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Uncle Silas
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Archived Group Reads 2018 > Uncle Silas: Week 1: Chapters 1-13

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message 1: by Renee, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Renee M | 1993 comments Mod
We meet lots of interesting characters in this first section, but not the eponymous Uncle Silas. I love the way LeFanu sets the tone with language and foreshadowing. I think this is going to be a fun book to read together!

Just a few questions to get the conversation started. You can reply, use them as a jumping off point for your thoughts, or comment on anything you find interesting about the novel so far.

1) The story is told First Person, through the eyes of Maud Ruthyn. Do you trust the narrator to be objective? How does/would her age and gender effect her position as narrator? Would this be seen differently at the time of publication?

2) How does LeFanu set the tone and keep setting it throughout this section?

3) What do you make of the cabinet & key? Do you have any suspicions of what is inside?

4) What impressions do you have of Doctor Bryerly? Do you believe him to be as trustworthy as Maud’s father does? Do you believe him to be a doctor of religion or medicine?

5) In what ways is the new governess suspicious? Do you see her as genuinely dangerous?

6) Describe Aunt Monica. What is her place in the story at this point?

7) In what ways has LeFanu foreshadowed the arrival of Uncle Silas? What impressions do we get through Maud’s eyes? On what are her opinions based?

Happy Reading!


message 2: by Renee, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Renee M | 1993 comments Mod
I generally try not to quote directly from the text, but I found these two quotes especially intriguing...

Austin Ruthyn:
“Your uncle is a man of great talents, great faults, and great wrongs. His talents have not availed him; his faults are long ago repented of; and his wrongs I believe he feels less than I do, but they are deep.”

Maud:
“Why is it that this form of ambition—curiosity—which entered into the temptation of our first parent, is so specially hard to resist? Knowledge is power—and power of one sort or another is the secret lust of human souls; and here is, beside the sense of exploration, the undefinable interest of a story, and above all, something forbidden, to stimulate the contumacious appetite.”


Nina Clare | 135 comments I wasn't sure if I was going to join in this group read, it's not the type of novel I usually read, but i downloaded a sample to my kindle - and I was hooked!

To answer question 2 - Lefanu sets the tone of mystery and eeriness from the outset. On a dark wintry night Mr Ruthyn is pacing up and down in the shadows while his young daughter sits silently because she is so 'much in awe of him'.
The narrator's emotional and physical isolation is immediately suggested. She is motherless, her father is 'odd, taciturn, severe', and an oddity. She loves her father, but clearly he shows her no affection or tenderness, and can go a whole day without speaking to her. I immediately feel sorry for her, and concerned for her, and her voice seems younger than 17.
Not only are there suggestions of a young girl being immured from the world by an eccentric/unstable father, but there's worse to come - the father may be involved in some kind of cult - 'necromancy' and 'weird freemasonry' are suggested by the narrator, introducing a supernatural element to the existing tensions.
The uncanny tone doesn't let up - a 'sinister visitor', a mystery regarding keys and a locked cabinet, further mystery surrounding Uncle Silas, a malevolent governess, ghostly tales, graveyards and burial grounds, and a plot to marry the young narrator - Maud (who is presumably an heiress) to some unknown, menace of a man. It seems that Maud is imperilled at every turn!
I like Mrs Rusk, who provides a bit of comic relief. Not sure what to make of Lady Knollys/Cousin Monica.


Laurene | 158 comments I find myself really caught up in the novel. But it is the cover of the novel that get's people attention. I am remodeling a home and I have had several people ask me what am I reading (now). My books travel with me -- been remodeling this home for a year so the contractor and crews have seen different books in my hand.

I am trusting the narrator, Maud, to be objective. It is her story she has lived it. She is young -- I believe 17 -- it is her experiences. But, at the same time, I remember being 17 -- what I believed in then is not what I would believe in now. It is more like ghost stories around a campfire -- things that go bump in the night -- she believes in them. The setting and characters of the novel makes the story -- it's winter, November, -- Maud lives in a large home lit by fireplaces and candle light at night -- "an odd father" -- a mysterious governess, who likes to walk to Church Scarsdale and picnic in the graveyard -- the mysterious men the governess knows -- a secret cabinet and key -- an uncle that she only hears about but never met -- who might or might not have been involved in a murder. If I was 17 -- my imagination would probably run wild. But all of those things makes for a wonderful story!


Laurene | 158 comments Nina wrote: "I wasn't sure if I was going to join in this group read, it's not the type of novel I usually read, but i downloaded a sample to my kindle - and I was hooked!

To answer question 2 - Lefanu sets t..."


Nina -- absolutely agree -- I was not sure of joining this group read either but picked up the book -- I find it hard to put down the book -- it's one more chapter syndrome to me. Love Mrs Rusk!


