Customer Reviews


14 Reviews
5 star:
 (7)
4 star:
 (4)
3 star:
 (2)
2 star:
 (1)
1 star:    (0)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A True Gothic Classic
It's disappointing that le Fanu doesn't have the reputation of many other classic Victorian horror writers. Compared with his fellow Irishman, Bram Stoker, he barely registers in the public mind, and yet his novels and short stories are no less chilling or accomplished in their imagination.
'Uncle Silas' is probably the most prominent of his novels. It tells the...
Published on 2 Aug. 2005 by Mad mini

versus
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good beginning and end. Tedious middle.
As a fan of Gothic horror I was thrilled to come across Uncle Silas.

The story started off as I would expect of the genre, with evil and menace and a traditional cast of characters - the sensitive child-woman, the evil governess, the enigmatic Dr, the honourable father. The first 120 pages flew by. At this point I couldn't believe the book wasn't better...
Published on 4 Mar. 2011 by pr1


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

24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A True Gothic Classic, 2 Aug. 2005
It's disappointing that le Fanu doesn't have the reputation of many other classic Victorian horror writers. Compared with his fellow Irishman, Bram Stoker, he barely registers in the public mind, and yet his novels and short stories are no less chilling or accomplished in their imagination.
'Uncle Silas' is probably the most prominent of his novels. It tells the story of young and naive Maud Ruthyn, whose father's death leaves her under the guardianship of the mysterious uncle of the title. In this respect, the plot is conventional, and the ensuing murder plot to deprive Maud of her inheritance unfolds leisurely and with little of the tense, action-filled plots of contemporary sensation novels.
Instead, le Fanu's brilliance lies not in the complexity of his plot, but in his ability to produce a brooding atmosphere of foreboding and doom that is nothing short of the heightening suspense experienced in 'The Turn of the Screw.' Descriptions are brooding and detailed, stretching conventional settings such as dark woods, locked rooms and lonely churchyards to eerie proportions. Overlaid upon these environments is the continual gloom of secret's untold and the strange influence of religious sectarianism which haunts the family.
Adding colour to these monochrome backdrops are the vividly different, yet equally foreboding, characters that populate the novel. Uncle Silas figures dominantly as the frail and sickly, yet unquestionably evil and devious, opium-addicted menace who drives the machinations of the plot. His tool in his schemes is the grotesque Madame de la Rougierre, who figures as Maud's governess, and who's unsuppressed hatred for the child provides a constant source of fear and anxiety for the orphan while she attempts to uncover the secret that the Frenchwoman suppresses.
Although a classic Gothic novel in appearance, the tale isn't without its light moments, and it is this juxtaposition of moods that makes the overall effect so pronounced. The main characters flit in and out of the spotlight, trading places with a variety of other smaller characters whose intentions and affiliations both Maud and the reader are made to puzzle over in an ever heightening spiral of danger and deceit. This is an excellent novel, one which portrays another side of the dark Victorian imagination, and does so with unsettling authenticity.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A stylish, magnificent gothic horror., 31 July 2001
By A Customer
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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic Gothic fiction, 16 Oct. 2011
By 
Helen S - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
Uncle Silas is an 1864 novel which seems to incorporate almost every aspect of the Victorian sensation/gothic novel you can think of: gloomy, eerie mansions, graveyards, laudanum addiction, an evil governess, locked rooms and locked cabinets, poison, family secrets. I had high hopes for the book as it sounded like exactly the type of classic I usually enjoy, and after a slow start it didn't disappoint.

Our heroine (and the narrator of the story) is Maud Ruthyn who lives with her father at Knowl, their family estate. Maud is fascinated by a portrait of her Uncle Silas which hangs on one of the walls inside the house - she has never met her uncle before and is intrigued by hints of scandal in his past. When Mr Ruthyn decides to find a governess for his daughter, the sinister Madame de la Rougierre comes to live at Knowl and a chain of events begins which will finally bring Maud into contact with her mysterious Uncle Silas.

And that's really all I can tell you about the plot without beginning to give too much away! I had managed to avoid reading any big spoilers so I never had any idea what was coming next, and I think that was the best way to approach this book.

It did take me a while to really get into the story. It was fun and entertaining from the beginning and I was never actually bored with it, but it seemed to take such a long time before anything really happened. It wasn't until about one hundred and fifty pages into the book that the pace began to pick up and then I could appreciate why Le Fanu had taken his time building the suspense and slowly creating a mood of menace and foreboding. It was a very atmospheric and creepy story (particularly any scene featuring Madame de la Rougierre, who must be one of the most horrible, grotesque villains in literature), though I didn't find it as scary as I had expected to.

