sixty-four.

the Monk by M.G Lewis (1796)
Father Ambrosio is the most popular priest in Madrid because he is so pure. His church is full of people who want to listen to his sermons. His monastery is wall to wall with the St. Claire cloister where the terrible Domina who rules with an iron hand. Lorenzo and his friend Raymond are attending one of Ambrosio’s sermons when they spot a really beautiful young girl, Antonia, and Lorenzo falls head over heels. Lorenzo’s sister, Agnes, is at the St. Claire cloister and she has a secret relationship with Raymond. But the relationship is found out on the same day that Father Ambrosio discovers that one of his favourite monks happens to be a female.

Mathilda is the monk’s real name and she has been in love with Ambrosio for ever. She manages to corrupt his innocence which leads Ambrosio down a path of destruction which includes rape, sorcery and murder and eventually a meeting with the Devil himself.

Once you get through those first hard chapters (why is it always so with the classics), this is a hilarious account of the corruption of the Church. There is so much more to the story than the life in the cloister; a good dose of the old fashioned tales about damsels in distress and quite a lot of sex and ghosts. Just the perfect end of the year read I needed.

This was the final book this year in Line’s 1001 books reading challenge. 

fifty-four.

the Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe (1794)
 Emily and her father set out on a journey southwards after her mother’s death. On this journey, the father dies and Emily is left in her aunt’s care. Emily’s aunt isn’t the nicest, and she dislikes Emily’s beloved, Valancourt, and takes Emily with her to Italy and eventually to the castle of Udolpho. But the new husband of the aunt is a terrible man and there is no way to escape the terrors of Udolpho.

700+ pages. In my opinion about half of them could have been skipped as they are boring observations of the scenery of France and Italy. And the real story doesn’t start until 30% in to the book. Luckily the last 30% of the book is such a wild tale that it makes it worthwhile.

I was not looking forward to reading this as it sounded too scary for my nerves and the start was promising with the mysterious happenings in the cottage. But the whole Udolpho business wasn’t as scary as I thought, but certainly entertaining. The whole fainting women thing was something I could not take seriously. I did, however, love it when the story completely changed and I think the title is very misleading. I’m glad I read it, but I won’t do it again.

This was November’s read in Line’s 1001 books reading challenge.