I am aware it has been a little quiet over here on the blog this month but I am working on that and I promise there will be lots of content up over December! For now, I thought I would get back into things with a book review. This novel is written by someone who I truly believe had a brilliant mind and I love how he thought with such imagination throughout all his life, from his books and letters to the way he designed his dream home.
The Castle of Otranto- Horace Walpole is often described as the first gothic novel and a stepping stone for the gothic novels that followed its success. Horace Walpole was the son of Britains first prime minster and although he had a very political upbringing he was known for his writing and creative mind. It is said that over his lifetime he had written over 6000 letters!
The Castle Of Otranto is a novel that he came up with from a dream he had. He loved to read a lot and especially books that would in his eyes have a gothic vibe although at the time this was not really a genre.
One night after spending the night reading in his library he made his way in the dark to his bedchamber passing through his hallway where he had suits of armour hanging. He went to bed, that night he was woken by a nightmare he had that depicted a knight 100% the size of a normal man with black feathers on his helmet smashing his way through Walpole’s little gothic castle. This is how he came up with the idea for The Castle of Otranto which changed the face of gothic literature forever.
If you like myself fall a little head over heels for this novel you can go and visit Walpole’s very own gothic castle, just a five minute walk from Strawberry Hill station. Not far from Twickenham.
Overview of the novel:
*Spoilers- kept to as little as I could*
The Castle of Otranto follows the story of a small family: Manfred, the Prince of Otranto; Hippolita, his wife; and Conrad and Matilda, their children. The drama begins at the very start of the novel, during Conrad’s wedding to the beautiful Princess Isabella. There is no build-up; before the couple can make their vows, Manfred’s only son is crushed to death by a giant helmet that appears to have fallen from the sky.
Yet this is only the beginning of the supernatural events unfurling in the castle. As the story progresses, servants begin to shout of vanishing giants and pictures seen moving within their frames. These events reflect the story’s main narrative as Manfred, desperate for a new heir, attempts to assault Isabella and rejects his daughter entirely.
Walpole considers issues of inheritance, power and morality as Manfred’s struggle to hold onto Otranto grows steadily weaker. He sacrifices everything for the sake of a male heir, only to realise that his daughter is not quite as useless as she first appeared. This is a story of love, murder and a remarkable amount of action as the castle slowly comes alive around the characters.
Here is my review of the novel:
Although this book was written many years ago I found that is was still an easy read despite some of the language used throughout. I think that it had such a wonderful storyline that it was easy to read. It is a gripping novel that has you intrigued from the first page, the action and drama start straight away. I feel that he has written it in such a way it almost allows you to feel how Walpole would have felt upon writing the novel.
I love that it is described as the first gothic novel because those who love gothic novels will feel that the characters and scenes are almost predictable but it is so important for you to realise that at the time of its realise this would have been the only novel of its kind. Therefore, it shows just how much influence a novel written off the basis of a dream has had on what we know of Gothic novels today.
Horace Walpole may always have a space in my heart as learning about him and his quirky little ways have honestly been a pleasure. It is wonderful to see that someone who portrayed their dark gothic sense of humour throughout all of his works has managed to do the same with his novel. I definitely feel that it would be interesting to read some more of his works.
Have you read The Castle Of Otranto? What were your thoughts I would love to know!