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2015 Group Reads - Archives > The Haunted Hotel - Chapters XIX to Conclusion

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message 1: by Deborah, Moderator (new)

Deborah (deborahkliegl) | 4460 comments Mod
These chapters are full of twists and turns. I read the creepiest parts in bed one night, and must admit to wondering if it was a mistake.

The Countess is in Venice, and is once again in need of money. She decides to write a play. Frances suggests she write about the haunting of the hotel. Agnes etal arrives in Venice, and there are more strange happenings in the dreaded room. We follow the twisting tale through the Countess' deranged play. A modern forensic technique, still used today, is utilized by Henry to confirm the truth. Henry and Agnes marry. Agnes' peers find her old fashioned in her viewpoint of accepting Henry has secrets. We also find out what happened to Ferarri, as well as other loose ends being brought to conclusion.

Unlike most of you, I thought Ferarri dead from the beginning. I've read a bit of Collins before, but my trashy novel of choice tends to be a mystery. I think that's why my mind went there so quickly.

Moral of the story might be summed up as watch out for karma (smile).


message 2: by Pip (last edited Feb 01, 2015 01:48PM) (new)

Pip | 468 comments This got penny-dreadful-bonkers towards the end. The scenes with the head and the grim discovery behind the fireplace had me reading with my eyes screwed half shut in case anything jumped out at me from the pages!
A few thoughts from what I can remember:
I found the device of the Countess' play rather a lazy way to wrap up the story. We did discuss earlier whether Collins had maybe always intended for this to be dramatised, and I think this is a further indication that he did.
Agnes' decision to remain blissfully ignorant is one of those where we ask whether that makes her a stronger or weaker character.
On the whole a fun, if bizarre, read - but certainly not one of Collins' best works.


message 3: by Deborah, Moderator (new)

Deborah (deborahkliegl) | 4460 comments Mod
Pip wrote: "This got penny-dreadful-bonkers towards the end. The scenes with the head and the grim discovery behind the fireplace had me reading with my eyes screwed half shut in case anything jumped out at me..."

I agree it was both fun and bizarre, and not his best works. I actually enjoy when Collins uses a different medium, the play, to tell his story. I enjoy the change of voice in the style. I also felt it seemed more ready to be in play form than novella.


message 4: by Madge UK (new)

Madge UK (madgeuk) | 2931 comments I found the Countess' s play very contrived and thought it a lazy piece of writing too, as if he had run out of ideas but had to write the required number of words for a 3-volume novel, which was probably the case.


message 5: by Deborah, Moderator (new)

Deborah (deborahkliegl) | 4460 comments Mod
I don't think the use of the play was as good as some of the other vehicles used in other books.


message 6: by Anne (new)

Anne | 92 comments I was one of the other people that thought Ferrari was dead. I was right about both that and and about being suspicious of both the countess and her brother. They really did kill her husband. I enjoyed this very strange book. I will definitely try other works by Collins.


message 7: by Madge UK (new)

Madge UK (madgeuk) | 2931 comments It was a Very Victorian book which made me feel I was watvhing a melodrama, not reading a Sensation novel.


message 8: by Renee (new)

Renee M | 747 comments Yes to all the comments here so far. The ending was contrived and melodramatic, but I think that creepy melodramas were quite popular in that day. Reading this gave me a sense of what they were like. No, certainly not his best work, but probably the kind of work that put bread and butter on the table.

I probably would not have read this one without the group, and I'm glad I did. I've been looking at a few titles by Louisa May Alcott which could probably be shelved with The Haunted Hotel. I mait is interesting to see the lesser works for comparisson.


message 9: by Emma (new)

Emma (emmalaybourn) | 298 comments I agree with Renee that while the ending was contrived, the macabre shock-horror element probably went down well with its original audience who were reading it serialised in a magazine. It would certainly have got people talking about it when that issue came out (and might have got more people rushing out to buy it, a result for Collins.)


message 10: by Madge UK (new)

Madge UK (madgeuk) | 2931 comments Very true. Victorian readers used to gather round the shops which sold the magazines when they were due out and discuss the 'cliffhangers'. When Dickens' Little Nell died there was a near riot. Also, people who could read would read to groups of people who couldn't read. Serialised novels were the soaps of their day.


message 11: by Madge UK (new)

Madge UK (madgeuk) | 2931 comments Spoiler if you haven't read The Old Curiosity Shop:

http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/d...


message 12: by Deborah, Moderator (new)

