January 2015 Horror! Read - Traditional/classic Gothic works


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January 2015 Horror! Read - Traditional/classic Gothic works

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Jan 2, 2015, 3:58pm

The January challenge is to read a traditional or classic Gothic work.

The original thread had these suggestions:

The Castle of Otranto
The Old English Baron
The Mysteries of Udolpho
The Monk
The Italian
Justine; or, the Misfortunes of Virtue
Melmoth the Wanderer

Gothic horror, is a genre or mode of literature that combines fiction, horror and Romanticism. Its origin is attributed to English author Horace Walpole, with his 1764 novel The Castle of Otranto, subtitled (in its second edition) "A Gothic Story." The effect of Gothic fiction feeds on a pleasing sort of terror, an extension of Romantic literary pleasures that were relatively new at the time of Walpole's novel. Melodrama and parody (including self-parody) were other long-standing features of the Gothic initiated by Walpole. It originated in England in the second half of the 18th century and had much success in the 19th, as witnessed by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and the works of Edgar Allan Poe. Another well known novel in this genre, dating from the late Victorian era, is Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The name Gothic refers to the (pseudo)-medieval buildings in which many of these stories take place. This extreme form of romanticism was very popular in England and Germany. (copied from Wikipedia)

Jan 2, 2015, 3:59pm

I personally plan to read Uncle Silas by another classic gothic writer, J. Sheridan Le Fanu.

Jan 2, 2015, 4:04pm

Thanks for setting up the thread!

Jan 2, 2015, 4:09pm

I've got an audio version of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde on my ipod so I might listen to that. Otherwise I've been wanting to get to Dracula and The Phantom of the Opera for a while, particularly Dracula, so might do that. We'll see.

Jan 2, 2015, 4:29pm

I'm in for The Monk - Matthew Lewis.
Hope to start later today.

Jan 2, 2015, 4:44pm

I'm reading The Monk and hoping to fit in Frankenstein.

Jan 2, 2015, 5:37pm

I'm going to tackle The Castle of Otranto as it was already on my shelf, but not for a few days yet as I've got to get through some of the others that I've got on the go.

Jan 2, 2015, 7:51pm

Here is tutored read thread for The Monk from 2012. Lyzard said she would be happy to answer any new questions. Just post on that thread if you have any.


Here is the link to the Castle of Otranto tutored read also by Lyzard.


Jan 2, 2015, 7:52pm

Thank you Jean for starting the thread!

Jan 3, 2015, 6:21am

>1 majkia: I'm new to early Gothic, but my first impression of The Monk was the melodrama and parody. I expected a menacing and brooding atmosphere (I thought of Gothic as very dark, for some reason) so it took awhile to realise that it was supposed to read that way.

Editado: Jan 4, 2015, 4:41pm

I'm going to aim to get to The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole on audio.

Do we have a wiki for this? Should we link to it in this thread (I always find that handy!)?
ETA: Maybe we don't have one? If we do, I'm not seeing it.

Jan 4, 2015, 4:43pm

>11 LibraryCin: No, as far as I know there's no wiki.

Editado: Jan 4, 2015, 5:19pm

>8 luvamystery65: I've been following the tutored read of The Monk as I go and find it interesting. I'll be sure to post any questions on that thread too, good of Lyzard to offer.

Jan 4, 2015, 9:24pm

>12 PawsforThought: OK, good to know! Thanks!

Editado: Jan 6, 2015, 6:37pm

I'm halfway through The Monk already! Won't give anything away but it's a rip-roaring read. The family relationships get a bit confusing and I recommend drawing out a family tree as you go. The language can be convoluted and occasionally I have to re-read something to get the gist, but it's not lacking for plot - maybe too much plot for some. Have found it funny and almost camp at times but I'm now fully in the spirit and feeling for the characters rather than just rolling my eyes. Like getting carried away with a good old-fashioned panto; I'm almost cheering, booing and hissing my way through it.

Lyzard's and SqueakyChu's thread has been interesting. A lot of the terms and words were familiar to me already (I had an idea what a papal bull was, and the word 'dudgeon'), but where I've found it personally helpful is in pointing out references I wouldn't have got and giving a bit of background. I'd never heard of the legend of The Wandering Jew, for example. It's been fun to follow SqueakyChu's reaction to the book, too.

Jan 6, 2015, 11:13am

>15 Moomin_Mama: I am still waiting for The Monk and The Castle of Otranto from the library. They are "in transit". I'm glad the tutored reads are helping you. That was what I was hoping for myself.

Jan 6, 2015, 2:57pm

I am about 1/3 of the way through The Castle of Otranto. I am reading along with SquakyChu and Lyzard and finding that it at least doubles the pleasure of my reading.

