Book Name : The Castle of Otranto
Author : Horace Walpole
Genre : Fiction, Gothic
What is it about? : This is the book which started off the Gothic genre in literature.It was first published in 1764. Its about Manfred, Lord of a region called Otranto, who is struck with a series of events starting off with the death of his son who dies when a mysterious helmet appears out of nowhere and falls on his head.
How I came to read it : Having the read ‘The Moonstone’ and ‘The Woman in White’ recently my interest in Gothic literature revived and I thought why not go back to the root of it all and give the book that started it all, a read. I got it for free form Project Gutenberg and read it on my Kindle.
Did I like it? : No, I did not. It fell much below my expectations. Or maybe I was expecting too much.
I am going to keep this one short. The Castle of Otranto, has most of the stock characters of the Gothic genre like the evil villain, the spotlessly good maidens and others but when it comes to creating the atmosphere of dread and evil it fails miserably. At times, it even feels comedic with its exaggerated absurdity of some of the characters like those of the servants. The story itself is not interesting and there is only one scene in the entire book which I liked. It promised much but the rest of the book never lives up to that one moment. Spoiler Alert here. The scene I am talking is when a giant hand appears in one of the rooms of the castle. No other part of the body of the creature, whatever that is, is shown. Just the hand reaching out for something. The servants looking at this unearthly scene flee the spot so no more of the action is described. The brilliant suspense created here fizzles down as the novel proceeds.
The only saving grace for me was that I finally ticked off one of the earliest books of the Gothic genre.