In A Sicilian Romance (1790) Ann Radcliffe began to forge the unique mixture of the psychology of terror and poetic description that would make her the great exemplar of the Gothic novel, and the idol of the Romantics. This early novel explores the cavernous landscapes and labyrinthine passages of Sicily's castles and convents to reveal the shameful secrets of its all-powerful aristocracy.
Many elements we now think of as standard tropes of the gothic genre are employed here, which as I've remarked in previous reviews sometimes seem a bit more silly than scary to modern readers. But, unlike in some other early gothic novels I've read, Radcliffe manages to really pull off some very suspenseful moments here, and the story holds up quite well overall.
When Ann Radcliffe wrote A Sicilian romance she had never visited Italy. The imagined landscape and architecture are therefore a stock pile of cliches about Italy, and so are the turns and twists of the plot. There is no real development of a story; merely a tumbling from one outrage into another.
One too many twists and turns to keep up with. I thought for a while some of the characters were dead the up they popped again alive and well. Ummmmmmmmm wait, last I heard of you you were at the end of a sword, when did you come back to life.
Too many times did I have to figure out the scene courtesy of the author telling me that things could not be written only imagined by one who lived through it basically or some such nonsense like that. I get needing to use my own imagination and I could have easily taken that line once perhaps twice but over and over again. You are the author, tell me what you are thinking. I can easily imagine a scene's background but I don't think I should also have to imagine the main action and details.