Jan 7, 2015, 6:56am

Finally around to starting The Castle of Otranto - have just gobbled up the first chapter before I head back to work. Hoping to get through at least one more chapter this evening.

Jan 7, 2015, 6:44pm

I'm reading Zofloya, which has been compared to The Monk. I'm looking forward to all of the discussions and comments, though, as I've got plenty of memories of reading and discussing both it and Castle of Otranto, along with some of the others mentioned here!

Editado: Jan 7, 2015, 9:46pm

>2 majkia: I am also going to give Uncle Silas a try.

Actually, after looking more closely I think that Uncle Silas would probably be more correctly Classified as Victorian Gothic. So I think I'll either go with either The Monk or Melmoth the Wanderer.

Jan 7, 2015, 10:49pm

My mother gave me my first Folio edition. It's Seven Gothic Tales by Isak Dinesen. I'll be reading that.

Editado: Jan 8, 2015, 12:08am

Started The Monk this week. So far very enjoyable.

Jan 8, 2015, 8:59pm

I'm about halfway through The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole. I'm listening to it on audiobook, which I haven't done in years (listen to an audiobook, that is). Maybe it's the experience of that, but I'm not really enjoying The Castle. I know a lot of people on this thread like it, though. I just think classic gothic books aren't my thing. *shrugs*

Jan 8, 2015, 9:23pm

I followed the tutored read of The Castle of Otranto and I really enjoyed it. I don't think it is supposed to be funny but I laughed a lot.

Jan 10, 2015, 11:21pm

Ok, I finally finished The Castle of Otranto today and was so relieved and disappointed. Relieved: because I actually got through it. Disappointed: because it was so incredibly dull and confusing. I honestly can't recall what the book was about. But at least I can give January a check-mark. I at least tried it. :) Best of luck to everyone else working on their January reads! :)

Jan 11, 2015, 1:43am

>25 saraslibrary: Well, that's not terribly encouraging! I know "classics" are hit or miss for me, so it sounds like something that might go the same way for me. I guess I'll soon find out! The audio came in at the library for me, so I've got it; I just need to finish my current audio first, likely sometime next week.

Jan 11, 2015, 5:35am

I haven't started yet and am over-committed this month. Hopefully I will get to The Monk before the end of January.

Jan 11, 2015, 6:20am

>25 saraslibrary: The Castle is one of the shortest suggestions, which means you weren't suffering too long. The Monk is 410 pages of large print on my e-reader. Has it put you off March (Victorian Gothic)? If it's any comfort they liked a short ghost story.

You did say you weren't keen on older books; I think we all know what we like, deep down. Good for you for trying :)

Jan 11, 2015, 8:15am

>27 ccookie: I'm in the same boat. I had wanted to read The Monk but I'm not sure I'll get to it. I'm still enjoying the discussion in this thread, though!

Jan 12, 2015, 3:38pm

>26 LibraryCin: Sorry! :( I probably should've mentioned I don't read a lot of classics, so that may have had a lot to do with my not liking The Castle. The nice thing about the book is that it is short. Btw, I also listened to the audiobook, too. Hope you like it! :)

>27 ccookie: *fingers crossed for you* I think we all over-commit sometimes. Don't sweat it. If you get to it, you do; if not, no worries. :)

>28 Moomin_Mama: LOL! Good point. Actually, it hasn't put me off gothic classics completely, but I doubt it'll ever be one of my top favorite horror sub-genres. I figure if I could complete January, I'll definitely try March! :)

Thank you! :) It did kind of feel like assigned school reading. But sometimes it's good to read things outside your comfort zone, imho.

>29 mathgirl40: Have you thought of doing the audiobook version? That might make it a little easier to sneak a "page" or two in a day. Good luck! :)

Jan 12, 2015, 10:52pm

>30 saraslibrary: Yes, I'm happy it's short, so I'll see how it goes...

Jan 13, 2015, 6:52am

>29 mathgirl40: I do frequently borrow e-audiobooks from my library but I didn't find The Monk there. However, I just remembed Librivox might have it, and it does! I still don't know if I'll be able to fit it in before end of January but thank you for the reminder about the audiobook version.

Jan 15, 2015, 3:58pm

I finished The Castle of Otranto. While I understand that this book spawned the Gothic novel and was wildly imaginative in 1764, the melodrama was too much for me. I might very well have abandoned it. Then I discovered the thread where lyzard tutors Squeaky_Chu on the book. It really changed everything about the read for me.

Jan 17, 2015, 11:42am

Hmm, seems I misread the theme. My chosen book isn't a classic so I'll go with The Castle of Otranto.