Deborah (deborahkliegl) | 4460 comments Mod
Since Spiritualism was fashionable at this time, I think the creepy parts must have given the readers of the day quite a fright.


message 13: by Deborah, Moderator (new)

Deborah (deborahkliegl) | 4460 comments Mod
Anybody figure out the switch of Ferarri and Montbarry prior to the ending?


message 14: by Lynnm (last edited Feb 02, 2015 07:45AM) (new)

Lynnm | 3027 comments I remember discussing this in college. While we find the early gothic novels in the 1700s to be silly, the people then find them frightening - the entire concept was new. They became a bit more sophisticated in the 1800s - think Frankenstein- but this particular novel by Collins seems to harken back to an earlier era in the genre. It reminded me of a Ann Radcliffe novel. Which isn't true for the other two books that I read of him. He definitely broke ground in The Woman in White.

Each generation needs something more to become scared. This is true in film as well. When King Kong came out, people were terrified - if I remember correctly, someone even died of a heart attack. But now, we laugh at King Kong, and need much more gory visual effects to be frightened.


message 15: by Lynnm (new)

Lynnm | 3027 comments Deborah wrote: "Anybody figure out the switch of Ferarri and Montbarry prior to the ending?"

As soon as they found the head in the tunnel at the same time that the doctor verified that the patient did die of bronchitis, I had a feeling that there was a switch. And you knew that there had to be poison involved because of the Baron's hobby.


message 16: by Pip (new)

Pip | 468 comments Lynnm wrote: "I remember discussing this in college. While we find the early gothic novels in the 1700s to be silly, the people then find them frightening - the entire concept was new. They became a bit more so..."

I actually found the scary bits had more in common with Victorian penny dreadfuls than with earlier gothic. Varney the Vampire, Sweeney Todd and the like are extremely graphic.


message 17: by Madge UK (new)

Madge UK (madgeuk) | 2931 comments Lynn #14: Excellent points!


message 18: by Ami (last edited Sep 13, 2016 01:47PM) (new)

Ami | 153 comments I haven't read any of these comments, but I'm on XX and bored out of my gourd...I'm hoping my interest is piqued again, but this Countess is driving me bats with her long winded play writing abilities. :S


message 19: by Deborah, Moderator (new)

Deborah (deborahkliegl) | 4460 comments Mod
Hang in there Ami you are almost done


message 20: by Ami (last edited Feb 02, 2015 01:43PM) (new)

Ami | 153 comments Deborah wrote: "Hang in there Ami you are almost done"

It's terrible of me, I know. LoL! I'll finish, no doubt...Just taking longer than I would have expected :P


message 21: by Pip (new)

Pip | 468 comments Ami wrote: "I haven't read any of these comments, but I'm on XX and bored out of my gourd...I'm hoping my interest is peaked again, but this Countess is driving me bats with her long winded play writing abilit..."

"Bored out of my gourd"! Love it!!


message 22: by Deborah, Moderator (new)

Deborah (deborahkliegl) | 4460 comments Mod
Ami wrote: "Deborah wrote: "Hang in there Ami you are almost done"

It's terrible of me, I know. LoL! I'll finish, no doubt...Just taking longer than I would have expected :P"


Not terrible of you at all.


message 23: by Sara (last edited Feb 02, 2015 04:30PM) (new)

Sara (phantomswife) I had expected Farrari to be alive and re-enter to fill in details of what had happened. Of course, I hadn't planned on the Countess being willing to tell all (including her own culpability) because she was "writing a play". In the end, the Countess is entirely insane, which is pretty much what is promised in the beginning of the story. I was surprised that the idea for killing Lord M. was hatched by the Countess rather than the Baron. I expected the Baron to be the heartless villain and the Countess to have been dragged into the murder by him.
Not Collins at his best, but I do not feel cheated of the time I spent reading it. I do think it is hard to imagine someone being truly frightened by such a story, because we cannot dial back time to life before Halloween and Carrie were common fare. I have personally always found that things that I think might actually happen to me or someone I know are always more frightening than supernatural or extreme ones. Being murdered by a spouse and disposed of might have been a greater fear in this time than it even is in ours.


message 24: by Silver (new)

Silver Pip wrote: Agnes' decision to remain blissfully ignorant is one of those where we ask whether that makes her a stronger or weaker character.."

A part of me is inclined to agree with the attitude of both Agnes and Stephen (who burns the play and dismiss it all as nonsense)

At this point does it really matter what actually happened?

