web site hit counter A Sicilian Romance - Ebooks PDF Online
Hot Best Seller

A Sicilian Romance

Availability: Ready to download

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-powe 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.


Compare

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-powe 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.

30 review for A Sicilian Romance

  1. 4 out of 5

    Justin Tate

    And they say this is one of her worst books?! Ann Radcliffe was the J.K. Rowling of the late 1700s. She churned out bestsellers so popular they made her the highest paid author for an entire decade. Her atmospheric gothic mystery/romances entranced the reading public similar to how Rowling immersed us in rich worlds of wizards and magic. Critics and fans alike could not get enough of Radcliffe. And yet today she is rarely read outside of a small slice of literary academia and hardcore gothic buf And they say this is one of her worst books?! Ann Radcliffe was the J.K. Rowling of the late 1700s. She churned out bestsellers so popular they made her the highest paid author for an entire decade. Her atmospheric gothic mystery/romances entranced the reading public similar to how Rowling immersed us in rich worlds of wizards and magic. Critics and fans alike could not get enough of Radcliffe. And yet today she is rarely read outside of a small slice of literary academia and hardcore gothic buffs. If it weren’t for Jane Austen’s incessant references to her in Northanger Abbey she might have been forgotten completely. What a shame! A Sicilian Romance—allegedly her least impressive effort—is a marvelous adventure from beginning to end. Like classic fairytales, the story is a bit of a morality play where the characters are pure good or pure evil. Specifically, there’s a rather nasty ruler who rampages after his daughter challenges his choice of husband for her. As the daughter flees for her life, we follow along for endless rides through gorgeous countryside, confrontations with bandits, and ghostly moaning within the recesses of haunted castles. Sounds are a particular strength to Radcliffe’s writing. She uses noise to create mystery or confusion, and to induce terror in her characters. It’s a clever strategy, since sound is a classic source for misinterpretation and fodder for the imagination. Acclaimed as the “Shakespeare of romance writers” there’s a long history of praise for her prose in general, which is well-deserved. She’s not an especially verbose writer—her language isn’t meant to draw attention to itself—but her vocabulary often exceeds brilliant. It’s easy, succinct reading, but not a text to breeze through because she can pack a full scope of emotion and plot development into a short sentence. Blink and you might miss a huge twist, major reveal, character motivation, or lovely turn of phrase at least. The pace is brisk. Arguably too brisk. The number of unexpected surprises and chance encounters crammed into a mere 200 pages is staggering. I am certainly interested to read her much longer works to see if she slows down any, or if the number of shocks is just exponentialized. My hypothesis for why modern readers have largely lost interest in her bibliography is probably due to her “tell” rather than “show” style. The imagery is vivid, but the style doesn’t invite the reader into the experience. There’s no effort to expand on how exactly a character is feeling when she says they are stupefied by sheer terror. The scenes are described using summary rather than a lived-through narration. Dialogue is a scarce rarity, but always pitch perfect when it occurs. Basically, she writes the opposite of where literary trends are today. I don’t consider that a bad thing, however. By avoiding lengthy internalized dramatization, she allows space for a much longer list of surprising plot elements. Had all the scenes in this book been given Stephen King-like levels of description, it would be 10,000+ pages. In any case, the pleasure of reading a classic is to depart from modern times and immerse yourself in a bygone era, a different style of writing, and new realization about what are timeless conflicts. Familiar themes of jealousy, pride, obsession, fear, corruption, family and many others make up a compelling page-turner which managed to keep me on the edge of my seat just as it did for audiences who read it 230 years ago.

  2. 4 out of 5

    K.D. Absolutely

    Ann Radcliffe (1764-1823) was considered the pioneer of gothic literature. The Castle of Otranto (1764) by Horace Walpole came first but Radcliffe legitimized the genre by her brilliant use of the supernatural elements and thorough handling of the inexplicable phenomena that, critics said, made readers accept and love gothic works. This work, A Sicilian Romance was parodied by Jane Austen in her Northanger Abby. Radcliffe influenced not only Austen’s works but also those of Charlotte Bronte’s Ja Ann Radcliffe (1764-1823) was considered the pioneer of gothic literature. The Castle of Otranto (1764) by Horace Walpole came first but Radcliffe legitimized the genre by her brilliant use of the supernatural elements and thorough handling of the inexplicable phenomena that, critics said, made readers accept and love gothic works. This work, A Sicilian Romance was parodied by Jane Austen in her Northanger Abby. Radcliffe influenced not only Austen’s works but also those of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca and Willie Collins’ The Woman in White. Since I will be reading those soon, I thought I should read this book first. And oh, obviously, this book also influenced one of my top 10 favorite novels, Wuthering Heights by Emilie Bronte. Now you are getting the idea of what this book is all about. It’s "romance," among others, in the dark. The dark here has implied ghosts and spirits. The setting is an old castle, the house of Manzinni, whose stoned walls have many, many secrets. This is similar to the castle of Otranto in Walpole’s novel that came out the year Radcliffe was born. The writing is poetic, luminous and descriptive. Radcliffe took her time in explaining the landscapes and the feelings of her characters. In the forefront were the sisters, Emilia and Julia. They are similar to Jane Austen’s Elinor (reserved, quiet, prudent) and Marianne (outgoing, alive, frank) in her 1811 book, Sense and Sensibility. However, the comparison ends there. Just like A. S. Byatt’s Possession: A Romance, that word is also misleading readers here. This book is far from romance in the current definition of it. It is full of intrigue, suspense, tyranny, and drama. The main villain of the novel is Ferdinand, the fifth marquis of Mazzini, who is so ruthless for a husband that, for him to get another wife, has to imprison his first wife, Louisa in the southern wing of the castle and declare her dead. Louisa is not Emilia and Julia’s mother, as they are among the children of the marquis and his second wife, Maria. What happens next is too much of a spoiler but I can tell you that there are many interesting characters – heroes and villains – that you will truly empathize with or hate to the core of your bones. The use of the frame story is very effective. The story is told by a tourist who becomes intrigued by the tales of a monk he meets in the ruins of the doomed castle. You’ll have the feeling of walking inside a European old castle and you wonder what’s the history behind the place and then suddenly an old monk appears and tells you what happened in that place, many, many years ago. There is not too many information about Ann Radcliffe in the internet. Critics noted that she was aloof and elusive at the height of her fame. This reminded me of J. D. Salinger and Thomas Pynchon. What is it with these good writers that they hide when they are already famous? We also have Bob Ong here in the Philippines whose works are selling like hotcakes but he is neither granting interviews and public appearances nor, more importantly, making his true identity known. Oh, maybe that’s one of the perks of being brilliant. Or they are busy writing their next masterpieces. They don’t want other writers to know about them as they are afraid of being copied. But for sure, they would be happy and proud to having influenced next generations of writers much like in the case of Ann Radcliffe and the likes of Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Emilie Bronte, A. S. Byatt, etc.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jane

