Trice's Reviews > The Mysteries of Udolpho

The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe
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's review
Jan 25, 12

really liked it
bookshelves: literature, 2012, europa
Recommended to Trice by: Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey, The Jane Austen Bookclub, Ann's passing on of this copy
Recommended for: anyone who's read Northanger Abbey +
Read from January 08 to 24, 2012 — I own a copy

***1/2 I feel very mixed about this one. I truly enjoyed the story, partly for itself and partly for what it adds to a reading of Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey (which now seems like a commentary/response to Udolpho). It's a different kind of adventure story, partly in that the main characters are so against the idea of adventure and the mountains themselves are terror. It had me in fits of laughter (which still recur in smaller form whenever I think about this) during some of the most serious parts because Our Heroine usually fainted when anything became scary or dramatic or tense or intense or.... And what do I think of our dear Emily? She was an admirable person in many respects, but it seems odd that one who was admirable in the ways she showed herself to be would be so susceptible to a lady's fainting fits. While reading, as things became more intense I would myself be reading more intensely, but at the same time couldn't help laughing because, of course, you had to know after a certain amount of reading, that this increased intensity predicted Emily conking out *groan*. Okay, okay, I know this was intended to bring home this central idea of emotion being dangerous if permitted to run rampant, and there were some places where she made her point strongly. I want to add a 'but' there, but (ha!) reading the notes in the back presented some of the ideas that were common or growing at the time, one among them being that women were of a more emotional nature and so needed to beware the condition and consequences of giving in to emotion too much. And speaking of emotion, (view spoiler) made me roll my eyes a lot a lot a lot.

I'm still thinking over my response to the presentation of women here, although I think she did a pretty good and balanced job. The issue of the overindulgence of emotion was spread pretty equally between the genders. Emily's the only one who faints so much (or at all, I think), but she is supposed to be very sensitive I believe. There are some characters who go to the extreme of emotion, to the point of being something like human monsters... I want to say these were unrealistic, but sadly there are some people in the world who might match their level of self-centered tyranny, whether over a large group of people or over a family.

In terms of power, it struck me how much at the mercy of men all the women end up being to some extent, and through one means or another. Perhaps the one exception for a while is Madam Cheron, who is a widow, but (view spoiler). *sigh* Instead of fainting, there were so many times I wished Emily would surprise everyone by pulling out the daggers hidden up her sleeves (in my imagination they were there, even if Radcliffe doesn't agree), or grabbing someone's rapier and taking them all down! And speaking of rapiers, why did all the sword fights have to be completely uninformative summaries?!

On a completely different note, the scenery in the book, the experience of it along with its appearance, was breath-taking. I want to run away to the mountains and forests of France and Italy right now!

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Reading Progress

01/08/2012 page 19
3.0% "beautifully descriptive writing so far (1st chapter) - far beyond Bram Stoker's (just finished Dracula) if we're comparing the Gothic. Emily's conversation with her father, St. Aubert, made me think of L.M. Montgomery's Emily of New Moon... and also made me wonder how much Gothic literature Anne and her friends read for them to indulge in those fantasies about the wood, etc."

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