Saturday, 10 September 2011

'The Italian' by Ann Radcliffe (1797)

Synopsis: Vincentio di Vivaldi, a young Italian nobleman from Naples, sets eyes on a beautiful but poor young woman called Ellena di Rosalba. Vivaldi is immediately captivated by her beauty and hopes to court and marry her. However, when his controlling and manipulative mother finds out about this she becomes determined to put a stop to it - so she enlists the help of her confessor Father Schedoni. Schedoni took part in the Inquisition and is an evil, scheming monk. He kidnaps Ellena and Vivaldi must then search for her whereabouts. 

Ever since I'd read Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey I'd been really wanting to read Ann Radcliffe's The Mysteries of Udolpho. But in the end I read Radcliffe's The Italian instead because it was a set text on a course about gothic literature that I was taking. I wasn't very impressed. Although I did actually quite like the opening 100 pages or so, once all of the descriptions of the "sublime" kicked in I pretty much lost all interest. There is a lot - and I mean a LOT - of very long-winded and wordy descriptions in this book! Radcliffe will generally take about two to four pages to describe a single setting and quite often she'll go back to describe what that same setting will look like at night or at a different time of the day! All of this description adds absolutely nothing to the story and gets very frustrating! I ended up skim-reading most of this book. The Italian was just too boring for me to enjoy and I can see why Radcliffe's works have mostly fallen out of fashion. Unlike Austen and some of the later Victorian writers she doesn't have a particularly modern writing style or sense of pacing. Still, if you're a fan of Gothic Literature and would like to learn a little bit more about the roots of the genre then this book might be of an interest to you.

Rating: 2/5

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