    The Classics Club Spin spun me A Sicilian Romance,and I’m very pleased that it did. I’ve always hoped that I would fall in love with Ann Radcliffe’s novels, with the coming together of the gothic and the romantic, but I was scared to take the first step and so I needed that spin. It was love, of course it was. The opening chapter was wonderfully readable and it set the stage for what was to come. A traveller was struck by a sight on the north coast of Sicily: a ruined castle that had clearly once b The Classics Club Spin spun me A Sicilian Romance,and I’m very pleased that it did. I’ve always hoped that I would fall in love with Ann Radcliffe’s novels, with the coming together of the gothic and the romantic, but I was scared to take the first step and so I needed that spin. It was love, of course it was. The opening chapter was wonderfully readable and it set the stage for what was to come. A traveller was struck by a sight on the north coast of Sicily: a ruined castle that had clearly once been grand. He met a monk, he asked him what he knew of the history, and he was guided to a manuscript that told the story of why the Castle Mazzini had been abandoned. Late in the sixteenth century, Julia and Emilia, the daughters of the first marriage of fifth marquis of Mazzini lived there. They lived with their governess – a poor relation of their mother – and a manservant. Because their father had left, to live in another of his homes, much nearer society, to please his second wife. They were isolated but they were happy. Until one night they saw a light in a part of the castle that was unoccupied. Until they began to hear noises that they couldn’t explain ….. And then the Marquis came home. His son, Ferdinand, was happy to be reunited with his sisters, and they with them. His wife was not pleased but he placated her by throwing parties, inviting guests. Why had he come back? Julia fell in love, with a dear friend of her brother. That did not endear her to her step-mother, who wanted him in her retinue, as a young lover. And her father was planning another marriage for her, a marriage that would be advantageous to him but that would be anathema to her. Julia rebelled, but that made her – and her supporters – very, very vulnerable. That was just the beginning of a story that had everything you might hope to find in a gothic romance: family secrets, locked doors, narrow escapes, banditti, isolated monasteries, betrayal, underground tunnels, confused identities, wild weather …. The characters were simply drawn. Two heroines, one spirited, one quiet, and both inclined to faint. A governess, with a tragic story of her own, who would do everything she could for them. Two heroes, one a brother and one a lover. A tyrannical father. A wicked step-mother. It was predictable, but it worked. I had an idea where the story was going very early on, and I was right, but I loved the journey though the story, living though it with the characters, hearing the stories that were told along the way. The descriptive writing was lovely, and it pulled me right into the story. The authors style was lovely too. Her prose didn’t feel dated at all, it felt like classical English by somebody who knew how English should be written and spoken. I think the logic worked. There were extraordinary coincidence, and of course the story was ridiculous, was predictable, went round in circles – but living through it with the characters, through all of the highs and lows, was wonderful. I’m glad I came to this book having read some of the great 20th century writers of romantic suspense – Daphne Du Maurier, Mary Stewart, Victoria Holt – because I can imagine that they loved and were influenced by Ann Radcliffe’s writing. One aspect of the plot even made me think of D E Stevenson. It’s a particular kind of writing for a particular reading mood, and I could very easily read more of Ann Radcliffe’s writing when that mood strikes again.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Kirsty

    I am sure that the eagle-eyed amongst you are noticing a theme here, but I have wanted to read Radcliffe’s work for such a long time, and thought that placing A Sicilian Romance onto my Classics Club list would be a nudge in the right direction. First published in 1790, the novel is firmly implanted within the Gothic tradition and veers toward the melodramatic almost from its beginning. As is often the case with my Classics Club reviews, the following blurb of the Oxford World Classics edition il I am sure that the eagle-eyed amongst you are noticing a theme here, but I have wanted to read Radcliffe’s work for such a long time, and thought that placing A Sicilian Romance onto my Classics Club list would be a nudge in the right direction. First published in 1790, the novel is firmly implanted within the Gothic tradition and veers toward the melodramatic almost from its beginning. As is often the case with my Classics Club reviews, the following blurb of the Oxford World Classics edition illustrates the story perfectly, without giving too much away: ‘This early novel explores the cavernous landscapes and labyrinthine passages of Sicily’s castles and covents to reveal the shameful secrets of its all-powerful aristocracy. Julia and Emilia Mazzini live secluded in an ancient mansion near the Straits of Messina. After their father’s return to the island a neglected part of the house is haunted by a series of mysterious sights and sounds. The origin of these hauntings is only discovered after a series of breathless pursuits through dreamlike pastoral landscapes. When revelation finally comes, it forces the heroines to challenge the united forces of religious and patriarchal authority.’ A Sicilian Romance is most engaging from the first. I found myself immediately spellbound, drawn as I was into the Sicilian setting. Radcliffe moves the plot along beautifully, and the whole has been so tenderly written. Much emphasis has been placed upon the senses and the general feel of the whole. Radcliffe’s descriptions are often sumptuous, and the way in which she weaves in the imagined history of the castle and the Mazzinis who inhabit it is a definite strength, adding another layer to the whole. It certainly has shades of Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto about it. As one might expect from a Gothic novel, particularly one at the relative beginning of the canon, A Sicilian Romance is rather dramatic, even to Shakespearean heights in places; characters are taken prisoner and confined to dungeons, ‘cruel fate’ awaits, there are elopements, and strange goings on prevail. The story is rather predictable in places, particularly as it nears its climax, and it certainly relies heavily upon melodramatic incidents. A lot of opposites manifest themselves within the plot, from bravery and cowardice to the disparities between rich and poor, and from a social perspective, I found this fascinating. A Sicilian Romance is rich and well-paced. The third person perspective and use of the past tense which Radcliffe has made use of both work well; it is so over the top in places that the two together do not really act as distancing devices. Whilst I was not too enamoured with the convenient ending of this moral novel, I am most looking forward to reading more of her work in future. Ann Radcliffe’s work is a wonderful choice for existing fans of Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters; her writing is just as rich and descriptive, and I feel that she should certainly be more widely read.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Lesle

