A Sicilian romance

by Ann Ward Radcliffe

Paper Book, 1998





Oxford : Oxford University Press, 1998.


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.

User reviews

LibraryThing member JBD1
One of Radcliffe's early novels, this one set in an appropriately gothic Sicilian castle with abandoned wings and hidden underground passages and dungeons, where mysterious lights are seen in desolate towers and loud groans emanate from below the floors.

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.… (more)
LibraryThing member george.d.ross
Okay, so from a literary perspective, perhaps not the most accomplished text, but very enjoyable nonetheless! Not half so silly or campy as Castle of Otranto, I actually found it... if not scary, at least suspenseful in places. A nice introduction to the standard tropes of the genre: domineering fathers, helpless mothers, rape or imprisonment threatening around every corner, and a high-spirited virgin who manages to navigate through it all.… (more)
LibraryThing member edwinbcn
A Sicilian romance by Ann Radcliffe is a short and rather muddled story. A tourist visiting a ruined castle in Sicily, gets drawn into the story of the unhappy daughters' love romances. A huge, half-ruined castle, full of crags and corners, mysterious lights, tunnels, etc., the plot takes as many unexpected turns as the labyrinthine extravagances of the imagined architecture of the castle.

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.

Very disappointing.
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LibraryThing member john257hopper
This is a short gothic romance novel by this late 18th century author, more famous for the much longer Mysteries of Udolpho. It is very much of the same type, with evocative and dreamlike descriptions of the landscape; beautiful fainting women, handsome heroes and dastardly villains; gloomy decaying castles harbouring ghostly secrets that turn out to have a rational solution; staggering coincidences and the plot strands resolved satisfactorily at the end (slightly abruptly here, I thought). I love the language in which 18th and early 19th century novels were written.… (more)
LibraryThing member Cecrow
Ann Radcliffe continued the Gothic tradition through the late 1700s (launched earlier by Horace Walpole and propagated by others), but with her own twists: to rationalize the supernatural elements, and to provide her female characters with stronger will. This had me at least interested, even though Walpole had me trained not to expect too much, and I was impressed with Radcliffe's able capturing and insight into teenage love angst. That was the high point. There is a plot, but it is being continually interfered with by melodrama and self-sacrifice by unambiguously morally good people, who felt scarcely human in the eyes of this 21st century reader. Events hinge on enormous coincidences, a standard and accepted device for its time; as with reading Dickens, you either forgive it on that basis or you can't. The final chapters were artificially prolonged, to the point of my wishing she'd just wrap this up already. For all that it retains some historical value, as entertainment it's no longer much.… (more)
LibraryThing member Dokfintong
If you plan to read a book published in 1790 then you must account for the aesthetic differences between fiction then and now. And perhaps for some vocabulary differences, although I don't think there was any word here that I did not already know. (My feeling on that score is that dictionaries are good things to own.) Romance novels then were just that Romances. Not romantic, although love usually featured highly, but romance in the sense of being set in an exotic place that the reader had to visualize from the descriptive text. Ann Radcliffe was known for her Gothic influences too, so this romance has half a dozen tales of romantic love, most of them tragic, a couple of them vile, set in exotic Sicily. Ghosts. Bandits. Boat wrecks. Numerous loose ends. Par for the course for the fiction of the time. Over the top for today.… (more)
LibraryThing member LGandT
It was great in the beginning, it was great in the middle, but then somewhere in the end it just went downhill.

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.
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