All the culprits are dead and nothing can undo what has already been done, so why dwell upon it any further? You don't really need to know.

But I did feel somewhat for Mrs. Farrari, since Henry didn't want to reveal the truth, she is denied any sort of closure on what became of her husband.


message 25: by Pip (new)

Pip | 468 comments You're right. I'd forgotten about poor Mrs Ferrari. Just like Mr Troy.


message 26: by Deborah, Moderator (new)

Deborah (deborahkliegl) | 4460 comments Mod
Silver wrote: "Pip wrote: Agnes' decision to remain blissfully ignorant is one of those where we ask whether that makes her a stronger or weaker character.."

A part of me is inclined to agree with the attitude o..."


And Mrs. Ferarri didn't even reap the financial benefit - she donated the money.


message 27: by Sara (new)

Sara (phantomswife) Deborah wrote: "And Mrs. Ferarri didn't even reap the financial benefit - she donated the money."

I hadn't thought about that. Seems sad for her, but right that Ferrari didn't profit in any way whatsoever for the evil of impersonating Lord M. so that he could be easily disposed of.


message 28: by Silver (new)

Silver Sara wrote: "Deborah wrote: "And Mrs. Ferarri didn't even reap the financial benefit - she donated the money."

I hadn't thought about that. Seems sad for her, but right that Ferrari didn't profit in any way wh..."


While what Ferarri did was wrong, considering he was going to die anyway I do not entirely blame him for using his death to try and gain some finical security for his wife.

Being that he did not expect to live, he wasn't acting out of some personal greed, but knowing his doomed fate, he wanted his wife to have something after he was gone.


message 29: by Deborah, Moderator (new)

Deborah (deborahkliegl) | 4460 comments Mod
Perhaps Collins had Mrs. Ferarri donate the money so there would be but one motive to kill Lord Montbarry instead of two.


message 30: by Sara (new)

Sara (phantomswife) Silver wrote: While what Ferarri did was wrong, considering he was going to die anyway I do not entirely blame him for using his death to try and gain some finical security for his wife.

Being that he did not expect to live, he wasn't acting out of some personal greed, but knowing his doomed fate, he wanted his wife to have something after he was gone."


Granted his was not a vicious reason, as were those of the Countess and Baron, but without his assistance killing Montbarry and getting away with it would have been difficult if not impossible. Some blame for the murder rests on his actions and wanting the money for his wife rather than himself does not excuse the immorality of participating in the murder.


message 31: by Silver (new)

Silver Sara wrote: "Granted his was not a vicious reason, as were those of the Countess and Baron, but without his assistance killing Montbarry and getting away with it would have been difficult if not impossible.
."


The way I see it, the outcome would have been the same with our without Ferarri. This doesn't mean that what Ferarri did was right, but while his assistance did make it easier for the Countess and Baron to dispose of Lord M. I think with or without him they would have found a way to do it.

Maybe they would not have gotten away with it, but I think they were desperate enough that they would have tried to kill him one way or another.

And I wonder, if after revealing their plans to Ferarri, if he had said no, would they have really let him walk away alive?


message 32: by Renee (new)

Renee M | 747 comments I keep thinking about what a shocker that disembodied head must have been for the original readers. It seems wildly melodramatic to us but it must have given some serious goosebumps. Maybe even nightmares. So grisly!


message 33: by Sara (new)

Sara (phantomswife) Silver wrote: And I wonder, if after revealing their plans to Ferarri, if he had said no, would they have really let him walk away alive?"

I agree he would have been in danger of dying at their hands...of course they would have had two bodies and disappearances to deal with then. Ferarri was definitely a character inserted to move the plot forward. I supposed I could get a little too hung up on him if I weren't careful. :)


message 34: by Deborah, Moderator (new)

Deborah (deborahkliegl) | 4460 comments Mod
Renee wrote: "I keep thinking about what a shocker that disembodied head must have been for the original readers. It seems wildly melodramatic to us but it must have given some serious goosebumps. Maybe even nig..."

I keep imagining a sheltered Victorian lady reading that and swooning :)


message 35: by Frances, Moderator (new)

Frances (francesab) | 1797 comments Mod
Agreed-not Collins at his best but interesting to read a genre that would have been popular at that time-and to consider what it has become today with tastes for horror films/supernatural tales still going strong.