    A Sicilian Romance is Ann Radcliffe’s second novel. A Gothic Romance Novel with a Castle, crumbling stairs, locked doors and family secrets. We are in a Castle owned by the girl’s father Marquis Mazzini, he is simply barbaric, the castle has many caverns and passages and filled with strange noises, lights in a section that is abandoned and death by the abundance. The two main characters are sisters Emilia the one that follows the rules, so much so she thinks she deserves pity and has no real self A Sicilian Romance is Ann Radcliffe’s second novel. A Gothic Romance Novel with a Castle, crumbling stairs, locked doors and family secrets. We are in a Castle owned by the girl’s father Marquis Mazzini, he is simply barbaric, the castle has many caverns and passages and filled with strange noises, lights in a section that is abandoned and death by the abundance. The two main characters are sisters Emilia the one that follows the rules, so much so she thinks she deserves pity and has no real self. Julia who allows her passion to take over wanting to marry, but not her father’s choice. Maria the Stepmother has cunningness and intuition that can grasp your attention while reading. Unlike many of the female characters Maria is not a victim, she does seem to lack sensibility except for… The story line is very predictable full of Coincidences and Escapades, at times lots of melodrama and seems like a Soap Opera. The Drama is to the point of disbelief as nobody in their right mind would find themselves in these dilemmas. I found that there is no real character development as in most Classics we adore. So, in the end it is just a fun read.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Grace

    I’m finished! I read this for my British Lit class in the spring semester of 2021. I enjoyed the gothic atmosphere and the haunting beauty and intensity. I also enjoyed the storyline. The flamboyant style of writing is not to my usual taste, but I found it somewhat charming. However, there were times when the story felt cheap because of the overwrought shock factor.

  7. 4 out of 5

    CheshRCat

    Only part way through this one. Oh, how I love gothic romance. P.S. Wondering what exactly the most common cover picture has to do with the plot. I looked it up and it turns out it's a picture of Julia after she was banished to the island (you know, after Augustus found out she was sleeping around with just about every other man in Rome, and went all, "Family values, my dear!" on her, even though he was part of one of the most dysfunctional, sex-crazy families in history. The moment was immortal Only part way through this one. Oh, how I love gothic romance. P.S. Wondering what exactly the most common cover picture has to do with the plot. I looked it up and it turns out it's a picture of Julia after she was banished to the island (you know, after Augustus found out she was sleeping around with just about every other man in Rome, and went all, "Family values, my dear!" on her, even though he was part of one of the most dysfunctional, sex-crazy families in history. The moment was immortalized two thousand years later by Brian Blessed ("IS THERE ANYONE IN ROME WHO HAS NOT SLEPT WITH MY DAUGHTER?!?" etc.), by the way.) ANYWAY, I suppose it's a 'romantic' picture and all, but so far there are no grottoes and no roman ships. There is a character called Julia, but her primary concern in the novel is avoiding "sullying the purity of that reputation, which was dearer to her than existence" so if she were going to be banished for anything I'm inclined to doubt it would be for sleeping around. Maybe some well-meaning publisher at Oxford University Press just punched in some keywords from the novel, like "Julia" and "Italy" and "Romance" and got this. Or maybe it will all be explained later in the novel. And the best way to find out would probably be to stop this inane ramble and go read it. So. Bye. UPDATE: Done! Much more satisfying ending than Udolpho, and much, much easier a slog. Recommend you start with this one if new to Radcliffe. The grotto thing still makes no sense. Well, I guess, a little; there are caves, but they aren't full of water. And that other cover, with the two naked people making out hardly makes more sense. There is no nakedness in Radcliffe. There is no making out in Radcliffe. There is barely even holding of hands. I know, I really need to stop letting these covers bug me.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Valerie

    There is a massive difference between reading something for fun and reading something for class. This is the second book I have read for my Gothic Literature course and I am having trouble finding the words to describe this book without it sounding like an essay. I really enjoyed reading this book purely for the fact that it kept me entertained. Gothic Literature back in its day was seen as a popular yet low-cultured novel and after reading this book I kind of know why that was. A Sicilian Romanc There is a massive difference between reading something for fun and reading something for class. This is the second book I have read for my Gothic Literature course and I am having trouble finding the words to describe this book without it sounding like an essay. I really enjoyed reading this book purely for the fact that it kept me entertained. Gothic Literature back in its day was seen as a popular yet low-cultured novel and after reading this book I kind of know why that was. A Sicilian Romance is a plot-driven tragedy with twists and turns throughout the whole book. You don't need to think about what's going on (unless you are reading it for a Literature course), you just follow the adventure and see where it takes you. It's the kind of book you read just because you feel like indulging a little bit. This makes it sound vapid and shallow but I found it a really interesting novel. The villainous Marquis of Mazzini returns to his original Castle after a long absence when he one of his servants, Vincent, passes way. His daughters, Julia and her sister Emillia, live there under the guidance and love of their carer Madame de Menon as their mother has died. He brings with him his second wife the Marchioness and his son, Ferdinand, who becomes quite close to his sisters (especially Julia.) From there, we follow Julia, the more interesting sister, and watch as her quiet and happy life gets turned upside down. I recommend this book to anyone who is happy to get caught up in an adventure-filled story no matter how crazy the plot gets.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    Not much to say. Except in the Librivox recording I listened to, a cat could be heard in the background of some of the chapters. :)

