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Uncle Silas

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3.74  ·  Rating details ·  5,190 Ratings  ·  384 Reviews
One of the most significant and intriguing Gothic novels of the Victorian period and is enjoyed today as a modern psychological thriller. In UNCLE SILAS (1864) Le Fanu brought up to date Mrs Radcliffe's earlier tales of virtue imprisoned and menaced by unscrupulous schemers. The narrator, Maud Ruthyn, is a 17 year old orphan left in the care of her fearful uncle, Silas. To ...more
Paperback, Penguin Classics, 477 pages
Published June 1st 2001 by Penguin Books (first published December 1864)
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Elizabeth Stephens One of my top 5 favorite books of all time. If you've read anything by Jackson this is very much HER stylistically. Very reminiscent of The Haunting…moreOne of my top 5 favorite books of all time. If you've read anything by Jackson this is very much HER stylistically. Very reminiscent of The Haunting of Hill House and the Lottery, as well as The Yellow Wallpaper (Charlotte Perkins Gilman) and Where are You Going, Where have you Been? (Joyce Carol Oates)(less)
Kathleen Flynn If your experience is like mine you have trouble putting it down after a certain point, so maybe in that sense. But it is more psychologically creepy…moreIf your experience is like mine you have trouble putting it down after a certain point, so maybe in that sense. But it is more psychologically creepy than supernatural-scary. Even though there are evil omens and hints of ghosts, etc., the real suspense comes from wondering if the narrator is being gaslighted or is perhaps losing her mind under the stress of her situation. The way it's told, you know she survives -- the real mystery lies in how.(less)

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Bill  Kerwin
Mar 10, 2012 rated it really liked it

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 order
...more
❀Julie
I had such high expectations for this old classic that seemed almost impossible to get my hands on. My idea of a “cozy mystery” is a Gothic/Victorian Era mystery so when this finally became available to me I was thrilled to read it. I loved the sound of the premise: After the death of her father, a 17-year-old heiress is sent to live under her uncle’s care, of whom rumor has it he may or may not have committed a murder. I was concerned for her safety among a whole slew of suspicious characters. ...more
Bilbo Baggins
Feb 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
7/5 stars~~~~~~~
This book.........
This is one of my ALL TIME FAVORITES RIGHT HERE!!!
There was so much depth and darkness to this book, but it also had so much joy and it was funny! I found my self laughing outloud tons of times!
Then again, this book is TERRIFYING. I was so freaked out while I was reading it!
Along with this amazing plot, the characters were fabulous! Maud, the main character, was so relatable to me
Hannah
Oct 03, 2011 rated it liked it
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
...more
Alex
Sep 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: gothic, 2014, rth-lifetime
Are Gothic novels respectable? Let's talk about it. Would this be a good time to sit backwards on my chair? Fuck yes it would, Let's Get Real. I recently read Anthony Trollope's landmark Serious Novel The Way We Live Now, from around the same time to (1875 to Silas's 1864), so let's use that one to compare themes.

- 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,
...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
Sean
Sep 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Amanda
Nov 03, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audible
4.5 stars - this was just awesome Victorian fun. Lots of twists and turns. Very atmospheric. I listened to the audio narrated by BJ Harrison. He did a great job. For the first hour or so I had a hard time with a male narrator since the MC, Maud is a young girl but he did the other voices so well and I got used to him as Maud's voice. I do think a talented female narrator might have been a better choice but overall great audio. This book was on my 2016 classics challenge and I am so glad that I g ...more
Nancy Oakes
I decided to reread this book a few weeks ago when someone online was asking about a Victorian mystery and this one popped into my head. Well, there's that, plus the fact that many months ago, I'd bought a dvd of the old BBC adaptation of Uncle Silas called "The Dark Angel" and really wanted to watch it, but I wanted to wait until I'd reread the book. I have two different editions: Penguin ( ISBN 9780140437461) and this one from Dover, but I had just finished a Dover reprint of another book and ...more
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
Laura
Sep 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: all Le Fanu's fans
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
Katie Lumsden
Oct 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
Maybe 3.5. I very much enjoyed this one. Very creepy, very atmospheric, a complex and interesting story with a curious central protagonist and interesting themes throughout.
Lobstergirl
Jul 17, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction

