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3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
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This was the last novel to appear by Ann Radcliffe in her lifetime. Nowadays this is recognised as her best, and rightly so. Due to the success of her two previous novels Mrs Radcliffe was offered £800 for this, which is about £16,000 or so nowadays. At the time this was a phenomenol amount for a book. There are also a few differences in this novel to previous books, she keeps her highly descriptive scenery, but drops the poetry. Also this book is more realistic in story to others, and it is faster paced.

Vincentio di Vivaldi falls in love with Ellena di Rosalba in church, but his parents consider such a marriage between them to be below their status, and so Vivaldi's mother plots with her Confessor to prevent the two seeing each other again. Whilst Vivaldi pays calls on Ellena he is always being warned by a mysterious monk, but Vivladi takes no notice. As Father Schedoni the Confessor starts his machinations, little does he know what the end result will be. Initially he has Ellena abducted to a convent to force her to become a nun; such things were not uncommon and if you find this interesting you might enjoy Diderot's novel The Nun (Oxford World's Classics). But when Vivaldi initiates a daring escape for Ellena, then Schedoni uses the Holy Inquisition to do his dirty work and remove Vivaldi from the scene.

Planning to have Ellena murdered, things don't go according to plan, and Schedoni finds that his past life and secrets are slowly unravelling, despite his efforts. Like most of what Radcliffe wrote, this novel inspired others in the field of gothic novels, and she remains 'The Queen of Gothic Romances' to this day.
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on 29 March 2002
Despite being criticised for being sensationalist and formulaic, Radcliffe's novel is in fact very much grounded in reality. The Italian deals with some heated issues - gender relations, religion (Catholicism in particular) and class conflict - to name but a few. Although this is a fairly lengthy text, I really enjoyed it. The introduction by Robert Miles is excellent, and really helps the reader to contextualise the novel. I'd recommend this to anyone who's interested in literature from the Romantic Period - or simply wishes to broaden their general knowledge.
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on 8 October 2013
I've been reading a lot of Ann Radcliffe lately for a course on Gothic Literature I have been doing and this is the best one of hers I've read to date. (**I should just say, I've read A Sicilian Romance, The Mysteries of Udolpho, The Castles of Athlin and Dunblane, but not read the posthumous one or The Romance of the Forest as yet). So perhaps I should have called this review "Best to date" or something like that. However, I can't see how it's going to get any better than this one. Whereas A Sicilian Romance is all high-octane non-stop action which leaves you breathless, and The Mysteries is a stately pace through the Appennines, this one, to me, seems to be paced just perfectly. There's enough action to keep your sympathies engaged utterly with the hapless heroine and enough dark mystery (including an appearance by the Italian inquisition) to keep it rooted in its Gothic tradition.

There are some wonderful turns of phrase in this novel and some beautiful examples of writing which clearly illustrate why Ann Radcliffe was considered the Shakespeare of the Gothic novel. There's something rather heartless in the beginning in the manner in which Vivaldi pursues Ellena and effectively brings about her ruin, but at least he's constant to her and manages to rescue her from disrespectability even after it is he who has dragged her into it in the first place. All of her troubles can be placed firmly at his feet and his slightly ill-advised pursuit of her, even though he knows himself that his family will never approve of his courtship of her. Indeed, it's very touch and go at the end if they will ever win that approval - his father is ambivalent about bestowing his blessing on the pair right up to the final pages. Schedoni (the villain) is also ambivalent as a villain - he has moments of humanity and moments where he is the hero. Still, sadly, he's been villainous enough to justify his bad end. As usual, it's the peasant classes who provide the most entertainment - Paulo is fab and gets the final word in the novel.