  10. 5 out of 5

    Roberta

    Oh, how I enjoy a good gothic story in autumn and winter! Although I like the genre I haven't read much of Ann Radcliffe. I used to read these kind of novels when I was a teenager, but at the time my English wasn't fluent enough and I had to rely on translations. The local bookstore or library didn't have a proper gothic section. So here I am, 25 years after, trying to close the gap between Ms Radcliffe and me. She's an excellent storyteller. She managed to put a lot into this short novel: love, h Oh, how I enjoy a good gothic story in autumn and winter! Although I like the genre I haven't read much of Ann Radcliffe. I used to read these kind of novels when I was a teenager, but at the time my English wasn't fluent enough and I had to rely on translations. The local bookstore or library didn't have a proper gothic section. So here I am, 25 years after, trying to close the gap between Ms Radcliffe and me. She's an excellent storyteller. She managed to put a lot into this short novel: love, hate, poison, runaways, banditti (the correct Italian spelling is "banditi"), convents, secret prisons under the castle, secret stairs and doors, secrets in general, avidity, and of course a happy ending. Because you just know that everything will be solved in the end. My favourite character? The Abate. Not because I liked the man, on the contrary. But I liked the way Radcliffe depicted him and his (many) flaws.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    Oh wow... this was terrible. The number of times the women in the book "fainted with fright" or "swooned with fear" was ridiculous. However this was written in 1790... so even though it's a bit shite by today's standards, back then it was probably regarded as the best book ever. Oh wow... this was terrible. The number of times the women in the book "fainted with fright" or "swooned with fear" was ridiculous. However this was written in 1790... so even though it's a bit shite by today's standards, back then it was probably regarded as the best book ever.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Mac

    SICILIAN ROMANCE is a tiny Gothic jewel. But I'm an Ann Radcliffe fangirl, so that's just my opinion. ;) She's not for everyone. I'm well aware of this--yet I still remember That Moment when her flamboyant, overblown prose clicked in my brain. I'd just begun exporing Old Skool "trash" literature, & Radcliffe's MYSTERIES OF UDOLPHO was one of 4** that I picked up at the university bookstore. Truthfully, I nearly DNF'd. But after loving the other 3, I decided to give it another chance. At first my b SICILIAN ROMANCE is a tiny Gothic jewel. But I'm an Ann Radcliffe fangirl, so that's just my opinion. ;) She's not for everyone. I'm well aware of this--yet I still remember That Moment when her flamboyant, overblown prose clicked in my brain. I'd just begun exporing Old Skool "trash" literature, & Radcliffe's MYSTERIES OF UDOLPHO was one of 4** that I picked up at the university bookstore. Truthfully, I nearly DNF'd. But after loving the other 3, I decided to give it another chance. At first my brain flailed beneath the onslaught of commas & semicolons, lengthy (often ludicrous) dialogue, & the random insertions of poetry that her long-suffering, oft-fainting protagonists are prone to spout when confronted with nature. It was like learning a foreign language. One page I was slogging along, battling the weird commas & half-afraid I'd overstepped my puny powers of comprehension--but the next, I was hooked. A door opened, a Versailles-like garden was revealed, & my mental self was frolicking in the gloriously unrepentant Capital-G Gothic that Radcliffe is known for. I was completely enthralled. ...I also learned from the scholarly intro & footnotes. My TBR grew exponentially, thanks to other titles & authors referenced therein. I became familiar with the concept of The Sublime. I mulled over the fascination with Catholic rites. I began to identify the duality of terror vs horror. I considered the symbolism & indirect allusions that must be used to explore Old Skool taboo topics like feminine subjugation, literal & metaphorical rape, violent abuse of power, & female utopias. And, most importantly, I had fun doing it. (Why is Gothic so rarely taught outside college speciality courses? WHY?! Stupid canon. -__-) Anyway. Perhaps YOU, gentle reader, are interested in The Gothic, but the prospect of whole-page paragraphs & extraneous commas is alarming. (UDOLPHO itself is an intimidating 600+ pages. So yes, I jumped off the deep end.) In that case, please try A SICILIAN ROMANCE. Though only Radcliffe's second novel, it's a fine sampling of tropes, language, themes, & visuals--understandable, since she practically invented the genre***--with everything packed into 200 tidy pages. Enjoy the politely-worded threats of rape, fainting virgins, noble suitors, horrid parents, slutty OW, clueless servants, moldering castles, romantic scenery, murderous banditti, vaulting caverns, & symbolic battles of masculine vs feminine. There's even some poetry tossed in for good measure. So there. ;) AR isn't perfect--sometimes her pacing is wonky, plot threads get forgotten, or the story jolts with weird anachronisms--but she's still one of my favorite authors. She knew how to write; her words flow across the page, leapfrogging from beautiful scenery to overwrought gloomth to lolzy, sprawling plots. Bless you, Mother Radcliffe. **DRACULA, UNCLE SILAS, & THE WOMAN IN WHITE were the others, & all 4 remain amongst my most beloved reads to this day. If only every bookstore binge was so successful. >__> ***Technically, that honor belongs to Horace Walpole. But AR took his ideas & ran with them, putting a feminine spin on the terror & expanding characters beyond cardboard standups.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Liz

