white beats jane Eyre hands down and sitting on them! if you haven't already read it (I know this is an old review) you need to bump it up your tbr pile..."

Dorcas,
Thanks for the added recommendation. I'll just have to be in the mood to tackle Victorian lit!


message 19: by Pat (new) - rated it 4 stars

Pat I read "Uncle Silas" years and years ago--I remember I never put it down, just read it through. I am a big fan of that period's literature. Love the way they used the language.


Hannah Pat wrote: "I read "Uncle Silas" years and years ago--I remember I never put it down, just read it through. I am a big fan of that period's literature. Love the way they used the language."

I wish I could say I was equally a fan, but I need to be in the mood to tackle 19th century literature, and usually read it along with another book of lesser mental "strength"!

Readers like yourself who enjoy it so much I admire very much :D


message 21: by Dorcas (new)

Dorcas oh I like to alternate genres too. if I read a chunkster my next one needs to be light. And the mood has to be right. Definately.


message 22: by Pat (new) - rated it 4 stars

Pat I was just inspired by you both to read Carmilla which is more novella sized....as it and most of Sheridan Le Fanu has been Kindlized, Kindled, whatever :)


message 23: by Hannah (last edited Sep 06, 2014 07:24PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Hannah Pat wrote: "I was just inspired by you both to read Carmilla which is more novella sized....as it and most of Sheridan Le Fanu has been Kindlized, Kindled, whatever :)"

Oooh, nice! There are some great reviews of Carmilla - alot of readers say it's so much better as a vampire novel then Dracula.


Laura Hannah wrote: "Pat wrote: "I was just inspired by you both to read Carmilla which is more novella sized....as it and most of Sheridan Le Fanu has been Kindlized, Kindled, whatever :)"

Oooh, nice! There are some..."


Agreed!!


message 25: by Pat (new) - rated it 4 stars

Pat "Dracula" I blush to say, I never finished...started reading it on my 'honeymoon' when I was still young and into Edwardian and Victorian literature up to my eyeballs...we were in a bungalow across the lake from a farmer who kept a pack of hounds. The time corresponded with a full moon and not coincidentally my husband is actually Transylvanian--both his parents having immigrated before the war. I got half way thru our first evening, the hounds began to howl---and decided there and then that vampiric literature was off limits :)

To this day, I remember the book as being the most terrifying thing I'd ever read. A


message 26: by Hannah (last edited Sep 07, 2014 08:28AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Hannah Pat wrote:...we were in a bungalow across the lake from a farmer who kept a pack of hounds..."

In that scenario, I would had chosen The Hound of the Baskervilles instead!
:O


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