This was Radcliffe's last novel published in her lifetime, due, some critics argue, to the fact that Matthew Lewis's The Monk had brought the genre into disrespectability and Radcliffe, "who's chief ambition was to be thought a lady" (Critical Review, June 1826), didn't like the way their names were linked within the genre of literature they were both writing. The Italian has also been described as Radcliffe's response to The Monk. I've read The Monk before and will be reading it again soon for my classes, so it should be interesting to see how they compare. I've got to say, from what I remember though, I prefer this version to Lewis's. I think that's because I'm a romantic.
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on 18 October 2012
Written in 1797 this was the last novel published by Ann Radcliffe before she died. Believed to be written as a response to Matthew Gregory Lewis' "The Monk". More poetic than Lewis and in this reviewers opinion, a better writer, Radcliffe seems to chooses power as the cause rather than Lewis' thoughts which are about sexuality. "The Italian" is a blockbuster of a gothic novel and with an introduction by Kathryn White this book is implausibly cheap as well as fantastic.
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on 26 February 2012
Written, in 1797, Anne Radcliffe's The Italian is clearly her best work. The novel is an excellent example of romantic Gothic writing, and fulfills many of the characteristics typical to the genre, such as its preoccupation with the foreign, exotic scenery of southern Italy and the distrust of the Roman Catholic Church. These prevalent themes are also relevant to Radcliffe's contemporaneous period and the French Revolution, with its concerns of religion, the aristocracy and nationality. The Oxford World's Classics edition of this novel is particularly excellent due to E.J. Clery's introduction. Although her exploration and research is extremely detailed, she particularly excels in her emphasis on the rising concept of nationality, and the inherent distrust of Roman Catholicism in England. This version is an excellent read for those interested in contextualizing Radcliffe in these elements of the eighteenth-century.
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VINE VOICEon 11 August 2013
The late 18th century wasn't short of authors attempting to write thrilling, chilling and sublime Gothic Romances and yet, of the literally hundreds of Gothic novels published at the time only a dozen or so remain in print. Of these titles the work of Ann Radcliffe, while perhaps not being the most over-heated and terrifying (take a bow Matthew Lewis), is I would argue the most beautifully written. In particular her descriptions of landscape - the bays, woodlands, mountain ranges and gloomy convents and castles - are utterly sublime. In The Italian, which is arguably her most accomplished novel, the next description of an awe-inspiring gloomy convent perched atop a mountain or of a sun-dappled shoreline with its villas and gardens is never far away. Similarly the horrific makes regular appearances with dungeons, evil abbesses and the Inquisition featuring heavily. Radcliffe published five novels during her lifetime and while the fourth of those - The Mysteries of Udolpho - is the best known I suspect the last - The Italian - is the one where she was most confidently in control of her material.

The plot, as is the way of these things, is fairly traditional. Vincento di Vivaldi, a nobleman from Naples, falls in love with the beautiful Ellena Rosalba. Unfortunately Ellena is far beneath her admirer in terms of status and Vivaldi's father and mother (particularly the mother - who is deliciously scheming) decide to remove her from the scene to prevent the family line being tainted by blood of less than noble birth. Step forward Father Schedoni - the demonic and terrifying Italian of the title - who sets in train a course of events that result in Ellena being confined against her will in a convent and Vivaldi being cast into the dungeons of the Inquisition. Along the way lockets containing portraits reveal curious family links; monks enter dungeons seemingly without the aid of a door; strange noises cascade down gloomy corridors and torchlight illuminates crumbling medieval buildings. It is all deliciously good Gothic fun.

If I had a criticism of the book it would be that the pace of the narrative is occasionally uneven. In particular the last 80 or so pages introduce a couple of new characters that push the plot towards its conclusion with unseemly haste but, in a way, this is only noticeable because the story as outlined in the 300 pages that come before is so perfectly pitched. This is a minor quibble, however, and if you're ever tempted to read a late 18th century Gothic novel then Ann Radcliffe's The Italian would make for a brilliant choice. As definitive sublime and evocative Golden Era Gothic it takes some beating.
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on 6 March 2013
Imagine my surprise when I came to Chapter 5 of the book and found that it is missing! Just to be sure, I checked out a print copy of the book and chapter 5 is there - it details Vivaldi's investigation into Lady Bianchi's death.

<Groan> As they say, if you buy cheap, you buy twice! I still cannot understand how they could have missed out a whole chapter??? Now I have to buy again...
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on 25 February 2012
Published in 1797 this was the final novel from one of the early initiators of Gothic Romance - and many would say the genre's queen. The story begins as a Romeo and Juliet type affair: Vivaldi has fallen for Ellena, an enigmatic orphan, but his family strongly oppose the match. The plot moves fast, with lots of gorgeous descriptions of travel in the Alps and across Italy, and it takes in along the way many of the deliciously overwrought staples of the genre: ghostly appearances, deathbed confessions, evil priests, sequestered monasteries and even the Inquisition. But the main attraction is surely the dark character of Father Schedoni, the confessor of Vivaldi's mother, who, once drawn in to oppose the match using any means possible, finds his own shady past and web of deceit begins to unravel.

This is well worth a read, particularly if you are interested in the early history of the Gothic novel. Sadly the Kindle edition is riddled with typos, which - even for 77p - was a real shame.
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on 27 October 2014
Nicely done although disappointingly it misses out the introductory section which in my view is an integral part of the novel..
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on 7 April 2013
A good book, cover makes it seem much, much scarier than the book actually is. Arrived quickly and a good quality too.
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