Saturday 25 March 2017

Book Review: The Romance of the Forest by Ann Radcliffe

Title: The Romance of the Forest
Author: Ann Radcliffe
Publisher: Oxford World Classics
Publication Date: 2009 (1791)
Pages: 397
Format: Paperback
Genre: Classics/Gothic
Source: Xmas Gift

Set in a Roman Catholic Europe of violent passions and extreme oppression, the novel follows the fate of its heroine Adeline, who is mysteriously placed under the protection of a family fleeing Paris for debt. They take refuge in a ruined abbey in south-eastern France, where sinister relics of the past - a skeleton, a manuscript, and a rusty dagger - are discovered in concealed rooms. Adeline finds herself at the mercy of the abbey's proprietor, a libidinous Marquis whose attentions finally force her to contemplate escape to distant regions.

Rich in allusions to aesthetic theory and to travel literature,
The Romance of the Forest is also concerned with current philosophical debate and examines systems of thought central to the intellectual life of late eighteenth-century Europe. (Back Copy)

I have enjoyed all Radcliffe's other novels, and The Romance of the Forest is no exception. Indeed, I believe it is my favourite. I enjoyed the simplicity of the tale and cared about the characters. The Gothic themes are there, but they are more subdued than in Radcliffe's later works, so they don't take over the narrative. All up, this was a delightful read from start to finish. It is very much a work of its time, but that will be no obstacle for those used to reading eighteenth century literature. It is certainly one for all Gothic fans.

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