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Tag Archives: Gothic Novel

The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole

Hello everyone, and happy October! Here at Of Print and Prose, we’ll be getting ready to celebrate Halloween by posting a Halloween-themed book review every Sunday. We’re starting with an old classic: The Castle of Otranto, the original gothic novel by Horace Walpole.

Cathedral of Otranto

Cathedral of Otranto

I have seen The Castle of Otranto and other gothic novels referenced in books before, so I wanted to read one for myself. I had an opportunity this summer to read it with a friend from my old book club. It was interesting to finally read a book I have seen mentioned so many times.

The Castle of Otranto has some supernatural elements, but it isn’t particularly scary or suspenseful. The basic premise is that unexplained events start happening to a family who may not have rightfully inherited the title and lands of Otranto. Everyone suspects the mysterious occurrences may be signs of divine retribution against the descendants of the usurper. Several mysterious strangers arrive and are caught up in the drama as the current Prince of Otranto tries to escape an old prophecy about his family.

This is an older novel than what I usually read, so it was a little challenging. In the edition I read, the punctuation, mainly the lack of quotation marks in dialogues, made it a little difficult to understand. Of course, Walpole also introduces the novel as a much older manuscript that he had discovered and edited, so it was meant to sound old-fashioned even to eighteenth century readers.

I would recommend reading this book mainly because it is the first of its kind. The whole genre of gothic novels and many horror novels were influenced by this book, so if you like having some historical context when you read, this is a great option. Also, if (like me) you felt you missed a lot of inside jokes while reading Northanger Abbey, this is the perfect place to start. I give this book three stars-I’m glad I read it, but probably wouldn’t be interested in reading it a second time.  ★★★


Stay tuned for next week, when I’ll be reviewing a much more modern book!


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Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Long before I was bitten by the “English teacher” bug, I have adored (like most literary females) Jane Austen books.  Through an Austen-obsessed high school experience, and a “just for fun” literature class on the authoress in college, I have read every published Austen work except for Northanger Abbey.  I’d put off reading it for as long as I could, thrilling at the idea that there was still more Austen in the world yet to be discovered, but my curiosity won out this summer when I stumbled upon a copy at my local library.  I all too happily accepted the discovery as fate, thinking it fitting that I be well versed in every work of Austen before beginning my master’s program.

It’s a little difficult to review something written by a literary giant like Jane Austen.  What could I possibly say other than it was terrific, I loved it, and I’m pretty sure Austen is the novelist version of an 1800’s Tina Fey (smart, subtle, and funny – the total package)?  What I will say is this: Northanger Abbey is completely different than any of Austen’s works.  A parody of the popular gothic novels of the time, the heroine is Catherine Morland, and she’s rather stupid, which makes for several funny points throughout the novel.  The naiveté of the heroine make the happy ending of her story much less passionate than other Austen works, and thus slightly less satisfying to a reader.  But the different kind of subtle humor that Austen is such a master at is refreshing and unique.  I haven’t read a lot of gothic novels yet (and I’m about to be an English teacher – horrid, I know) but it inspired me to read some, which is always positive!

Overall, Northanger Abbey is an enjoyable read, and a must have for any Austen fan who’s yet to gobble up everything she has to offer.  It isn’t as funny as Emma, or as popular as Pride and Prejudice, or as romantic as the lesser-known Persuasion, which is my personal favorite.  But it’s diverting, it’s Jane Austen, and it’s most definitely worth 4 stars!


– Becca

P.S. A hot tip for my fellow e-reader owners – because Northanger Abbey was published before 1920, with a little hunting, you can find it free on Amazon for the kindle!  However, I prefer to read older books in print, especially if they have footnotes, so if you’re the same, this title is usually readily available at any library!