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The Monk

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  22,155 ratings  ·  1,711 reviews
Set in the sinister monastery of the Capuchins in Madrid, The Monk is a violent tale of ambition, murder, and incest. The great struggle between maintaining monastic vows and fulfilling personal ambitions leads its main character, the monk Ambrosio, to temptation and the breaking of his vows, then to sexual obsession and rape, and finally to murder in order to conceal his ...more
Paperback, Oxford World's Classics, 456 pages
Published May 14th 1998 by Oxford University Press (first published 1796)
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Average rating 3.81  · 
Rating details
 ·  22,155 ratings  ·  1,711 reviews

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Bill Kerwin

When I was younger, I avoided this book because the literary snob in me--a much more insistent voice back then than now--had decided, on the basis of ”informed opinion,” that “The Monk” was a calculated exercise in sensationalism, a device for producing horrific thrills through the deliberate, exploitative use of cheap effects and anti-Catholic stereotypes.

Now that I have read it, I see that the literary snob in me had a point. “The Monk” is all of these things. But it is also more.

I think the
Jeffrey Keeten
May 13, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-to-film, gothic
”Lucifer stood before him a second time. He borrowed the Seraph’s form to deceive Ambrosio. He appeared in all that ugliness, which since his fall from heaven had been his portion: His blasted limbs still bore marks of the Almighty’s thunder: A swarthy darkness spread itself over his gigantic form: His hands and feet were armed with long Talons: Fury glared in his eyes, which might have struck the bravest heart with terror: Over his huge shoulders waved two enormous sable wings; and his hair was ...more
This is such a great fun book to read. It's really not like anything else at all, it's so extreme in every way. It was written in the era of the great classics, but this one is never going to be taught in schools.

The book out-Gothics all the Gothic novels you ever read, Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey isn't even related to the raw perversion and criminality of this madcap horror ride through the forbidden where taboos fall one by one as the The Monk, unable to live up to his vows gives in to ever
Hannah Greendale
Click here to watch a video review of this book on my BookTube channel, From Beginning to Bookend.

Scandalous and scintillating, The Monk is a literary marvel.
Amalia Gavea
‘’I must have your soul; must have it mine, and mine forever.’’

This is one of the pioneers of Gothic Fiction, a work that defined one of the most fascinating, demanding and controversial genres. A novel written in the end of the 18th century that shocked the reading audience of its time with its last, darkness and violence. But what about the contemporary readers? Well, a few hundred years later and ‘’The Monk’’ still continues to attract us. My first experience with Lewis’ novel took place
Henry Avila
Jun 07, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ambrosio, the abbot, is the perfect monk, head of an abbey in Madrid, and the idol of the city, a young, handsome, charismatic man, with a spellbinding voice, that thrills the congregation at his church. All the people flock to it, to hear his sermons, five minutes after the bells ring, the church is overflowing, and the noble families are there, silently the assembly listens, a living saint, they witness, the proud people are ecstatic, in this modern age (the 1700's), God has sent them Ambrosio ...more
Paul Bryant
Sep 25, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spooky-ookums, novels
Calling all Gothic Novel fans : you have to read The Monk - this is the Texas Chainsaw Massacre of Gothic novels which will unjade the most jaded. Here you will find much fun to be had with nuns, priests with uncontrollable underwear, more nuns, pregnant nuns, nuns with minimal clothing, nuns giving birth in frankly unsanitory conditions attended only by untrained inappropriate monks, heaving bosoms, unspeakable acts, souls in the process of being damned for all eternity, mostly ghostly ectoplas ...more
Sean Barrs
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 08, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“What? live to plunge myself in infamy? to become an agent of hell? to work the destruction in both you and myself?”

Alright, this book is hilarious.

However, there are a few spoilers in this review. If you think you’ll read The Monk someday (and you should, seriously), maybe come back to this another time. Or don’t, who knows, maybe it won’t be so bad? Maybe this is the best, most spoiler free review you’ll ever read in your life? (see, I’m tempting you, because it’s the theme of the book!).

