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The Castle of Otranto: A Gothic Story (Oxford World's Classics) Paperback – December 1, 2014
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About the Author
Horace Walpole, the 4th Earl of Orford (24 September 1717 - 2 March 1797) was an English art historian, writer, antiquarian and Whig politician.
Nick Groom has published widely for both academic and popular readerships, with particular interest in questions of authenticity and the emergence of national and regional identity. His books include The Gothic (2012) for the Very Short Introductions series, The Union Jack: the Story of the British Flag (Atlantic, 2006), and The Seasons: an Elegy for the Passing of the Year (Atlantic, 2013).
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So he had this dream... A castle, a staircase, a huge armored glove in a gallery.
Then he sat down and wrote a book that he attributes to fictional character, “William Marshal, gentleman, from the Italian of Onuphro Muralto, canon of the Church of St. Nicholas, at Otranto", which Walpole claims to have found and translated from the original Italian. Dating of the of the story is placed between the first and second Crusade, sometime between 1095 A.D. and 1243 A.D., though the fictional book itself was written in the 1500's. The real book was written in English and printed in 1765.
He had a printing press... Yes, young peanut. Self publishing happened earlier then the twenty first century.
The rest is history. The medieval fantasy / gothic horror franchises had opened their doors for business.
Between the prophecy, the knights and castles, the Crusades, the zealous tyrant, the lost heir, the swooning damsels, the dying hermit, the dead knight returning to reclaim his daughter AND gigantic armor that kills people, well how can you turn that down?
My favorite part was when something terrifying happened, it always happened when the Prince of Otranto was out of the room, but many of his staff and servants saw it. They would run to him, arriving breathlessly to warn him of the danger, then start these long rambling tales. He could switch from one person to the other, trying to figure out what happened and still not understand as they would quiver, lead up to the terror and go off on tangents, etc., until he would explode in anger and finally get off his privileged butt to go see what scared them. Funniest thing. Happens three times.
Murder, mistaken identity, lost heirs, Crusaders, freed slaves, prophecies, big men with swords, saints, chases in burial vaults, secret passages, a runaway Princess, long lost parental units, a feisty priest, and a dying hermit with God on his side, not to mention the gigantic killing armor.
The book itself is only about 90 pages long. The story moves along so fast that the author barely used paragraphs. Dialogue is exchanged in the same way. It's a cut-and-dried story without much atmosphere; absolutely no frills. Not what you'd call spellbinding at any point; it lacked the kind of tension and suspense that I was hoping for in a Gothic novel. I found myself rereading lots of times because characters seemed to just suddenly be there and I wasn't sure, at times, where they had come from. The general feel of the pacing is like your teenage daughter relating what happened in the last episode of Once Upon a Time.
The story itself is not bad and I kept thinking that this book needs a good rewrite with a little more atmosphere and color.
For me, a good book is one that is written in such a way that I'm not aware of the act of reading; the words, images and feelings just flow. This book isn't that. Yet I had to give it at least enough stars to indicate I enjoyed it, you know, once I was through it.