We still see the self-sacrificing woman as a central figure- both Agnes carrying a torch for Lord Montbarry (who does NOT appear to be an admirable character as we learn more about him) and the Countess, who agrees to marry a man she doesn't love to spare her rather odious brother from having to marry a woman HE doesn't love simply to allow him to continue his questionable experiments.

I understand Agnes asking not to learn the true fate of Lord Montbarry-this is one of those situations where one cannot unlearn distressing facts and all the principals have died. I also think that, although Ferrari's wife never learned his true fate, she was spared the knowledge of his complicity in the crime.


message 36: by Deborah, Moderator (new)

Deborah (deborahkliegl) | 4460 comments Mod
Anybody catch the alchemy references?


message 37: by Madge UK (new)

Madge UK (madgeuk) | 2931 comments Lovely little description of WC by a contempoary here which mentions him looking like an alchemist:

http://www.web40571.clarahost.co.uk/w...


message 38: by Madge UK (new)

Madge UK (madgeuk) | 2931 comments In Ch XVIII there is mention of a Maraschino Punch. Here is the recipe together with the quote:

http://www.dlc.fi/~marianna/gourmet/1...


message 39: by Pip (new)

Pip | 468 comments MadgeUK wrote: "In Ch XVIII there is mention of a Maraschino Punch. Here is the recipe together with the quote:

http://www.dlc.fi/~marianna/gourmet/1..."


That looks delicious! My kind of alchemy :-)))


message 40: by Madge UK (new)

Madge UK (madgeuk) | 2931 comments Deborah wrote: "Anybody catch the alchemy references?"

The baron has 'chemicals' in his basement laboratory and in Chap XXVI it says 'a profound knowledge of the occult sciences has persuaded the Baron that it is possible to solve the famous problem called the "Philosopher's Stone." then
'At the period of the Play, the Baron's good fortune has deserted him. He sees his way to a crowning experiment in the fatal search after the secret of transmuting the baser elements into gold' which is a reference to the creation of the fabled philosopher's stone: the ability to transmute base metals into gold or silver and the development of an elixir of life, which would confer youth and longevity.


message 41: by Deborah, Moderator (new)

Deborah (deborahkliegl) | 4460 comments Mod
MadgeUK wrote: "Lovely little description of WC by a contempoary here which mentions him looking like an alchemist:

http://www.web40571.clarahost.co.uk/w..."


How interesting that he was described like that.


message 42: by Ami (last edited Feb 05, 2015 12:53PM) (new)

Ami | 153 comments Deborah wrote: "These chapters are full of twists and turns. I read the creepiest parts in bed one night, and must admit to wondering if it was a mistake.

The Countess is in Venice, and is once again in need of m..."


Well, I finally finished...What would have normally taken an hour and half to finish took me three days? Unfortunately, this piece by Collins, left me very underwhelmed...I read the last sentence and thought to myself, "well, this was cute...Cute?"

I started my endeavor full of excitement and intrigue up until chapters 20-25, where I honestly couldn't even keep my eyes open. It was not until 26, plot lines began to kick a little again. The "sensational" style of writing, I've understood it to be Collins' forte; however, he's quite adept at peppering his narrative with real gore as well, which I would think, fared well for his readers too. Keeping in mind who the original audience was for "The Haunted Hotel," and the distribution of the story in installments, I can see how this mystery thriller could be revered as something so much more than just "cute." The story was not terrible, but the pace of the narrative was questionable to me. The Countess' play was a real fuel injector and I felt very manipulated by it in resolving the mystery.

I read the creepiest parts in bed one night, and must admit to wondering if it was a mistake.

Right? I was surprised by the gory details of the floating head and the Baron's thoughts of incinerating bodies and such.

Unlike most of you, I thought Ferarri dead from the beginning
Yes, I was one of them...I did think he was part of some conspiracy, but certainly not to the extent that he was. I was really expecting him to come out of the woodwork towards the end.


message 43: by Ami (new)

Ami | 153 comments Pip wrote: "This got penny-dreadful-bonkers towards the end. The scenes with the head and the grim discovery behind the fireplace had me reading with my eyes screwed half shut in case anything jumped out at me..."

"This got penny-dreadful-bonkers towards the end.
Love this...Very well said and couldn't agree with you more!

I found the device of the Countess' play rather a lazy way to wrap up the story. We did discuss earlier whether Collins had maybe always intended for this to be dramatised, and I think this is a further indication that he did.