Laurene | 158 comments Renee wrote: "We meet lots of interesting characters in this first section, but not the eponymous Uncle Silas. I love the way LeFanu sets the tone with language and foreshadowing. I think this is going to be a f..."

The only guess I have is Austin Ruthyn's will is in the cabinet. According to the back of the book -- Maud ends up living with her Uncle Silas so I will assume Austin Ruthyn will die and the will is going to set up the rest of the novel.


message 7: by Renee, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Renee M | 1993 comments Mod
Nina wrote: "I wasn't sure if I was going to join in this group read, it's not the type of novel I usually read, but i downloaded a sample to my kindle - and I was hooked!”

You’ve done a great job of picking out examples of how the stage is being set. I’ve found this to be true of the Victorian “sensation” novels. The author takes time at the beginning to engage all the senses and sets a tone of mystery and foreboding. I think LeFanu has done a particularly good job with this. Lots of mysteries are laid before us and since Maud is so young and her father so little forthcoming with information, even things that may prove trifles seem sinister. It certainly draws the reader in!


message 8: by Renee, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Renee M | 1993 comments Mod
Laurene wrote: "I find myself really caught up in the novel. But it is the cover of the novel that get's people attention. I am remodeling a home and I have had several people ask me what am I reading (now). My bo..."

I also think Maud’s voice seems younger than 17 years. It definitely is in keeping with the sheltered life she has led, and makes me worry all-the-more for her if her father should die.

And the cabinet makes sense as a place for keeping documents like wills &/or deeds... I’m just not sure why there would be such need for secrecy. It makes me wonder from whom the documents are being kept and why.


message 9: by Renee, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Renee M | 1993 comments Mod
I’m so glad you both decided to come along for the ride!


Rosemarie | 217 comments I just finished reading the chapter where the nasty French governess twisted Maud's little finger until it broke. What a horrible woman! And why is she so obsessed with the will, if there even is one.


message 11: by Nina (new) - rated it 3 stars

Nina Clare | 135 comments Rosemarie wrote: "I just finished reading the chapter where the nasty French governess twisted Maud's little finger until it broke. What a horrible woman! And why is she so obsessed with the will, if there even is one."

Yes - she is nasty! I think the author does the broken French accent quite well, though.


Diane | 152 comments I just love Maud's descriptions of Madame de la Rougierre. But, since Maud is so young and growing up so reclusive, they are probably exaggerated. On the other hand, Madame obiously means some harm to Maud. Kidnapping with a forced marriage maybe?
The curious thing I've been wondering about is why her father so readily believes Madame over his daughter, Mrs. Rusk, and Mary Quaince, all of who he has known for many years. And for that matter, none of them appear to protest very often or stand up for themselves. For the most part they seem to just let Madame spin her story to Mr. Ruthyn unopposed. Perhaps Maud and the housekeeper are both a intimidated by her father.


message 13: by ConnieD (new) - added it

ConnieD (bookwithcat) | 37 comments Since the governess keeps wanting to know about the will, I also figure it's in the cabinet. This book is certainly a page-turner!


Rosemarie | 217 comments Aunt Monica knows the governess but will not tell Maud what she knows. Talk about teasing the reader!
Maud is telling the story three years later, so she obviously survives, but we have no idea what kind of ordeals she will go through--but it will be dramatic.


message 15: by Renee, Moderator (last edited May 12, 2018 06:37AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Renee M | 1993 comments Mod
I was also struck by the finger scene and Maud’s reluctance to tell her father about it. I would expect that kind of physical abuse would be insupportable. I definitely think Dad has run the house with the minimum inconvenience to himself. Perhaps Maud has learned that he doesn’t react well to anything which upsets his equilibrium.


message 16: by Renee, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Renee M | 1993 comments Mod
You can probably tell that I’m not a big fan of Maud’s father. Perhaps we’ll learn more about what made him so reclusive and emotionally distant later in the story.

I’m also intrigued by the way LeFanu has made Uncle Silas sinister and suspect to the reader, while reading increasing Maud’s curiosity about him.


message 17: by Bruce (new)

Bruce 5. First of all, I think her just being there is suspicious, and it seems she has a backstory. Her trying to gain the upper hand by making her father think she’s disobedient, and then trying to find out about the will suggest she has ulterior motives. Maybe she’s connected to Uncle Silas in some way or is his lover.


Laurene | 158 comments Bruce wrote: "5. First of all, I think her just being there is suspicious, and it seems she has a backstory. Her trying to gain the upper hand by making her father think she’s disobedient, and then trying to fin..."

I didn't think about that angle -- it would be so interesting if Madame is somehow connected to Uncle Silas!


message 19: by Renee, Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Renee M | 1993 comments Mod
It would definitely make her behavior seem less random.


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