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Once Upon A Bookshelf

Where Fiction and Reality Meet

A Sicilian Romance

Author: Radcliffe, Ann
Originally Published: 1790
Edition Courtney Read Published: 1998
Publisher: Oxford Paperbacks

Ann Radcliffe - A Sicilian RomanceAfter my recent readings of gothic novels, I was seriously craving more, so decided to go back to one of the pioneers of the genre, and give Ann Radcliffe a try. This author had not only an influence on the genre in general, but also on some of my favourite authorsd and books. (According to Wikipedia, the list includes Jane Austen, Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca and Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre.)

Julia and Emilia are forced into a hermitage at the Mazzini mansion by their stepmother, so the girls live a very secluded life, while their father, stepmother and brother live in a different residence. The death of an old servant causes the family to move back to the Mazzini mansion. The two girls and their brother are convinced that there’s a ghost in the house, and their father only makes them believe this further.

Of course, now that their stepmother is back, she brings a whole entourage of people with her, and Julia manages to fall in love with a young man from Italy. Just after Julia and said young man confess their love for each other, Julia’s father accepts a proposal for her from a not-so-nice, but oh-so-high-up-on-the-social-scale duke. Julia escapes from the Mazzini mansion the night before her wedding, only to have to keep having to escape capture by her father and the duke, all the while thinking that the man she really loves is dead, and discovering that the ghost that haunts the Mazzini mansion isn’t quite as dead as most ghosts tend to be.

I’m torn about the narration of the book. Parts I loved. I love the language used in older books, and this book was no exception for the most part.

In her way to the church, the gleam of tapers on the walls, and the glimpse which her eye often caught of the friars in their long black habits, descending silently through the narrow winding passages, with the solemn toll of the bell, conspired to kindle imagination, and to impress her heart with sacred awe.

But then when the dialogue would start!

‘O! talk for ever thus!’ sighed Hippolitus. ‘These words are so sweet, so soothing to my soul, that I could listen till I forgot I had a wish beyond them. Yes – Ferdinand, these circumstances are not to be doubted, and conviction opens upon my mind a flow of extacy I never knew till now. O! lead me to her, that I may speak the sentiments which swell my heart.’

It makes me cringe. It’s so over dramatic, and all I can picture in my head is some man in pantaloons waltzing about the room, throwing his hands above his head in a foppish sort of manner.

I’m not sure whether I’ll read more of Radcliffe’s work; this book was predictable, but it was a quick and easy read that I enjoyed when the dialogue wasn’t making me cringe…

Posted by Courtney Wilson @ 8:58 pm June 5, 2007.
Category: Classics, Gothic
Book Author(s):

  • Nymeth

    I’ve had Ann Radcliffe recommended to me before. The bit you quoted does those overly dramatic, but perhaps I’ll give her a try for the RIP challenge later this year.

  • Court

    I look forward to seeing what you read and what you think about it; if I hear good things about one of her other books, then I’ll probably end up picking that one up, and giving her another try. :)