Jan 17, 2015, 4:09pm

The Castle of Otranto / Horace Walpole
3 stars

This is considered the first gothic horror novel, originally written in 1764. Conrad is found dead, just as he was to marry Isabella. Manfred (Conrad's father) then decides to divorce his wife and marry Isabella instead. Isabella is horrified and runs away with the help of a mysterious stranger...

It was ok. It started off better for me, but I was listening to the audio and as does sometimes tend to happen with audios with me, I get distracted and miss parts of the story, which unfortunately is what happened here. I wonder if I would have liked it more if I'd read it in print? It was set in a creepy gothic castle, so the setting was fun.

Editado: Jan 17, 2015, 8:33pm

Finished The Monk. The book got better and better as it went along, and as I got into the spirit of it and accustomed to the writing. For a horror fan it has some great horror scenes, and quite a variety; chilling ghost scenes; gruesome and horrific deaths and cruelties; the supernatural and black magic. I kept notes which I've added to my thread if anyone wants to read (there are spoilers throughout). I'm also hoping to post them on the tutored read thread mentioned above.

For all those who have read The Castle of Otranto - how did it stand up as a horror?

>35 LibraryCin: Creepy gothic castles are fun! Creaking doors, cobwebs, secret passageways; I'm alway put in mind of the original version of House on Haunted Hill, a favourite horror film of mine.

I'm planning to read Frankenstein, a classic which I've never read. It's fits somewhere between early Gothic and Victorian so now seems a great time to read it.

Jan 17, 2015, 8:33pm

>8 luvamystery65: >36 Moomin_Mama: Lyzard has kindly agreed to offer some answers and thoughts on my reading of The Monk, and I'm sure will be happy to do the same for The Castle of Otranto, if anybody is interested.

For anyone still struggling to start The Monk, there is a film version! It's fairly recent and stars Vincent Cassell:


I know, it's cheating really, but it does look like a decent film so I thought I'd share the trailer.

Jan 17, 2015, 9:52pm

>35 LibraryCin: I don't listen to audiobooks very often, but I noticed I was kind of half-listening to it, too. (But then again, I was at work for most of the listening.) I would've liked to have read a physical copy of it, but I can't remember if our library did/didn't have a copy. Anyway, I'm just glad to have it done with. :)

>36 Moomin_Mama: For all those who have read The Castle of Otranto - how did it stand up as a horror? - Do you mean did it give me the chills, etc? If so, no, it didn't. It felt more like a drama. Children would probably be safe reading it, imho.

>37 Moomin_Mama: Hmm, I may look to see if we have The Monk DVD at work. Thanks for the recommendation! :)

Jan 17, 2015, 11:56pm

>36 Moomin_Mama: Yeah, I'm not sure I would really call it "horror", either. I did like the castle, though. :-)

Jan 22, 2015, 6:02pm

Admittedly, I'm not a fan of the classic gothics--I took a gothic class where we read The Castle of Otranto and others, and I just couldn't get past the melodrama, or the fact that I felt I was reading the same thing over...and over...and over again. That said, I read The Monk in a horror class, and it was such a strange and fast read that I really enjoyed it! All that said, I actually thought about skipping over January and any of the months here that asked for a gothic, because they did leave such a dully bored taste in my mouth (you're fainting again? really? oh, just die already...)...but, in the end, I read Zofloya. It's been compared to The Monk, and in all honesty, I enjoyed it more than I expected it to. It didn't go as quickly as Matthew Lewis' more well-known work, and it certainly hasn't gotten me re-interested in the drama, but I did find it more unique than a lot of the other gothics I was exposed to in that horrendous class I took.

To answer some of the thoughts above...In my opinion, the classic gothics aren't really horror-ish at all; they're rather more silly than chilling... of course, between all of the fire and brimstone and betrayal and lust and stabbing (and more stabbing and more stabbing), I suppose I have to say Zofloya, at least, straddles the line between the classic gothics like Castle of Otranto and the early horrors like The Monk.

In any case, full review written, and I can check January off!

Jan 22, 2015, 6:45pm

>40 whitewavedarling:: Zofloya sounds interesting, and I will have to look out for it - enjoyed The Monk enough to try another Gothic but I'd prefer the ones that lean towards horror at least. Thanks for letting us know what you thought of it.

Jan 22, 2015, 9:36pm

>40 whitewavedarling: I'm glad there were more gothic options out there than just the ones listed in >1 majkia:. But I'm like you, I'm not a fan of classic gothics at all; that's why I stuck with something small like The Castle of Otranto.

LOL @ (you're fainting again? really? oh, just die already...). Btw, I thumbed your review for Zofloya. Good job finishing it! :)

Jan 23, 2015, 2:04pm

Jan 23, 2015, 4:26pm

Finished Frankenstein. Glad I did, even though it wasn't as enjoyable as The Monk. I can see how it's a classic - it's more a book of ideas and must be one of the first to tackle the ethics of our playing around with nature as we make more scientific discoveries. How does it read as a horror? Well, apart from the odd scene here and there, the horror is more in the implications of our meddling in science without considering the consequences. Very thought-provoking (although I can't pretend that some of it isn't ludicrous).