Maud may not be the strongest of female characters but she felt real and believable to me. Although she could be brave when she needed to be, she was young and naïve and I felt genuinely worried for her as she found herself becoming increasingly isolated, not sure who she could and couldn't trust. And for me, this was where the story could be described as frightening: the complete lack of control Maud had over her own destiny and the way she was forced to depend on people who may not have had her best interests at heart.

If you enjoyed The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins then I think there's a good chance you'll like this book too. It doesn't have as many surprising twists and turns as The Woman in White but it is a similar type of book, though with a much darker and more gothic feel. I think it's a shame Le Fanu isn't as widely read as other Victorian authors, as his work is definitely worth reading. I hope you'll decide to give this book a try if you haven't already.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping stuff, 27 Aug. 2009
This was a book club choice from our resident Jane Austin fan who recommended it with the strange comment that it was an "absolutely thrilling book where nothing really happened". As I read it, I marvelled that this was indeed the case. Brilliant psychological thriller of its time.
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
4.0 out of 5 stars Much more than a mere horror story, 8 Jun. 2010
By 
Didier (Ghent, Belgium) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Until I began 'Uncle Silas' I had only read a couple of Le Fanu's short stories (In A Glass Darkly (Wordsworth Mystery & Supernatural). Good as these are, to my mind 'Uncle Silas' is better still. The story itself is quite straightforward: when Maud Rhuthyn's father dies his will dictates that she will remain under the guardianship of her uncle Silas until she comes of age (and into the possession of her large inheritance). Uncle Silas however is, for some mysterious reason which Maud's other relatives are hesitant to disclose, a social outcast and a man of doubtful reputation. But Maud trusts her father's judgement implicitly, and travels to the old country house of Bartram-Haugh where Silas lives. Once at Bartram-Haugh however, Maud finds herself ever more isolated from the outside world, and though all kinds of things point to the contrary Maud time and again tries to convince herself of the honourable intentions of her uncle Silas.

I very much enjoyed this book for several reasons. First of all there's the heroine (though heroic she is not) Maud. I'm sure that to most 21st century readers she probably comes across as naive in the extreme but I found her very believable as a character nonetheless. This is according to me largely due to the fact that Maud is also the narrator of her own story, which allows Le Fanu to explore (and reveal to us) the workings of her mind and her inner logic. She may think, feel and react entirely different from us, but to discover why she thinks, feels and reacts as she does makes for fascinating reading. In fact, to me that is one of the key features of all good books: they open a window into other people's minds in such a way that we come to 'understand' them (though at the same time perhaps strongly disapproving of what they do or how they reason). Furthermore, in all her naivety Maud is a very likeable character, the kind you hope the author has a happy ending in store for (although I must confess that at times her unwillingness/inability to 'read the writing on the wall' did exasperate me). It is this detailed psychological study of a young, innocent person caught in the web of a villainous older person that makes 'Uncle Silas' far more than a mere horror story.

The whole story is framed as a memoir written by Maud and in theory this could spoil the fun (because whatever's in store for her at Bartram-Haugh, she obviously lived to tell the tale). However, this did not happen in my case, on the contrary: from the very beginning Maud's story grasped my attention and I found myself rushing from chapter to chapter to find out what happened next. All chapters are in fact written with exactly that in mind which is logical knowing that 'Uncle Silas' was first serialised in 1864 before it appeared in a three-volume first edition.