    Julia and Emilia Mazzini are happy with their lot in life. Having lost their mother at an early age, they dwell alone in the castle Mazzini, with their governess and companion Madame de Menon to look after them. Their father, a marquis, prefers to dwell elsewhere with their brother, Ferdinand, and his new wife, the beautiful but cunning Maria de Vellorno. Julia and Emilia have never known another way of life, and so this isolation from society does not chafe them, though Julia (the more spirited Julia and Emilia Mazzini are happy with their lot in life. Having lost their mother at an early age, they dwell alone in the castle Mazzini, with their governess and companion Madame de Menon to look after them. Their father, a marquis, prefers to dwell elsewhere with their brother, Ferdinand, and his new wife, the beautiful but cunning Maria de Vellorno. Julia and Emilia have never known another way of life, and so this isolation from society does not chafe them, though Julia (the more spirited of the two) sometimes dreams of life in the outside world. When the marquis suddenly decides to return to castle Mazzini to live, however, their peaceful lives are turned topsy-turvy. Suddenly, the castle becomes a society spotlight, and through the many balls and dinners, Julia, who is eating up every moment of the newfound excitement, is introduced to the Count Veraza. The Count, whose first name is Hippolitus, is kind, handsome, charming and rich, and Julia immediately falls head over heels in love. Hippolitus returns her sentiments, and neither of them could be happier. However, Hippolitus' attentions to Julia have not escaped the notice of her stepmother. A woman of promiscuous character, she herself was enamored of the young count, yet he spurned her advances. Now consumed with jealousy, she uses her power over her husband to manipulate a marriage arrangement for Julia with the horrible Duke de Luovo (whose previous wives have all died of despair). The cold-hearted, power-hungry marquis refuses all of Julia's pleas to be let out of the engagement. Now Julia is doomed, unless she and her allies can find a way to escape from the marquis and the duke. In the meantime, the residents of castle Mazzini are thrown into confusion by recurring instances of strange lights and otherworldly moans emanating from the abandoned south wing of the castle, which the marquis had ordered to be locked up forever. Are these happenings the result of avenging ghosts, or could there be some sinister, human explanation? I like gothic novels, and The Mysteries of Udolpho especially. I wanted to read something else by Ann Radcliffe, so I selected this. While it was a decent read, I don't think I really liked it as much as other books in the genre I have read. I had a hard time paying attention, which might have been my fault, but I would often find that I had read through a whole paragraph and didn't remember what it said. Maybe if I read it under different circumstances, when I had my full attention to devote to it, I would have enjoyed it more. Still, the story was pretty interesting, especially towards the end when Big Important Secrets are finally being revealed. This is probably not one that I would re-read, however.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Mela

    Ufff, I have done it. I have finished it. I wasn't sure of this to the end. I am sure that I will not read more of Ann Radcliffe. I can imagine that she was famous and loved in her times. Her novels were something new then. And I can simply believe that she was extremely popular. Nonetheless, two centuries later, a narration, the way she wrote a story is too much boring for me. I had to skip many descriptions, otherwise I would not finished this book at all. The plot, the adventure, the mystery Ufff, I have done it. I have finished it. I wasn't sure of this to the end. I am sure that I will not read more of Ann Radcliffe. I can imagine that she was famous and loved in her times. Her novels were something new then. And I can simply believe that she was extremely popular. Nonetheless, two centuries later, a narration, the way she wrote a story is too much boring for me. I had to skip many descriptions, otherwise I would not finished this book at all. The plot, the adventure, the mystery is interesting. I can imagine that if it had been written in a different way I would have been more engaged. Still, I don't regret that I have read. Now I know what it is an original Gothic novel.

  15. 4 out of 5

    SheAintGotNoShoes

    3.5 rounded up. I find these early 19th century books difficult to rate accurately as I myself am not sure how much I really like them or not. This book is filled with over the top melodramatics, histrionics and never ending fainting of both men and women for nothing more than a strange sound or a knock at the door - it grows tiresome. Another annoying thing is the way they immediately fall deeply in love and pledge undying devotion and love to someone perhaps that they have only seen once at a bal 3.5 rounded up. I find these early 19th century books difficult to rate accurately as I myself am not sure how much I really like them or not. This book is filled with over the top melodramatics, histrionics and never ending fainting of both men and women for nothing more than a strange sound or a knock at the door - it grows tiresome. Another annoying thing is the way they immediately fall deeply in love and pledge undying devotion and love to someone perhaps that they have only seen once at a ball or party and have made the briefest of eye contact ! Quite a few eye rolling inducing moments. On the other hand it was an easy read with no dictionary or glossary required and the story was briskly paced and entertaining. I come back to my normal dilemma. Do I rate it on how I feel about it as a woman in 2019 who would never do any of theses things or ever be forced into becoming a nun or marrying a guy I hated, or do I rate it as a woman who was around when it came out and would have fit in better with my times ?

  16. 4 out of 5

    Monica

    The only interesting part was when the father and the priest verbally batted it out, auguring who had the most power over Julia via morality. So who had the most power? The father or The Father? Of course while they argued, she escaped, so the real answer is neither of them.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Grace Harwood

