One of the most striking points about this book is that apart from a few scattered incidents and a wonderful melodramatic ending very little happens! Yet the whole story had me in a state of almost unbearable tension. Le Fanu creates an atmosphere of evil which pervades the whole book. Madame Le Rougierre is always a dangerous character and once Uncle Silas is actually in the story his malignant presence, with mood swings, opium overdoses and fake religious fervour, overtakes everything.
Silas is a wonderful character; in my opinion he is the equal of other great Gothic characters such as Dracula. His evil is all the more defined because there is always the chance that he is a reformed character. Maud, the heroine of the story, finds him terrifying yet desperately wants to believe in him as her father did. Here Le Fanu is very clever, because we, the readers, are perfectly aware that as Silas is the title character of a Gothic horror he is highly unlikely to be good, but of course Maud does not have our knowledge. Like a modern horror film when we know that the girl should not go down into the basement where the murderer is lurking, we know that Maud should not agree to her late father's wishes and take Silas as her guardian, but if it was happening to us we would probably have done the same. Part of Le Fanu's magic in this novel is that he has Maud constantly in the midst of terrifying paranoid fantasies about the danger she is in but then she snaps to with a burst of apparent common sense, and looks at the situation as normal people would. Unfortunately for her the situation is not a normal one.
The ending is magnificent and well worth waiting for; the fact that the story built up so slowly with such atmosphere makes it all the more powerful. This is a wonderful book.