Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Italian Readalong: Wrapup

Have you finished The Italian?  What did you think overall?  I must say I did enjoy this story; I remember having quite a hard time with Udolpho (though that was years ago) but this was easy to get into and enjoy.  It's, ahem, just a teeny bit prejudiced about the Roman Catholic Church, but we knew that going in, right? 

We've had some final revelations about the Mystery Monk and his role in the whole thing, and all has been cleared up between Ellena and the Vivaldi family.  Schedoni has conveniently removed himself and the Mystery Monk from the scene, so joy may reign unconfined.

I was impressed with how Vivaldi matured through the story; I said a couple of weeks ago that he's a ninny, but by the end he's an ideal manly type.  Not only is he noble and sensitive and loving, he is honest, kind, and compassionate even to his enemies.  He's worthy of Ellena (who you'll notice gets married on her 18th birthday!).

Paolo gets the last word, which was kind of fun.  He's a bit embarrassing as a character, embodying every possible stereotype about excitable, overemotional foreigners who rarely think through their actions.  At the end, though, he's proven himself to be brave and trustworthy, and he sums up everyone's feelings in his joyful speech.

With her Gothic novels, Radcliffe was painting a portrait of Italy.  Not a terribly realistic portrait, but an intriguing one that could hold English fantasies about a more Romantic kind of life--more rugged, with wilder scenery, emotions right at the surface, and everything less controlled and domestic than it was at home.  Children of the Forest was all about banditti, Udolpho had more about mountains, and The Italian completes the fantasy world with the Catholic Church--albeit as it had not been for at least a hundred years.  Italian words must have sounded impossibly exotic and romantic to English ears in those days--I bet just the word banditti conjured up all sorts of wonderful ideas.

Now we've turned right around and romanticized Radcliffe's own time--or at least, the few years immediately following.  We use the Regency era as an image that can hold our own romantic imagination just like they used Italy, and so there is an endless market for Regency romances and Jane Austen spinoffs.  Think of all those mediocre 'horrid novels' that so appalled those people who disapproved of novels at all--they were filling exactly the same niche as the piles of Jane Austen sequels that so appall some of us now.  (Me for one!)

I hope you've enjoyed a month of Gothic literature and it's put you in the proper frame of mind for autumn and some Halloween fun.  Or, if you're British, for Guy Fawkes fun.  I certainly plan on it.


Amy said...

Well, I've vicariously enjoyed all those James stories again--thank you for that!

Jean said...

I'm glad you enjoyed those, I did to. :)

Teresa said...

I really enjoyed reading 'The Italian'! It had been on my shelves for more than three years and this was a perfect opportunity to change that. Overall, Ellena was my favourite character! And also... the 'servants'... they kind of annoyed me a bit. All of them... it took them at least one page to reveal the 'intelligence' they had!