Customer Reviews


39 Reviews
5 star:
 (10)
4 star:
 (10)
3 star:
 (13)
2 star:
 (4)
1 star:
 (2)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Historical Gothic Novel!
The Castle of Otranto is not ideal for those who enjoy popular fiction as the prose and age of the novel can be a bit of a challenge.

That said it is a must read for lovers of the Gothic novel, as it is the first ever written and published in England. It opened a door in English literature for writers like Ann Radcliffe, Bram Stoker and Mary Shelley and created...
Published on 8 May 2011 by Alison Moore

versus
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The power of whimsy
This review refers to the Oxford World's Classics edition, edited by WS Lewis, with a 26-page introduction and eight pages of endnotes by EJ Clery. There is a select bibliography and a chronology of the author, Horace Walpole. Importantly, the book includes both the first and second editions' title-pages and prefaces.

The first edition, "The Castle of Otranto:...
Published on 2 Jan. 2008 by Nicholas Casley


‹ Previous | 1 2 3 4 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The power of whimsy, 2 Jan. 2008
By 
Nicholas Casley (Plymouth, Devon, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review refers to the Oxford World's Classics edition, edited by WS Lewis, with a 26-page introduction and eight pages of endnotes by EJ Clery. There is a select bibliography and a chronology of the author, Horace Walpole. Importantly, the book includes both the first and second editions' title-pages and prefaces.

The first edition, "The Castle of Otranto: A Story, translated by William Marshal", was published in December 1764 (but marked 1765 on the title-page). It's preface tried - and succeeded for awhile - to give the impression that the tale had been "found in the library of an ancient catholic family in the north of England" and had been "printed at Naples ... in the year 1529. ... The style is the purest Italian."

The style was instead the purest Walpole and he quickly confessed; so that in the rapidly-issued second edition of 1765 (the book was an immediate hit), the revised preface became, as EJ Clery makes clear, "a manifesto for a new type of writing", and the title-page was amended to "The Castle of Otranto: A Gothic Story".

The inclusion of the adjective into the story's title is fundamental to the book's reputation as being the well-spring of much (all?) that followed in subsequent western literature that effected to underscore its credentials with a Gothic - or Gothick - motif. One could argue that that includes 90% of western literature (as much Thomas Pynchon as Stephen King), but this is going too far; for as Walpole himself makes plain in his second preface, his work was an attempt to marry imagination with nature, fantasy with reality, and that he had progenitors in the essay: "That great master of nature, Shakespeare, was the model I copied."

The story itself - a tale of lordly tyranny, supernatural horror, and family feuding that would have interested Shakespeare himself in its dramatic possibilities - is told over five chapters, barely one hundred pages in total, and so can be read in a few hours. As the excellent introduction relates, Walpole himself thought the story a piece of whimsy, and did not attempt to savagely repudiate the criticisms raised about both the style of writing and about the narrative itself. He was aware of the novella's power, however, in creating a new species of romance.

The work today is as much read for its historic relevance than for its terror and sublime effects, but both of these aspects recommend it.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Tantalised in Otranto, 17 Nov. 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I enjoyed this quirky, outlandish, escapist, romantic tale of evil versus virtue, set in a Medieval castle, but I feel it would benefit from the input of a modern editor - not to change the text itself, but simply to make it easier to read. Could just be this edition (Pocket Penguin Classics), but there were no speech marks and no paragraph breaks either - which made it quite hard to follow!

Not only that, there was no foreword, no footnotes, no interpretation at all. I think a little editorial gloss would have helped to put the story in context and pick up on the nuances in the text. This lack of any explanation makes me wary of buying the other books in the series, despite the fact that I'm interested in reading quite a few of them! I will probably choose different editions if I do get these.

The story itself is worth reading, even if mostly from curiosity, as it conforms to many of the stereotypes of implausible romantic fiction! However, this is only from the point of view of modern hindsight: this was an innovative book when it was written. Again, a good introduction would have helped to highlight this.

In summary... a fun read, but probably best to get a different edition!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Historical Gothic Novel!, 8 May 2011
The Castle of Otranto is not ideal for those who enjoy popular fiction as the prose and age of the novel can be a bit of a challenge.

That said it is a must read for lovers of the Gothic novel, as it is the first ever written and published in England. It opened a door in English literature for writers like Ann Radcliffe, Bram Stoker and Mary Shelley and created the Gothic genre.

