Rebecca's Reviews > The Mysteries of Udolpho

The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe
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's review
Dec 26, 2008

it was ok
bookshelves: read-with-help, project-gutenberg

Well, that was....a lot of book.

I read this because it's referenced so many times in Northanger Abbey, and I wanted to be able to get the references and understand them a little better. I think I would have enjoyed it more with some guidance, because there was a lot of history and culture that I just couldn't understand, or didn't get the full impact of, without more information.

A lot of the problems I had with the book were not really the book's fault, they were conventions of the time that are hard to transport to modern readers. The first volume the heroine spends in true Gothic fashion--namely, toppling over in a dead faint every time someone breathes loudly in her vicinity. As the book progresses she grows a background and develops into a surprisingly strong female character that saves herself a lot more than one would typically expect from a female lead in the period. On the other hand, she puts up with a lot that made me want to scream, "Oh my GOD, just stand UP for yourself"...but of course in that time, an unmarried female really couldn't.

The biggest issue I had was not as much with the characters as with a convention that I know was prominent at the time, but that drives me nuts. There were about a thousand questions and next to no answers through most of the (incredibly long) book, until the last couple of chapters when suddenly the author goes back and goes over the entire book and answers all of the questions all at once. By that point I was so tired of the whole thing that I was skimming page-long paragraphs, just wanting to be done. She might not have even answered all the questions in the end; at that point there had been so many "mysteries" over such a long span of time, supposedly covered by two pages of exposition, that if there were gaping plot holes I honestly couldn't remember anymore. I enjoyed it, but it was...a bit much. If it had been broken down into a trilogy, I think it would have been easier to get through. But at least I can say I read it, if it's ever a question on Jeopardy.
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