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The Monk (Penguin Classics) Paperback – June 1, 1999
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“The whole work is distinguished by the variety and impressiveness of its incidents; and the author every-where discovers an imagination rich, powerful, and fervid.” —Samuel Taylor Coleridge
About the Author
Hugh Thomas (Lord Thomas of Swynnerton) is widely known for his work on the history of Spain, including his epic masterpiece The Spanish Civil War, available as a Modern Library Paperback.
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Top Customer Reviews
The title monastic is Ambrosio, who was abandoned by his parents as an infant. Raised in a monastery, Ambrosio is a religious fast-tracker taught to disdain sin and hold himself up as a model of purity, untempted by secular pleasure. In Madrid, as the novel begins, he is the young abbot, leader of a monastery. A mesmerizing public speaker, Ambrosio becomes proud and vain, as his popular weekly sermons quickly raise him to the status of an idol. Mischief and misfortunes ensue as Ambrosio's real virtues are put to the test.
What gradually appears to be nothing more than cheap melodramatic pornography is actually a sophisticated critique of the socio-political atmosphere of the late 18th century. "The Monk" operates as a critique not only of Roman Catholicism, but of religious fervor in general. The novel also has much to say about the nature of fame and hero-worship, making it relevant even to-day. "The Monk" also explores themes of government in general - showing the pros and cons of theocracy, oligarchy, pure democracy, and even questions matters of self-governance.
Without getting over-serious, I should also note that Lewis manages to sneak instances of humour into his gothic romance. "The Monk" is at times, a great deal of fun to read. It has all the requisite elements of a rainy-night novel - obscure legends, magic spells, terrible demons, chase scenes, and intersecting love stories. "The Monk" is a fantastic and engaging novel, and one which you will not soon forget after reading.
I wish we'd been given this in High School instead of the Scarlet Letter.
Truly a classic and holds up remarkably well.
Another thing I enjoyed about the monk was that it did not overdo the descriptions as I thought Radcliffe's The Mysteries of UdolphoThe Mysteries of Udolpho (Penguin Classics) did.
Some of the best qualities in the book were: the snipits of interesting poetry, The story of The Bleeding Nun (which in itself is an interesting story), and the concentration on several characters as opposed to just one.
Although the Monk is certainly not everyone's proverbial cup of tea, I think that if one enjoys the gothic novel with extreme elements of debauchery and is looking for a book without an overly complex venacular The Monk is a great read.
The story is basically about Ambrosio, who as an enfant was found at the doors of the abbey, stirring talks that he was a divine-sent child. He grew up to become an ostensibly pious and deeply revered Abbot of the Capuchin monastery in Madrid, a fit in holiness that aroused the resentment of the devil who decides to plot his fall. The devil plotted the fall through the working of a young female who disguised and became a novice under the tutelage of Ambrioso, the immaculate monk. Ambrioso's fall is plotted through out the later stages of the novel as his fight with the deep passions of his body, the machinations of the devil and his attempts at redemption. Anti-Catholic in nature, this Gothic classic is perhaps the best in its genre. I am certain the author enjoyed every moment while he was writing it because the story flowed all the way through to the end. Like Disciples of Fortune, The Monk is a recommended classic.