Apr 28, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: horror
I think Wilkie Collins has spoiled me when it comes to this type of Victorian/Gothic/Thriller because it's so hard to match his writing and storytelling skills. That being said, I'll add that The Monk was a fun read. While it's clearly an attack on organized religion - the Catholic church in particular - a close reading makes it also clear that Lewis found a significant difference between organized religion and a personal relationship with a Supreme Being. While he provides several interesting t ...more
Nov 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: horror
This was going to be part of my themed Halloween 2017 Reads, but I overestimated my reading speed (or lack thereof) and here we are in December. Just as well I suppose as The Monk: A Romance took me 48 days to read, mostly as an audiobook I was listening to in the bus on my two hours commutes to work. Ah, but those were vastly amusing bus journeys thanks to this outrageously fun, (unintentionally) silly book.

The Monk is often described as a gothic novel, which is not inaccurate but to my mind, i
Jul 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: horror
One of the weirdest gothic tales I ever come across. In parts surreal. Highly recommended!
Jan 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorite, gothic, satire
OMGGGGGGG.... I totally CANNOT believe that the author of this book was 19 YEARS OLD when he wrote this, and he wrote it under 10 WEEKS . This is a masterpiece!! A 18TH CENTURY GOTHIC GODDAMN MASTERPIECE!!! Seriously high school kids would have loved the hell out of this and seek to read more classics were they not confined to snoring tomes like... idk, A scarlet letter? (Sorry, Hawthorne I have never gotten used to you ). "The Monk" retells the stories of a monk who abandons his virtues to be ...more
Oct 21, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, 18-ce, uk
This novel is all about Christian, specifically Catholic, sexual hysteria. Sex seems to determine everyone's motivation in the first volume. This makes sense when you consider that it was written by a nineteen year old for whom these obsessions were no doubt a daily occurence. Fortunately for us, he has managed to sublimate them into the form of a novel. (Which puts me in mind of E.M. Forster, who, when touched on the ass by an admirer at a tender age, promptly went home and wrote Maurice.)

A du
O Father Ambrosio, stop Monking around!

This book was quite a surprise. Yes, there are all sorts of hypocritical Monk-y debauchery and lustful, euphemism-filled scenes. But there are also two romantic subplots that filled with action, swashbuckling heroes, damsels in distress and deceit. All three stories end up intertwining in unexpected ways.

Did more people in olden times have prosopagnosia, or what? Why was it so damn easy to disguise yourself?

I had all sorts of naughty fun reading even more f
Jan 06, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book has long been on my TBR but I really didn't know that much about it. I have to say I was completely hooked from the beginning. Yes, the language is dated and there are parts that are a bit tedious. I think better editing would have done wonders. There were some really good twists at the end that while I thought they were great I would have liked more backstory on them. There were a couple of very disturbing scenes (one rape scene in particular was just haunting). This is a must read fo ...more
3.5 stars

Dreams, magic terrors, spells of mighty power, Witches, and ghosts who rove at midnight hour.

I read this for the Classic Horror Halloween Bingo square.
It's said this was written by a 19/20 yr old and within 10 weeks, which if true, is amazing. The format of having a main character, Ambrosio (the monk), and then having secondary characters branch off from him and tangentially going astray and telling their stories, only to have them all come together in the end, was extremely compell
Jul 10, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Now that I've finished this fabulous piece, I remember I read it several years ago. However, this time around I enjoyed it so much more. Be it because of age, wisdom, life knocking me around a bit more, don't know the reason why only that I absolutely couldn't shut up talking about it with my husband all night last night.

For being only 19 when he wrote it and during the particular time period, he was very astute at the cultural swing that was occuring at the time. There is even a note of awarene
Well that was absolute chaos. I'm very tempted to give it 4 stars but... can't quite. This is so over the top. Its a complete melodrama, but it also goes to places so much more extreme than i expected. It's is also a complete mess. The author tends to follow a character until he hits a wall, then backup and head off in another direction. A lot of it feels very pulpy, its clear that a lot of it was not planned out from the start, despite the annoying foreshadowing we get. It stops every so often ...more
Feb 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved the language of this one. It had a deliciously creepy old school vibe to it. Probably on the account that is was originally penned in 1796.