    I so enjoyed reading this work which just typified Gothic excess at its very best. What we have here is the story of Julia and Emelia and their brother Ferdinand, children of the autocratic Marquis Mazzini who is every bit as diabolic a villain as Radcliffe's more famous Count Montoni. The children are motherless and live in a castle (in the same sublime species of landscape as Udolpho) which has an entire ruined southern hall which is reputed to be haunted. Of course, this is Radcliffe, so we k I so enjoyed reading this work which just typified Gothic excess at its very best. What we have here is the story of Julia and Emelia and their brother Ferdinand, children of the autocratic Marquis Mazzini who is every bit as diabolic a villain as Radcliffe's more famous Count Montoni. The children are motherless and live in a castle (in the same sublime species of landscape as Udolpho) which has an entire ruined southern hall which is reputed to be haunted. Of course, this is Radcliffe, so we know there aren't any real ghosts and there's going to be a rational explanation (even if it is more unlikely than if there had been actual ghosts). The story mainly concerns Julia, who falls in love with the courtly Hippolitus. However, the evil Marquis has other ideas and tells Julia that she must marry the evil Duke of Luovo. There then follows a series of adventures whereby Julia escapes, ends up in a convent, is given the choice between marrying the Duke or taking the veil, escapes again, gets captured by banditti, caught up in a shipwreck, escapes again, gets caught up in another shipwreck and all kinds of adventures before the inevitable happy ending. In the meantime, the ghostly groans in the castle are explained and everyone (except those who had it coming i.e. the Marquis and his evil adulterous wife) get what they deserved. This is a brilliant example of Gothic fiction with fainting heroines, sword fights, shipwrecks (x 2) and lots of sublime rocky rugged scenery. I loved it so much although I've got to say I was exhausted by the end of it all. Poor old Julia really does go through the wringer to get where she needs to be. It's not too long - certainly not as long as the more famous Mysteries of Udolpho and is a brilliant introduction to the excesses of the gothic genre.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    The commission of one crime often requires the perpetration of another. When once we enter on the labyrinth of vice, we can seldom return, but are led on, through correspondent mazes, to destruction. -- Chapter XV Ruinous castles, subterranean passages, tempest-tossed shipwrecks, bloodthirsty bandits, damsels in distress, villainous rulers, picturesque scenery, murder most foul -- if anything defines the Gothick novel it is a selection of these features. And A Sicilian Romance, one of the early e The commission of one crime often requires the perpetration of another. When once we enter on the labyrinth of vice, we can seldom return, but are led on, through correspondent mazes, to destruction. -- Chapter XV Ruinous castles, subterranean passages, tempest-tossed shipwrecks, bloodthirsty bandits, damsels in distress, villainous rulers, picturesque scenery, murder most foul -- if anything defines the Gothick novel it is a selection of these features. And A Sicilian Romance, one of the early examples of this genre, has these in bucket loads. In addition, setting her story in the island of Sicily allowed Ann Radcliffe full rein to indulge in the frissons of horror and bewilderment that her readership expected, gleaned from travellers' tales and from the dramatic pictorial landscapes that proliferated during the 17th and 18th centuries. In this, her second ever novel -- this text is that of the 1821 edition -- the author produced a fine novel in the Gothick tradition which, despite a few infelicities in factual detail and unlikely coincidences, still thrills the reader with its account of moral retribution. As the opening frame narrative tells us, this story concerns the castle of Mazzini, now in ruins, which stood on the northern coast of Sicily. Here once lived the orphaned sisters Emilia and Julia with their mother's confidante Madame de Menon; their father, the fifth Marquis of Mazzini, is distant by nature and distant by abode, living the high life with his new wife Maria de Vellorno in Naples, attended by his son Ferdinand. Somewhat unexpectedly, the marquis returns to Sicily with wife, son and a large entourage, amongst which is Hippolytus, Count of Vereza, whom second daughter Julia falls in love with, and he with her. However, the new marchioness has also set her cap at the Count; the ambitious marquis has plans to marry Julia to the Duke de Luova; and the servants are in a flap about the possibility of ghostly visitations to the disused and inaccessible southern castle buildings. Following these triggers events are set in train which will result in deaths and disappearances and the eventual dissolution of the castle edifice. This is an eccentric historical romance, especially considering those we're more used to a couple of centuries later. By turns sedate then frantic, realistic then improbable, with plot twists and turns the labyrinthine nature of which is meant to confuse and obfuscate, A Sicilian Romance hammers home three key concepts: the sublime, the picturesque and the romantic. The sublime, which meant tending towards the spiritually elevated, referred to the natural landscapes of Sicily, principally prospects afforded from a particular vantage point. These landscapes were frequently picturesque, which usually meant that the action had to be suspended so that the viewer could contemplate the scene much as one might stop in front of a painting in a gallery. Finally, romantic in a more archaic sense indicated tales of action and adventure, of a kind developed from ancient Roman legends and epics which the medievals called romans. Thus, in A Sicilian Romance we have individuals and lovers fleeing pursuit by authority figures or brigands through wild countryside or desolate mansions or monasteries, caverns or tunnels, pausing occasionally to experience sublimity or meditate on their misfortune before the chase recommences. Does this hinder one's appreciation overmuch? I think once the reader relaxes into the conventions of this style, its verbosity and its emotionalism, it rattles along very comfortably. The reader doesn't need to be reminded of the fondness that Jane Austen's heroine Catherine had for Radcliffe to recognise her influence in Northanger Abbey (the owner of which residence was believed to have done away with his wife), or that Elinor and Marianne in Sense and Sensibility are remarkably good matches in terms of temperament with Emilia and Julia. In addition, Radcliffe signals her debt to Shakespeare with a direct quote from the ghost's speech at the start of Hamlet, sepulchral words suggesting that violence may have been done. Editor Alison Milbank also gives a passing reference to The Winter's Tale as a suitable parallel to A Sicilian Romance: both works are set in Sicily and involve a jealous ruler, a loyal confidante and the passing away of a mother, a 'lost' daughter and a shipwreck, and a final restoration. The first play explicitly cites a restless spirit haunting a castle while the other, though only in a veiled way, suggests subterfuge is involved before the resolution. The introductory notes (which as always should only be read after the work) are quite enlightening as to what Radcliffe brings to the Gothick genre, though I am leery of the overt Freudian interpretations Milbank offers us. However she does note the apparent paradoxes the novel explores, such as the more the pursuers pursue the less likely they are to find what they're looking for, while random wanderings may lead some to find what they're unconsciously seeking. This paradox principle also seems to guide the accelerated activity that characterises the final third of the novel, with blocks and obstacles -- however unlikely or coincidental the outcomes -- providing as many spills and thrills as a blockbuster action movie. As I proceeded I was struck by how this novel -- with suitable adaptations of course -- could work well as a stage play or a filmed period drama. Despite it supposedly being set in the late 1500s, however, anachronisms (such as the mention of a pianoforte) and inaccuracies (a religious house like St Augustin's would never have an unsegregated mixed community of monks and nuns) mean that it's better to see this as a fantasy set in a notional late medieval or early modern era. That would be fitting considering that Radcliffe's experience of Italian landscapes would have been limited to romanticised engravings and paintings and writings arising from aristocratic Grand Tours: these are the backdrops I imagined when I followed the fortunes of the principal protagonist, the brave and put-upon Julia, and those of her family and friends; these also are 'labyrinths of vice' that the schemers and the banditti inhabited, in which they preyed on the innocent and good.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Lois