Lastly, I should mention Le Fanu's superb craftmanship in creating a sinister atmosphere, where something horrible always seems about to happen (and sometimes does). All in all, a superb novel, and deservedly a classic!
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
5.0 out of 5 stars Gothic with a capital 'G'!, 17 Feb. 2013
By 
Duncan R. McKeown "Mozartian" (Norwich, Norfolk UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
What a cracking good read this novel is! I've read many of Le Fanu's works before, and have always admired his supreme command of the gothic genre; but having read this book, I have to conclude that he has out-gothicked even himself! The famous ghost story writer M.R. James rated it (justly in my opinion) as Le Fanu's 'magnum opus'.
Although written in 1864, and in spite of some dialogue which dates it, this novel has a remarkably modern writing style. Short chapters, and sustained action make it a real page-turner. This is something I've noticed in all Le Fanu's works...perhaps in part due to his Irish roots, Le Fanu knows how to capture your attention like a celtic bard around a warm fire in the winter's gloom reciting a ghostly legend.
He is grossly underestimated (almost overlooked!) as a writer of the Victorian period, and ought to be rated above Wilkie Collins and up there with Stevenson and even Dickens. Uncle Silas himself must be one of the most intriguing and complex character studies by any author in the whole of English literature. It is well known that 'Jane Eyre' was heavily influenced by the Brontes' avid reading of Le Fanu's early stories. One has to conclude that the epithet of 'genre' writer has unjustly stained his reputation. Time to remove the stain!
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
5.0 out of 5 stars Uncle Silas - A Review by Barry Van-Asten, 5 Aug. 2012
By 
Mr. B. P. Van-asten (London, England.) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Le Fanu's novel published in 1864 is the tale of Silas Ruthyn, a man suspected of murdering a gambler found dead at Silas's home Bartram-Haugh in Derbyshire. Silas's brother Austin believes wholeheartedly in his innocence and on Austin's death bed he leaves a will stating that Silas is to be awarded guardianship of Austin's daughter Maud. Austin's belief and trust in his brother Silas is shown by the fact that if Maud dies before coming of age, Uncle Silas will receive her fortune.
Silas attempts to marry Maud off to his son, Dudley (already married) but Maud refuses. Under the belief that she is on her way to school in France, Maud finds she is a prisoner at Bartram-Haugh. Silas, Dudley and a creepy French Governess Madame de la Rougierre, plot to murder Maud, but the Governess is killed by Dudley by mistake and Maud escapes.
Le Fanu (1814-1873) is a master of the ghost story and Uncle Silas is full of atmosphere and chilling moments. Those who are wise will uncover a world of magic in the writings of Le Fanu if they should care to delve into his works. Excellent!
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
3.0 out of 5 stars Good beginning and end. Tedious middle., 4 Mar. 2011
By 
pr1 (HERTS United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
As a fan of Gothic horror I was thrilled to come across Uncle Silas.

The story started off as I would expect of the genre, with evil and menace and a traditional cast of characters - the sensitive child-woman, the evil governess, the enigmatic Dr, the honourable father. The first 120 pages flew by. At this point I couldn't believe the book wasn't better known.

Then things slowed considerably, and the story trod water for a good 200 pages until the final denouement, which was unquestionably thrilling.

Uncle Silas feels like a short story stretched into a novel, losing momentum and menace in the process.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3.0 out of 5 stars reading about her becomes sometimes tedious and repetitive, 19 Jan. 2015
By 
Although usually categorised as a ‘sensation’ novel, Uncle Silas is a slow-burning exercise in atmosphere and drawn out suspense that is likely to frustrate as many readers as it entertains. The protagonist is a sheltered young girl who, at the beginning of the novel is living under the protection of her rich father, a devout and emotionally withdrawn recluse. I don’t want to give away the story, but suffice to say that various threatening forces begin to enter the life of the young lady, beginning with the arrival of an extraordinarily eccentric and malevolent French governess with nefarious hidden intentions. There is nothing wrong with the writing in this novel, much of which is highly atmospheric and suggestive. Some of the character portraits too are as vivid and exciting as those of Dickens, for example. Modern readers, however, may lose patience with aspects of the novel, such as the innocence and lack of agency of the heroine. Her position, as the young, only daughter of a devout rich recluse living in a remote country estate mean that she understands very little of the world she lives in (we understand more than her, which is not much) and has virtually no power to act against the forces that conspire around her. When the central character is so helpless, reading about her becomes sometimes tedious and repetitive. Too many things just happen to her, and she has no particular goals or desires which might create a sense of stakes to play for. The other big problem is that for long stretches of the novel, very little happens. The novel of suspense works according to a principles of anticipation and delayed gratification. Wilkie Collins was a master of this. Uncle Silas delays gratification until you can’t even remember what it was you were anticipating; case in point: Uncle Silas, the titular character doesn’t even appear until almost halfway through the book. When he does, it is rather a letdown, as we haven’t been given enough facts about him to feed our imagination. The merits of Uncle Silas ultimately lie in its portrayal of atmosphere and character, its sense of brooding menace and innocence under threat. But structurally, it’s a stodgy Victorian pudding of a novel.
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 Atmospheric, 14 Feb. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Very atmospheric and gripping. A classic gothic creepy tale and an ideal winter read and I would definitely recommend it
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


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

This product

Uncle Silas (Nonsuch Classics)
Uncle Silas (Nonsuch Classics) by J Sheridan le Fanu (Paperback - 31 July 2006)
£6.00
Not in stock; order now and we'll deliver when available
Add to basket Add to wishlist
Only search this product's reviews