The Author, Horace Walpole was the son of an English Prime Minister and he wrote this novel and published it in his own publishing house (Strawberry Hill) under an assumed name. The novel was claimed to come from ancient writings and Walpole didn't admit to ownership of it until a much later edition. Why? Because the gothic novel didn't exist yet, only one other Gothic novel had ever been written before this one (in Germany, The Monk), so Walpole was unsure of the reaction this kind of novel would get in England. In taking this chance with his own reputation, Walpole created a new genre in literature, the gothic novel.

The novel follows Manfred and his family in the Castle of Otranto. When his son Conrad is killed on his wedding day (being crushed by a giant helmet) Manfred feels it is a sign that his lineage is doomed, so he decides to marry the beautiful Isabella (Conrad's intended bride) himself, and do away with his own wife.

It's a dark and interesting tale, delightfully shocking for the time period and provides a wonderful insight to the Gothic genre and its beginnings. There are also some great literary themes to watch out for, sex and gender being the most predominant. I'd recommend this to anyone with an interest in Gothic literature, because it is where it all began.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars For enthusiasts of gothic literature only, 6 Jan. 2011
By 
Didier (Ghent, Belgium) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Castle of Otranto: A Gothic Story (Oxford World's Classics) (Paperback)
I had read 'The Castle of Otranto' years ago but recently, as part of an effort on my side to (re)read all major works in the history of the English novel, I decided to include this in the list and see what I thought of it now. To be honest, I felt a bit let down. One should of course consider that it was first published in 1765 and, both in terms of being horrified and in terms of what the novel as a genre is capable of, we have come a very long way indeed and have become used to quite a different level of horror. I think not a single present-day reader will be horrified by 'The Castle of Otranto'. The problem, at least in my case, was quite simply that I could not, or at least less than when I first read it, get into the story enough to grant the proverbial suspension of disbelief.

This is not to say I am sorry having reread 'The Castle of Otranto' and feel that it is a waste of time. On the contrary, the fascinating aspect of it was this time rather the insight it clearly gives in the literary standards and expectations in those early days of the English novel, and as such it is and will always remain a must-read of course, which has heavily influenced scores of other (later) authors. So if you're an avid student/lover of the English novel I can heartily recommend it, if you're searching a good horror story I would go elsewhere.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Comic but not really scary, 25 Sept. 2011
By 
H. M. Holt "souloftherose" (Tring, Herts) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I wanted to read a gothic novel to help me better understand what Jane Austen is satirizing in Northanger Abbey. I picked The Castle of Otranto purely because it was the shortest.

The book (published in 1764) starts with an introduction from Horace Walpole explaining that this is an English translation he has made of an Italian manuscript dating from 1529; however the introduction makes clear that it's possible that the original work was in fact written much earlier. Walpole also states his belief that the story he has translated is based on truth and events that must have really taken place

In fact, none of this was true; it was written in English by Horace Walpole in the 18th century, but at the time it was considered much more worthwhile to read a true story than a fictional one. Interestingly the wikipedia article on the book seems to indicate that the work was critically quite well received until Walpole 'fessed up and admitted he'd made up the whole thing when all the critics promptly decided that it was worthless fluff.

Once you're past the introduction this gothic tale kicks off with someone being crushed to death by a giant helmet:

"he beheld his child dashed to pieces, and almost buried under an enormous helmet, an hundred times more large than any casque ever made for human being, and shaded with a proportionate quantity of black feathers"

Right.

All the other gothic staples are included of course; innocent virgins, noble knights, princes in disguise, incest, duels, gloomy castles and ghosts.

It was difficult for me to take this book as seriously as I assume the original 18th century readers took it. Most of the scenes which are presumably supposed to be scary seem ridiculous to a modern reader (death by giant helmet being the prime example). There are also a lot of scenes which I think may have been intended to be comic as the introduction notes that 'some persons may perhaps think the characters of the domestics too little serious for the general cast of the story'; there were some wonderful scenes very reminiscent of Shakespeare where the domestics were constantly interrupting each other or wandering from the point to the infuriation of their lords and ladies.

