Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Tuesdays Tomes: A Sicilian Romance by Ann Radcliffe

Oops! I scheduled this post while Blogger was having difficulties and I guess it didn't register so here's Tuesdays Tomes on Wednesday!

Tuesdays Tomes is a weekly book review of vintage books available free on-line.A Sicilian Romance...oh what a tale! If you like romance, mystery, beautiful heroines, a bit of "It was a dark and stormy night" this book is for you.

Ann Radcliffe was the most popular writer of her day (as Jane Austen readers can testify to-Harriet Smith (Emma) was quite fond of The Romance of the Forest and Catherine (Northanger Abbey) couldn't stop talking about The Mysteries of Udolfo).

In this second novel (1790) by Ann Radcliffe, two sweet sisters, Emilia and Julia, live together with Mme. de Menon, their governess and dear friend of their late mother, in their father's castle-the castle of Mazzini on the northern shore of the island of Sicily. Their father seldom comes even to visit-he quitted the castle, taking his son, Ferdinand, with him, soon after his wife's death. He and his second wife prefer the lively times in Naples.

When the old retainer Vincent becomes deathly ill, the Marquis de Mazzini returns with his son, his son's friend Hippolitus de Vereza (that has to be the worst name for a hero ever!), his second wife and various friends and hangers-on.

Here's just a peak at what awaits: Julia loves Hippolitus, he loves her, her father wants her to marry the rich and powerful Duke de Luovo, they try to run away but her father catches them, there's a sword fight...and that is just a bit of a spoiler.

Several years ago, I started to read The Mysteries of Udolfo but I found it so tortuously slow that I gave up. Not here-in A Sicilian Romance the first two chapters quickly set the stage for all the swift moving events that follow.

Perfectly read by Betsie Bush, you can download this free audio-book here or the free e-book in pdf. or Kindle format here.

Ann Radcliffe has been called the Mother of the Gothic Novel but in my opinion, that should be amended to the Mother of the Romance Novel. Yes, she excels in the atmospheric and there are certainly enough abbeys, ruins, caves and trap doors in this novel to satisfy everyone but its her touch with young love that I found most endearing.

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