The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
One of the most ludicrous Penguin Classics, this book reads as if the Monty Python boys had teamed up with Sir Walter Scott and they'd taken a whole bunch o' drugs together. If you're expecting this progenitor of the Gothic novel to have spooky atmosphere, credible shocks and believable characters, stop right there. It's an eighteenth century novel, and that means it's pre-Romantic. The novel was not considered a serious literary form at the time (or at least, not by most people) - real literature was non-fiction for sensible chaps, followed by poetry, followed by drama, with the novel lagging in last place as a fit diversion for silly young ladies. Walpole didn't really help the situation by writing a very silly book, but it's so bizarre that - if you try to visualise what's going on - you can almost appreciate why it was such a huge success. Which is why I've given it three stars. It's like one of those terrible horror films you remember when many a better-crafted work has been forgotten.
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