    Like any dedicated Austen fan, I have always been intrigued by the books her characters—and especially her heroines—read, and Radcliffe's novels stand out among them. As a result, many years ago I bought a few of them, determined to round out my knowledge of Austen's world, but am only just now getting around to actually reading them (what can I say, I've been distracted). It has been an interesting experience. The plot is fun, albeit in a didactic, moralising, 'I have to justify this whole nove Like any dedicated Austen fan, I have always been intrigued by the books her characters—and especially her heroines—read, and Radcliffe's novels stand out among them. As a result, many years ago I bought a few of them, determined to round out my knowledge of Austen's world, but am only just now getting around to actually reading them (what can I say, I've been distracted). It has been an interesting experience. The plot is fun, albeit in a didactic, moralising, 'I have to justify this whole novel-reading thing to the patriarchy' kind of way—which goes for the poetry, too, which I have to admit I was not impressed with. There's also a lot of use of the word 'sublime', as well as the phrase 'not to be described' (or variations of it). I don't know if this is where the trope of the unspeakable first came about in Gothic literature (I doubt it), but it is certainly liberally applied ... Overall, though, this book is quite a fun read, and certainly provides an interesting glimpse into the literary (and social) world of Austen's characters. I do think this particular edition is over-annotated, however, including in glossing archaic spellings for words that are really quite obvious ('in spight' instead of 'in spite'). I mean, really? I think anyone who's reading this book is probably intelligent enough to figure that out for themselves ...

  20. 5 out of 5

    Teaqueen

    Loved this book! After reading and super enjoying Ann Radcliffe's The Romance of the Forest, I had low expectations for Sicilian as it was an earlier book. Wow! Was I pleasantly surprised! Much tighter and less convoluted then romance of the forest, this story really moves! Plot was easier to follow... Even with all the twists and turns. Excellent characters… Wonderful villains, wonderful heroes, wonderful women in distress. I also love how the story changed from scene to scene in different part Loved this book! After reading and super enjoying Ann Radcliffe's The Romance of the Forest, I had low expectations for Sicilian as it was an earlier book. Wow! Was I pleasantly surprised! Much tighter and less convoluted then romance of the forest, this story really moves! Plot was easier to follow... Even with all the twists and turns. Excellent characters… Wonderful villains, wonderful heroes, wonderful women in distress. I also love how the story changed from scene to scene in different parts of the country there was a lot more travel there was a lot more mystery… I really liked this book. I was surprised by the plot several times. It really went in directions I was not expecting. And even when I kind of guessed where the plot was going… It still took another twist. Now after reading two Radcliffe books and really enjoying them I will have to read another one! I can totally see why Jane Austen like this author. Northanger Abbey will be lots of fun the next time I read it… I will actually be able to understand the parody on a deeper level.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Dannii Elle

    This was both the first book I studied during my university degree and my introduction to the female Gothic genre. Despite the infuriating swooning damsels that frequent this, I really enjoyed my experience of reading it.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Kristina V. Ramos

    Read it for class. Have to say the number of times I shook my head or rolled my eyes is pretty high. Seems every character fainted at least twice, in the novel. A lot of comical scenes, which of course aren’t meant to be funny. It’s a classic. Whatever...

  23. 5 out of 5

    María

    Well that was intense.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Simon

    I sometimes get the impression that people before the Industrial Revolution had a completely different type of cultural consciousness than we moderns do. One of the reasons is reading more and more social science revolving around technology's impact on society, but another that I've expanding my literary horizons further and further back in history which requires adjusting to very different storytelling paradigms than I'm familiar with from most of the fiction I read. A good example is this late I sometimes get the impression that people before the Industrial Revolution had a completely different type of cultural consciousness than we moderns do. One of the reasons is reading more and more social science revolving around technology's impact on society, but another that I've expanding my literary horizons further and further back in history which requires adjusting to very different storytelling paradigms than I'm familiar with from most of the fiction I read. A good example is this late-18th century gothic horror novel, which to this 21st century reader comes across as an extremely violent soap opera with supernatural occurences going on in the background. The labyrinthine plot revolves around a hopelessly dysfunctional Italian upper-class family, where the eldest daughter falls in love with a different man than her fiancee at the same time as the castle is struck by a series of ghost hauntings that are strongly implied to be faked. There is a very large cast of characters to keep track of as they manipulate each other and stab each other in the back - figuratively as well as literally - at a busy pace, to the point there's either a traumatic revelation from a character's past or someone important dying (if not both) in every chapter. In between that, Radcliffe also takes the time off to describe the characters' inner emotional lives in flowery detail while gushing about how beautiful the architecture, clothing and landscapes surrounding everyone is... all in not much more than 200 pages! It all comes across as ostensibly ridiculous on paper, but it's clear that the author knew exactly what she was doing from how well put together. Yet at the same time, the more things change the more they stay the same. The way the plot is structured, right down to the specific storytelling devices and plot twists used, follows a paradigm I instantly recognize from modern crime/horror fiction. The protagonists are also apparent as prototypes for some of the stock characters, notice how often dysfunctional upper-class families pop up in detective novels to this day. It also has an extremely proactive female protagonist for a book still written in a society with basically feudal gender roles, I'm even very sure the book passes the Bechdel Test. (go look it up on Wikipedia) The introductory essay also unsurprisingly spends much of its literary analysis on the novel's gender politics. The narration is a bit too didactic for my taste, though, and I get the impression the "show don't tell" storytelling principle is much younger than for Ann Radcliffe to follow it very often. Not to mention that many of the plot twists probably impressed her initial audience much more than they would mine, since they weren't clichés when she used them. However, once I got used to the purple prose and Byzantine story structure it became an extremely entertaining read, the kind of thing they'd call a page-turner if it wasn't an Oxford World's Classic. That's another difference between then and now, it seems like this entire kind of storytelling was recategorized as lowbrow kitsch fit only for the pulps around the same time the Industrial Revolution happened and "true art is realistic" became the dominant paradigm for highbrow literature.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    I picked up A Sicilian Romance on a whim. I'd read and enjoyed Udolpho, and I wanted to experience more of Radcliffe's work. This was a new offering from Librivox, it was relatively short (well, compared to Udolpho ), and though I didn't know much about it I figured it was worth a try. The first quarter of the novel didn't do much for me. "Oh," I kept thinking. "It's a partially run-down castle, and a young lady who is in love with one man but being forced to marry another." And so on and so f I picked up A Sicilian Romance on a whim. I'd read and enjoyed Udolpho, and I wanted to experience more of Radcliffe's work. This was a new offering from Librivox, it was relatively short (well, compared to Udolpho ), and though I didn't know much about it I figured it was worth a try. The first quarter of the novel didn't do much for me. "Oh," I kept thinking. "It's a partially run-down castle, and a young lady who is in love with one man but being forced to marry another." And so on and so forth. It seemed like a more compressed version of Udolpho. And the compression was doing it no favors; it was losing the complexity and the texture and the dreamy poetic descriptions that made Udolpho for me. And then Julia makes the choice Emily St. Aubert wouldn't, and everything goes all to pieces, and suddenly Udolpho is but a distant memory. Everything got much more interesting after that point. It certainly wasn't a masterpiece by any means, but it was a nice fun read. If emotions were sometimes a little too often "not to be described" (or imagined) when they were very strong, if the constant change in viewpoint was a little jarring, if some parts of the narrative were a little too predictable and others a little too coincidental... Well, you know, the first part of the book lowered my expectations enough that I was just happy it hadn't turned out to be the Udolpho clone I'd expected it to be. (Or, er, vice-versa, given that this one predates Udolpho.) Besides, sometimes it's fun to talk back to the characters. "Never believe anyone is dead unless you've seen the body! SEE? I told you so! Well, if it can't be opened from this side, clearly it was opened from the other!" Etc., etc. It was fun. I might read it again sometime when I need a short book that doesn't require too much thought. It's not anything particularly special, though, honestly, so I have to restrict it to three out of five stars.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Celine

