Thursday, October 16, 2014

Uncle Silas

Not the cover, but could be!
Uncle Silas, by Sheridan Le Fanu

Uncle Silas was suggested to me for an October read, and it was a lot of fun.  It is a wonderful example of the English Gothic novel (OK, Le Fanu was Irish, but it's the genre): big old crumbling mansion, strange uncle, heiress all alone...no Catholics this time, this being solid England, but there are Swedenborgians!

Maud lives with her father and a few servants on their estate; their lives are incredibly sheltered and lonely.  Maud's father is old, self-absorbed, and distant, mostly interested in the beliefs of Swedenborg.  Maud hears a tiny bit about her Uncle Silas, a former rake who, rumor claims, murdered a creditor years ago.  Although Maud's father believes in his brother's innocence, few others do and Silas lives in utter seclusion, reportedly a fervently converted Christian repenting of his former ways.  There is also a scary, scheming, screeching old French governess who terrifies Maud.

The father dies and Maud is sent to live for the next few years with Uncle Silas, who will inherit her vast fortune if she dies before she reaches adulthood.  Here, she is even more isolated, though she does have her cousin Milly, but her circumstances get ever creepier and more unsettling...

This is a really good mid-Victorian Gothic thriller with bonus locked-room mystery.  Maud is pretty irritating at first; she is so completely sheltered that she is not much use to anyone or herself, but she learns to find some backbone.  The governess is really over the top, and Uncle Silas is creepy.


I'm looking forward to the Wonderfully Wicked Readathon, starting tomorrow and ending on the 27th.  I probably won't be able to post much at the beginning--I expect to spend the next couple of days in a frenzy of activity--but I'll get there!


1 comment:

Kristen M. said...

I feel like I've maybe read this one but I'm not sure. Le Fanu has such over-the-top but fun stories so if I figure out I haven't read this one, I'll pick it up!