Truly a classic and holds up remarkably well.
Jul 01, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Somewhat surreal in places but such a great gothic! I’m surprised this isn’t more popular. It took me ages to finally finish it because I did find the first 200 pages a bit of a drag but I’m very grateful I pursued, the set up was indeed necessary to the understanding of all the characters and their follies.
Shala Howell
Rendered nearly senseless by the impact of reading words so breathlessly written, she nonetheless persisted in reviewing a book whose attractions she could not have resisted, had her mind not been steeled by the remembrance of a 1000 other works more artfully written.

If you like that sort of writing, go read this book. It's got lots and lots of pages of it.
Mar 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
WOW! this book is fantastic, shocking and scandalous! it continued to go to dark places and kept surprising me over & over. I highly recommend this book. read it. it's free. ...more

I hope to write a proper review of this book later, but for now, all I want to say is that this has been the most fun and diabolical romp through the darkest recesses of Gothic fiction that I have ever come across.

I'm not sure it is a book I would recommend without reservations because there are large parts where this story just drags on and on, but it is definitely also a book I wish I had read much earlier.

And for what it is worth, I am very impressed that this story ends with both a ban
Nov 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The granddaddy of all gothic novels. Hugely over the top but oh, such fun -- bandits and dungeons and ghosts, impoverished beauties and degenerate monks and wicked nuns, mysterious orphans and ancient castles and the summoning of demons, lost loves and lost souls and lost virtue, this book has it all. I think my favorite bits were Matilda's logical arguments in favor of sin - suspiciously clever yet quite convincing :)
Finally, some fun in the Enlightenment. The Monk is a blast, a page-turner, chock full of insane plot twists and sinning.

It can't be accused of being terribly well-written, so you know that old debate between eloquence and plot? If you tip heavily toward eloquence, you might not like this as much.

But for me, clawing my way out of a pit of Oh-So-Literary books starved for's just what I needed. The only 18th-century book that I had more fun with was Voltaire's Candide.
Althea Ann
Jun 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I somehow managed to get through this much of my life, including a college class in gothic literature; without ever reading this book. How? It was great!
Published in 1796 and written by a 19-year-old, it was a massive, bestselling success in its day - and it really still holds up as a fun, entertaining read.

This particular edition had the most *awful* introduction EVER, though. (I will not dignify the author of said intro by even mentioning his name, which I had never heard before anyway.) It wa
170319: probably the most fun i have ever had with any book over 225 years old. except maybe the windmill guy. but then my idea of ‘fun’ is different, as here i revel in this comic/horrific/sexual text more in reading it through having read so many other books, and thus now understand the ‘rules of the game’. this is fantasy (horror...). i can see why it appealed to the surrealists. this is one of those ur-texts of all descendant romantic/gothic fantasies that no one reads but magically sell so ...more
4.5 stars for this book

This book is shocking, especially considering the period it was written (1776). This is a gothic book through and though filled with sex, magic, ghostly violence!

A perfect tale for the month of October!

Update 05/05/018
I’m changing my rating to 5 stars. This book is just unbelievable shocking and fascinating.
This must be one of the most difficult novels to grade, so far. I have no idea how many stars to give it, four or five. It's so strange and unique that I'm incapable of comparing it to any other literature. I know it inspired Ann Radcliffe's The Italian, but I can't see many significant similarities between the two. The story is so dark, I can't think of another novel in the same way. Most gothic fiction fade in comparison.

The main story is about a man's fall from the highest of grace and rank t
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Matthew Gregory Lewis was an English novelist and dramatist, often referred to as "Monk" Lewis, because of the success of his classic Gothic novel, The Monk.

Matthew Gregory Lewis was the firstborn child of Matthew and Frances Maria Sewell Lewis. Both his parents' families had connections with Jamaica. Lewis' father owned considerable property in Jamaica, within four miles of Savanna-la-Mer, or Sav

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