Ultimately, this was a short, enjoyable if somewhat strange read. Reading the free kindle version I definitely felt the lack of any explanatory notes to help me put this work in context but I think it was worth reading even so as it's given me a better understanding of Northanger Abbey.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars style over substance, 23 Sept. 2009
This review is from: The Castle of Otranto: A Gothic Story (Oxford World's Classics) (Paperback)
Widely accepted as the original gothic novel this ticks most of the boxes; a southern European setting, a sinister castle, an evil Duke, chaste yet amorous maidens and mistaken identity by the bucket load. It is an entertaining enough read and it does not take long to get through despite the quirky grammar and punctuation. Ultimately though, it does not really satisfy. The convoluted, at times ludicrous plot can be accepted but what really lets this book down, is its almost total lack of descriptive writing. At no point does Walpole tell us what the place looks, sounds or smells like. Instead the narrative is almost entirely driven by action and reported speech which, whilst interesting, fails by itself to really create a `gothic' atmosphere. If you are interested in the early Gothic novel, you are much better off with Matthew Lewis's The Monk which is both considerably more engaging and genuinely sinister.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The first of its kind, 7 Jan. 2011
By 
Max Watt (UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Castle of Otranto: A Gothic Story (Oxford World's Classics) (Paperback)
The Castle of Otranto is essentially a romance. In this respect it is predictable and formulaic. However, it is tinged with horror, which, back in 1762 was an innovative concept. The story line is interesting enough to keep you hooked and characters such as Manfred are intriguing. Other characters you have seen many times before. There are long dialogue scenes that build tension effectively, and a mysterious atmosphere the whole way through which makes the book stand out amongst contemporary fiction of the time.

People need to lay off calling this book camp, it's the first gothic horror novel ever written, of course it's going to be camp!

Overall it is flawed, but it has it's strong points too. I would only recommend this if you have a keen interest in literature.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Read, The First of Its Gothic Genre, 31 July 2012
By 
Dr. R. Brandon (England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This romantic Gothic novel progresses at a hectic pace and covers the traumatic events that took place at the Castle of Otranto at some time between the 11th and 13th centuries. Walpole has an excellent breathless style that rushes you along and it is quite remarkable to consider that this book was first published in 1764. In some respects it is reminiscent of Shakespeare in the interchanges between the characters and the introduction of mildly funny interludes with a `domestic'. This book is well worth reading to see where all the subsequent Gothic novels sprang from, many of the defining themes are here; a dark and bewildering castle, secret underground passages, a nearby church replete with important tombs, supernatural appearances, cursed households and, of course, damsels in distress. A jolly good read from a very interesting character who built his own Gothic house at Strawberry Hill, Twickenham.
The Penguin Classics edition increases the size of the book by some 50% with notes covering how the work was reviewed by different commentators including Sir Walter Scott (favourable) and explanatory notes relating to some of the language used, which, although unusual is often easy to understand.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Lasting Legacy, 28 Dec. 2008
By 
M. Dowden (London, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Let's be honest, this book is hardly high literature, and in today's marketplace probably wouldn't be published. The story itslef is camp, crazy and mind boggling. There is a death, omens and a curse in this wild tale set in a castle. There are no speech marks making it slightly slower to read, although it is fast-paced.

First published in 1764 this has hardly ever been out of print since, and is one of the most important and influential novels ever written. What Walpole gave to the world was the first gothic tale. So what?... some of you may be thinking. Well gothic definitely had an influence on the English Romantic poets. Over the years gothic has split into many branches creating new genres. From the main gothic branch you have today's horror tales, and supernatural tales. Through the sensation novel, the gothic influence that created this gradually splilt into crime, thriller and mystery genres.

It may be a crazy book but I love it, and if you are interested in the gothic novel, or in literature in general you must have this book on your bookcase. The influence of this book upon others over the years can never fully be appreciated. From books to films to tv dramas, in one form or another the world loves gothic.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The creation of a whole genre - Hard but worthwhile, 5 Jun. 2011
This review is from: The Castle of Otranto: A Gothic Story (Oxford World's Classics) (Paperback)
This book is full of surprises. I knew before I began that it was the first ever Gothic novel, but I was little prepared for the full depth of the writing. It's a bit dense, and rather awkward to read, but once you get in the swing you realise that it's exactly what the author intended. If you struggle - persevere - it's well worth it.
A magnificent tale, well told. It is amazing that the author has managed to tell such a complex and convoluted story in so few words!

Get reading!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 2 3 4 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

The Castle of Otranto: A Gothic Story (Oxford World's Classics)
The Castle of Otranto: A Gothic Story (Oxford World's Classics) by Horace Walpole (Paperback - 14 Aug. 2008)
Used & New from: £0.01
Add to wishlist See buying options
Only search this product's reviews