Jan 24, 2015, 5:53pm

>44 Moomin_Mama: I always wondered about Frankenstein. I've never read it (one of the movie adaptations I really liked), but as you said, it is about "playing around with nature," so I always wondered why it wasn't considered more sci fi than horror? Or is science fiction mostly aliens, outer space, etc? Or is that a stereotype of the SF genre? (Obviously, I don't read a lot of science fiction. ;)

Anyway, congrats on finished two for January! :) I'm super impressed. And nice points about Frankenstein

Editado: Jan 25, 2015, 7:02am

>45 saraslibrary: Good point about Frankenstein being more SF, I hadn't thought about it but you are right. I know nothing about SF myself, maybe someone in the group will enlighten us?

I hate to admit it, but although I'm familiar with Boris Karloff as Frankenstein's monster, I've never seen the film! Which movie adaptation did you like?

>24 luvamystery65: Does that mean you've read The Castle of Otranto?

Jan 25, 2015, 6:51am

>45 saraslibrary: and >46 Moomin_Mama: Many people consider Frankenstein to be the first science fiction novel, for the reason you mention, but it is also firmly rooted in the Gothic horror tradition. So it's really a crossover book, in my opinion.

Jan 25, 2015, 2:40pm

>46 Moomin_Mama: Yes I did read The Castle of Otranto. I didn't find it all a horror but rather quite silly but enjoyable.

I'm currently in Volume II of The Monk. I am following the tutored read and I like this book much better than The Castle of Otranto.

Jan 25, 2015, 6:42pm

>46 Moomin_Mama: Well, if it makes you feel any better, I haven't seen the Boris Karloff movie either. :) I've seen parts of I, Frankenstein (2014) (I have a so-so opinion of it, since I didn't see it all; very Underworld-like, which I did like), but the one I remember the best is the 1994 version (with Robert DeNiro, Helena Bonham Carter, and Kenneth Branagh). If you're interested, there are a couple good Frankenstein IMDb lists here and here.

>47 sturlington: Really? I had no idea they did. But I think you're right; there's a definite genre crossover.

Jan 25, 2015, 8:46pm

>47 sturlington: Thanks for that, you can always rely on one of the trusty old regulars here on the LT horror boards :D

>48 luvamystery65: So glad someone is reading The Monk, it's a sensational read even by today's standards. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

>49 saraslibrary: I've seen the Hammer version and the Abbott and Costello film, and that's it. Terrible, I know, for a so-called horror movie fan - I hang my head in shame. The lists you mentioned will come in very handy!

Editado: Jan 25, 2015, 10:43pm

>50 Moomin_Mama: No, don't feel ashamed. That's about as many Frankenstein movies as I've seen. :) I doubt Young Frankenstein is an accurate adaptation of the book. ;) (I vaguely remember that one from childhood.)

Jan 30, 2015, 5:41pm

I finished reading The Monk today! After finding it a little hard to get in to, I ended up enjoying it.

Editado: Jan 30, 2015, 6:31pm

>49 saraslibrary: >50 Moomin_Mama: A while back, I wrote a short essay on the science fiction themes in Frankenstein. I think this is a link to it: http://www.librarything.com/work/8294/reviews/40870158

Jan 31, 2015, 2:04pm

>52 JonHutchings: Congrats! And you were able to fit it in before February. Double congrats on actually liking it. :)

>53 sturlington: Wow, I actually learned quite a few things about Frankenstein (I had no idea Mary Shelley was so young when she wrote it). Nice job! :) I thumbed you for your review.

Jan 31, 2015, 7:04pm

>54 saraslibrary: Thanks. :-)

Jan 31, 2015, 7:20pm

>55 sturlington: You're welcome. :) Do you have anything lined up for February? *looks at calendar* Tomorrow, I mean. ;) *realizes she doesn't have anything lined up yet*

Fev 1, 2015, 8:35am

>56 saraslibrary: I'm not sure if any of my planned reads will qualify. I'm going to try to get to The Island of Doctor Moreau, but is it supernatural?

Fev 1, 2015, 8:44am

#57 by sturlington> I can see where it would be tagged as supernatural.

Fev 1, 2015, 1:56pm

>58 majkia: Well, if I ever finish the audio of The Phantom of the Opera, that would also qualify.

Fev 1, 2015, 5:44pm

>57 sturlington: No worries. It's not necessary to do every month. And I honestly don't know about The Island of Doctor Moreau.