    One of the earlier works of Ann Radcliffe, the literary giant who helped gain popularity for Gothic literature. A Sicilian Romance started off a bit slow for me, but when the plot really got going, and people were being abducted left and right, shoved into dungeons, hid in monasteries, and are presumed dead about every other chapter, I was hooked. Although the women in A Sicilian Romance aren't your twenty-first century "kick-ass woman", I was glad to see female characters attempting to create t One of the earlier works of Ann Radcliffe, the literary giant who helped gain popularity for Gothic literature. A Sicilian Romance started off a bit slow for me, but when the plot really got going, and people were being abducted left and right, shoved into dungeons, hid in monasteries, and are presumed dead about every other chapter, I was hooked. Although the women in A Sicilian Romance aren't your twenty-first century "kick-ass woman", I was glad to see female characters attempting to create their own happiness in a patriarchal world, as well as being central to the narrative. I chose this novel by Radcliffe because of its modest length, but now I am quite confident to tackle her longer novels like The Mysteries of Udolpho or The Italian.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kristy

    Bandits! Fainting maidens in distress! Duels to the death! Hidden castle passages! “A Sicilian Romance” is the epitome of a classic gothic novel in every way. I love this stuff. However, “Romance” was a little too clichéd to be completely enjoyable. The men were either totally evil or totally heroic and the females were just… well, fragile and tending to hysterics. Except for the evil step-mother, of course... but that's a cliche too, isn't it. And all the convenient coincidences were a bit much Bandits! Fainting maidens in distress! Duels to the death! Hidden castle passages! “A Sicilian Romance” is the epitome of a classic gothic novel in every way. I love this stuff. However, “Romance” was a little too clichéd to be completely enjoyable. The men were either totally evil or totally heroic and the females were just… well, fragile and tending to hysterics. Except for the evil step-mother, of course... but that's a cliche too, isn't it. And all the convenient coincidences were a bit much. Granted, this was written in 1790. It was also Radcliffe’s first novel and it is always said that her “Mysteries of Udolpho” is her better work, which I still intend to read.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kellie-Rose Wick

    I re-read this book for the 2nd time, wonderfully written.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    This book is wild. Like, I can’t.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Ankur

    Racliffe's classic story has all the tropes of the gothic genre. A presumably haunted castle, incestuous relations, damsel in distress, fallen nobility, creepy atmosphere and the effects of the sublime on the main characters. While some of these elements were directly taken from Horace Walpole's "The Castle of Otranto", which was the first gothic novel, it was Radcliffe's beautiful writing and descriptions which made me appreciate her storytelling and enjoy it a lot even though it was full of co Racliffe's classic story has all the tropes of the gothic genre. A presumably haunted castle, incestuous relations, damsel in distress, fallen nobility, creepy atmosphere and the effects of the sublime on the main characters. While some of these elements were directly taken from Horace Walpole's "The Castle of Otranto", which was the first gothic novel, it was Radcliffe's beautiful writing and descriptions which made me appreciate her storytelling and enjoy it a lot even though it was full of coincidences. Radcliffe's romanticism shines through her use of the descriptions of nature, both violent and peaceful, castles, both beautiful and decrypt and other worldly objects through the eyes of her characters and while its at heart a romantic story, there are quite a lot of conspiracies, secret weddings, murders, betrayals and bad blood to move the plot forward. The pacing was quite good and some of the supernatural sections in the story were really creepy. Radcliffe's style of storytelling mostly focused on man made explanations in the end for all the supernatural and uncanny things happening in the plot and this was no exception, which was a welcome change in the gothic genre where most of the novels I read involved real supernatural entities. While I do believe "A Sicilian Romance" was outclassed by future works from other famous Gothic writers like Bram Stoker, Mary Shelley, Edgar Allan Poe to name a few, its nevertheless a must read for readers who want to explore the bizarre and mysterious genre of gothic literature and also for the phenomenal writing style of Radcliffe. Looking forward to more of her works. “How short a period often reverses the character of our sentiments, rendering that which yesterday we despised, today desirable.” -Narrator

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.