I was wondering about the point of the "play" too and felt it was his attempt at layering thickly more drama. It read to me to be more lazy on his part than an actual literary device... Collins used a similar shortcut with the announcement in Part I introducing his readers to a slew of characters.


message 44: by Ami (new)

Ami | 153 comments I'm not sure who my cohorts were in regards to feeling suffocated by Henry's courting of Agnes, but I was further turned off by Collins delivery in tying up their story line. I literally scoffed at the line when Lord Montbarry tells Henry Agnes was going to marry him! Really...That's it? We find ourselves at the tail end of the mystery, figure out Agnes has conceded to marrying Henry and go back to the mystery...It was yet another example of a questionable pace in the narrative.


message 45: by Ami (new)

Ami | 153 comments Emma wrote: "I agree with Renee that while the ending was contrived, the macabre shock-horror element probably went down well with its original audience who were reading it serialised in a magazine. It would ce..."

Yes, I think the serialized installments would have made huge difference in maintaining that air of mystery.


message 46: by Ami (new)

Ami | 153 comments Pip wrote: "MadgeUK wrote: "In Ch XVIII there is mention of a Maraschino Punch. Here is the recipe together with the quote:

http://www.dlc.fi/~marianna/gourmet/1..."

That looks delicious! My ..."


CHEERS!


message 47: by Ami (new)

Ami | 153 comments MadgeUK wrote: "Lovely little description of WC by a contempoary here which mentions him looking like an alchemist:

http://www.web40571.clarahost.co.uk/w..."


MadgeUK wrote: "In Ch XVIII there is mention of a Maraschino Punch. Here is the recipe together with the quote:

http://www.dlc.fi/~marianna/gourmet/1..."


Madge, I always look forward to your posts. It was fun reading this with you :)


message 48: by Pip (new)

Pip | 468 comments I like your comments about the pace, Ami. It's altogether an odd novel because the first (two? Three? Can't remember now) parts seem to slow-build towards a potentially much longer story, which then goes crazy like a car-chase towards the end. Does anyone else get the impression he just got a bit bored of writing it? Was the expositionally-charged Doctor mentioned again, or did he just fizzle out once he'd done his job?

Sorry to be so vague; I've read this book twice in as many years and the memory is dimming already. I'll be proposing it again in March 2016, so just remember to tell me where I can stick my gory heads and missing Ferraris!!


message 49: by Ami (last edited Feb 05, 2015 03:14PM) (new)

Ami | 153 comments Pip wrote: "I like your comments about the pace, Ami. It's altogether an odd novel because the first (two? Three? Can't remember now) parts seem to slow-build towards a potentially much longer story, which the..."

I think there's something to be said about the authors of this time period, both English and American, and the mystery/thriller genre,...I found the perfunctory pacing to be reminiscent of the timing in The House of the Seven Gables, by Nathaniel Hawthorne- In hindsight, the fault in "The Haunted Hotel" is not nearly as bad as that in "The House of the Seven Gables."

Now, I'm not sure if it's literary laziness, or maybe a common practice? I've only read the aforementioned titles and The Moonstone in this genre. In fact, now that I'm thinking about it, "The Moonstone's" pace between the climax and resolution was rather short, but I didn't feel the ending was as contrived as I did in the previous two titles. I'm going to be reading The Woman in White in the next couple of months, so it will be interesting to notice if this similarity continues within Collins' works alone.

Was the expositionally-charged Doctor mentioned again, or did he just fizzle out once he'd done his job?
Yes, and to your point about the Doctor...What "did" happen to him? There was so much emphasis put on his character in Part I, I thought surely, he would have ended up in Venice as well...At least on behalf of the Countess as a consultant? Now this had to have been an oversight, no?


message 50: by Deborah, Moderator (new)

Deborah (deborahkliegl) | 4460 comments Mod
Ami wrote: "Pip wrote: "I like your comments about the pace, Ami. It's altogether an odd novel because the first (two? Three? Can't remember now) parts seem to slow-build towards a potentially much longer stor..."

I do t that in the doctor not being in Venice was an oversight. I think it was more he had played his part in the story. He sets the stage for the Countess possibly being deranged. He finds her healthy in the beginning, but her fears of insanity then become true.

With regard to some of Collins works. I've read The Woman in White, Armadale, The Moonstone, No Name, and now The Haunted Hotel. He uses devices like the Peerage and the play in other works too. In my opinion, he succeeds with these devices in other titles. No so much in this one.

I do enjoy the sensational novels. But I enjoy them purely for entertainment. I think of them as the "TV" of its day. Not great literature by any means, but I find them to be fun.


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