Derek Davis's Reviews > Uncle Silas

Uncle Silas by J. Sheridan Le Fanu
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's review
Jan 01, 2011

really liked it

Given its time and place, this may deserve the full five stars, for it's excellently constructed, with superb characters. Like so many of its contemporary (mid 19th century) novels, it moves at a glacial pace, but that seems to be what was needed in the pre-radio and TV days. Here, La Fanu writes as a woman narrator and pulls if off in masterly fashion. The underlying mystery behind the strange, reclusive Uncle Silas and the lingering menace to the heroine, Maud, leave a shadow on everything and everyone.

Maud is the daughter of an almost insanely rich widower who is beset by a malaise that may or may not spring from incidents in the past. On his death, Maud is sent to live with Uncle Silas as her guardian. Well, I'm sure you can imagine much of the rest, but it's the manner of telling that makes it work. The dialog is often as scattered and odd as the characters, and the bumpkins she comes to know are far more interesting, on the whole, than the upper-classers. This seems deliberate on the author's part, and it's remarkable that he allows his narrator to fail to understand their worth until they learn to speak properly.

Much the best I've read of La Fanu.

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