Like so many fictional Victorian daughters, Maud Ruthyn adores her father and trusts him completely. (Mother is dead.) Obeying his wishes is her heart's desire. In this she is a complete idiot, because her father is actually a terrible parent. Not only does Austin Ruthyn neglect her, but his will provides that on his death she will go live with his brother Silas, whom Maud has never met, until her majority. Putting the interests of one's child first would dictate that Maud go to live with her mi
...more
Kim
Sep 19, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle

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
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
Marvin
Apr 22, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: horror
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
Nicola
Nov 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This was a wonderfully engaging read which I have to say was a bit of a surprise. Considering the time period it was written in and the fact that it is a famous 'gothic' horror novel I was braced for fainting and hysterical heroines, supernatural mysteries and a plot improbable enough to make Walpole proud (the author of The Castle of Otranto). I was also listening to an audio reading from librivox and I wasn't expecting to be able to stomach it as I don't have a particularly high opinion of the ...more
Ali
Apr 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
 (shan) Littlebookcove
Uncle Silas I must admit I do like a good Victorian Literature! It's just disappointing that Le Fanu doesn't have the same reputation as many other classic Victorian writer's.This story tells the tale of a young and Naive Maud Ruthyn, whose father's death leaves her under the care of the mysterious uncle of the story's title.One of the most striking points about this book is that apart from a few scattered incidents and a wonderfully melodramatic ending very little happens!I found myself hooked ...more
Paul
Oct 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Kathrin
May 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
This book truly surprised me. It happens quite a lot that I already know the general plot of a classic which unfortunately means the ending won’t surprise me. I still love to read those books a lot since I’m a big fan of their wording and settings. In this particular case I haven’t heard of the book before – it was a recommendation on a ‘the best books of…’ list that I got curious about.

Uncle Silas is the story of Maud, an heiress to a big fortune who lives alone with her father. Her uncle is a
...more
Wanda
Could a book get any more gothic? An orphaned “girl” (she is 17 after all, a young woman really), a sinister uncle, a crumbling house on a neglected estate, a conniving cousin, a sinister governess, and everyone with mysterious reasons for their actions.

The horror of this novel is all atmosphere and the unknown. Our main character, Maud, is a strange combination of naïve and knowledgeable, with just enough knowledge to keep her alive and enough naiveté to keep her bumping along into trouble.

A m
...more
Marialyce
Sep 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sept-2011, classics
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
Dillwynia Peter
Mar 26, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Jane
May 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An entertaining mid-Victorian gothic tale that focuses more on the psychology of predator and victim than on the creepy elements, although they are all there. Maud, an heiress, falls under the power of her uncle Silas after her father's death--this is a man she's never known, who was accused of murder as a young man but who appears to have reformed and found religion.

Uncle Silas's power is evident long before Maud loses her father, in the sinister personage of her French governess (whose speech
...more
Lucia
Jun 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
It was winter - that is, about the second week in November - and great gusts were rattling at the windows, and wailing and thundering among our tall trees and ivied chimneys - a very dark night .... A girl, of a little more than seventeen, looking, I believe younger still; ... and with a countenance rather sensitive and melancholy, was sitting at the tea-table, in a reverie. I was that girl.

Sheridan Le Fanu lays his cards straight from these opening lines. The creepy atmosphere and Maud narrat
...more
Randolph
Dripping with Gothic menace poor rich girl Maud Ruthyn braves every attempt to separate her from her life and her inheritance. Even the good guys are mostly super creepy making things even more interesting.

Le Fanu's best novel, Green Tea and Carmilla are his best works however.
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Joseph Thomas Sheridan Le Fanu (28 August 1814 – 7 February 1873) was an Irish writer of Gothic tales and mystery novels. He was the leading ghost-story writer of the nineteenth century and was central to the development of the genre in the Victorian era. M.R. James described Le Fanu as "absolutely in the first rank as a writer of ghost stories". Three of his best-known works are Uncle Silas, Carm ...more
“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.” 12 likes
“Perhaps other souls than human are sometimes born into the world, and clothed in flesh.” 10 likes
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