Chris Comerford's Reviews > The Castle of Otranto

The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole
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it was ok

Book #1 of the WRITERS OF THE LOST ARC BOOK CLUB - March, 2014

It's impossible to overstate Otranto's significance to literary canon. As the beginning codifier of tropes that would later classify the Gothic genre, it's a landmark work.

It's also a damn slog of a book to trudge through.

Brevitous at roughly 100 pages for the story itself, bookended by notes, prefaces and analyses, you'd think it's the kind of yarn one could knock over in a day. The Castle of Otranto took me damn near a month, having finished it only an hour and a half before the monthly meeting to discuss it. It's that kind of text.

A simple premise - a dude getting raspberry-jammed by a titanic flying helmet - becomes a drawn-out affair involving emotionally unstable men, strong women who get hamstrung by the law and their patriarchal jailers, and a complete lack of explanation for almost any supernatural element the story even hints at. Seriously, what's up with a skeleton appearing in monk's garb to rant at a character for a page before disappearing into the ether? Most would consider such a lack of explanation adds to the enigma, but in a book where facts are tediously laid out and realism is only slightly impinged by the peripherally fantastic, it feels a bit disingenuous. Seriously, Walpole, what the frig was up with that skeleton?

I'm being impudent to a literary great, and the fact I did not enjoy Otranto should not preclude one from reading it. As a fan of Gothic fiction, of literary history and of abrupt narrative ventures into meandering 1700s-era plotting, another might get a kick out of it. As I said, I can see the significance and appreciate it, but a re-read could only possibly be in the cards if I imagine that whenever the word "transported" is used (usually to denote a character abruptly switching emotional gears) the book is actually referring to the transporters on the USS Enterprise being utilised.

Now that's a book I'd recommend.
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Reading Progress

February 23, 2014 – Shelved as: to-read
February 23, 2014 – Shelved
March 7, 2014 – Started Reading
March 7, 2014 –
page 25
March 29, 2014 – Finished Reading

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