Title: The Italian
Author: Ann Radcliffe
Genre: Classic, Gothic Romance, Northanger Cannon of Gothic Novels
Date Finished: 26 May 2008
My Rating: 2 Stars
The Italian by Ann Radcliffe is the second book in the Northanger Cannon of Gothic Novels that I have read and it was definitely a challenge for me to get through. (To get more information about the Northanger Cannon of Gothic Novels you can read this post from Austen Prose and this post from Old Grey Pony.)
"The haughty, manipulative Marchesa, determined to thwart the romance between her son, the young Neapolitan nobleman Vincentio di Vivaldi, and Elena di Rosalba, has enlisted the help of the villainous, scheming monk, Schedoni. With a livid paleness of face and a melancholy eye, whose brooding presence dominates the novel, Schedoni has become an archetype of Romantic literature. Set in the mid-eighteenth century against the dramatic, lush backdrop of the Bay of Naples, The Italian is a tale of passion, deceit, abduction, and the horrors of the Inquisition."
The novel has all the elements of a Gothic romance, separation of lovers, dark ruins, good and evil monks and nuns, mistaken or unknown identity, supernatural occurrences, and revenge, but for me, I thought the book was rather slow paced for a Gothic novel.
The beginning of the novel seemed to have the elements of a Romeo and Juliet story as the nobleman Vivaldi tries to win the love of Ellena against the wishes of his family. As the story continued it became confusing with all the kidnappings, strange messages and half told narratives. And then it became even more confusing and convoluted at the end when all these elements were brought together to conclude the story.
The prose was exceptional in its descriptions but it was also these descriptions that slowed my reading almost to a halt.
Gothic romances are by no means modern tales and this was far from a page turner, but it was interesting to read a book by "the queen" of the Gothic romance.
After reading two Gothic romances, I think I can see why Jane Austen wrote a parody of these melodramatic and complicated stories. I can also better understand how the works of Jane Austen were a force in changing the way novels were written.