Samantha's Reviews > The Monk

The Monk by Matthew Lewis
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it was ok

A wonderful gothic horror story buried inside the prejudices of the author, longwinded poetry, and some of the oddest plot construction I've encountered in a long time.

I read a fair number of older books, and I do cut a book a bit of slack for the time period in which it was written. Since this was published in 1796, I was not expecting it to conform to contemporary ideals of storytelling or of politics. (I have enjoyed other old gothic novels: The Castle of Otranto and Mysteries of Udolpho, for example).

That said, I become impatient when the author's politics pull me out of the story, especially when I picked up the story for a bit of lurid sensationalist escapism. Lewis spent nearly as much time telling me how pernicious women in general are as he spent telling me what happened to the particular women he was writing. And even by gothic novel standards, where we expect to find our heroines in peril regularly, these poor characters were abused, by the author as often as by the plot.

The book was also quite slow to get to the good bits. I had read half the book before it felt like anything of interest happened, even with skimming all the poetry and song lyrics. It took so long for the titular character to become central that I started to wonder if the novel had been mistitled. Structurally, it's a mess, seeming to wander from one part of the story to another without bothering to connect them. A chapter would seem to lead to the answer to a particular burning question, then just ignore all that built-up curiosity to talk about something else instead.

However, some scenes were wonderful! Whenever something supernatural was happening, the descriptions were vivid and exciting. The over-the-top melodrama was spot-on for tone, so if you like that sort of thing, you're in for a treat during some scenes.

All in all, a very uneven work with some shining moments hidden beneath boring ones.
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Reading Progress

July 18, 2019 – Started Reading
July 18, 2019 – Shelved
July 29, 2019 – Finished Reading

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