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on 29 September 2013
I so enjoyed reading this work which just typified Gothic excess at its very best. What we have here is the story of Julia and Emelia and their brother Ferdinand, children of the autocratic Marquis Mazzini who is every bit as diabolic a villain as Radcliffe's more famous Count Montoni. The children are motherless and live in a castle (in the same sublime species of landscape as Udolpho) which has an entire ruined southern hall which is reputed to be haunted. Of course, this is Radcliffe, so we know there aren't any real ghosts and there's going to be a rational explanation (even if it is more unlikely than if there had been actual ghosts). The story mainly concerns Julia, who falls in love with the courtly Hippolitus. However, the evil Marquis has other ideas and tells Julia that she must marry the evil Duke of Luovo. There then follows a series of adventures whereby Julia escapes, ends up in a convent, is given the choice between marrying the Duke or taking the veil, escapes again, gets captured by banditti, caught up in a shipwreck, escapes again, gets caught up in another shipwreck and all kinds of adventures before the inevitable happy ending. In the meantime, the ghostly groans in the castle are explained and everyone (except those who had it coming i.e. the Marquis and his evil adulterous wife) get what they deserved. This is a brilliant example of Gothic fiction with fainting heroines, sword fights, shipwrecks (x 2) and lots of sublime rocky rugged scenery. I loved it so much although I've got to say I was exhausted by the end of it all. Poor old Julia really does go through the wringer to get where she needs to be. It's not too long - certainly not as long as the more famous Mysteries of Udolpho and is a brilliant introduction to the excesses of the gothic genre.
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on 16 June 2014
I have read Anne Radfcliffe before, and I am absolutely crazy about Gothic Literature, which i believe is the forerunner to Detective Fiction. A Sicilian Romance like most Gothic Literature centres upon bizarre events, and strange happenings - making the text a bit of a shock fest - designed to titillate the reader. If you haven't read any Gothic Literature, then this is a good starting point.
Anne Radfcliffe is a very great writer - making the text very enjoyable.
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VINE VOICEon 5 April 2015
This is a short gothic romance novel by this late 18th century author, more famous for the much longer Mysteries of Udolpho. It is very much of the same type, with evocative and dreamlike descriptions of the landscape; beautiful fainting women, handsome heroes and dastardly villains; gloomy decaying castles harbouring ghostly secrets that turn out to have a rational solution; staggering coincidences and the plot strands resolved satisfactorily at the end (slightly abruptly here, I thought). I love the language in which 18th and early 19th century novels were written.
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This was Ann Radcliffe's second novel and like her first it was published anonymously. Although gothic to some extent, her first novel was more historical fiction, but here we see Mrs Radcliffe starting to write what she became famous for. Once again, this tale didn't cause a big splash as it were when first published, but it did carry on being quite popular even many years later.

Set near the end of the sixteenth century, our story revolves around a family who inhabit a castle in Northern Sicily. With bigamy, adultery, false imprisonment, an attempted forced marriage and secrets and other shenanigans, as well as a few coincidences, this isn't the best gothic tale ever written, but it is fun. At only 200 pages long this is a relatively quick read that should keep you absorbed for a few hours.
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A Sicilian Romance, Ann Radcliffe's second novel, was published at the beginning of what was to be a remarkable decade for Gothic fiction. The genre may have existed since Horace Walpole's novel The Castle of Otranto appeared in 1764 but it was only with the 1790s, and with Radcliffe in particular, that Gothic fiction really came into its own. A Sicilian Romance takes many of the elements that defined the genre: there is a fiendish Italian nobleman with a poisonous wife and two beautiful daughters; he lives in a decaying castle, the south wing of which is reputedly haunted; he is surrounded by servants who range from the cowardly to the downright sinister and he clearly has secrets buried deep in his past. When his daughter, Julia, decides she doesn't want to marry the suitor her father has chosen for her and flees the castle the stage is set for a whole series of beautifully Gothic set pieces.

One of Radcliffe's great gifts as a novelist was her ability to describe landscape in a beautifully haunting fashion. During A Sicilian Romance Julia is pursued through moonlit forests; seeks shelter from a thunderstorm in a decaying monastery; contemplates the possibility of happiness while sitting on the shore of a sun-dappled lake and views the world from the lower slopes of windswept mountains. In a sense very little of this advances the plot but the descriptions do trigger an emotional response in the reader, awakening a sense of the beautiful and sublime in the landscape around us and thus setting the ground for the Gothic shocks lurking just around the corner. The plot, when you examine it, does seem a touch contrived (the thugish knights pursuing Julia continually miss her while her former companion stumbles across her straight away while strolling somewhat aimlessly down a hillside) but in a way that doesn't matter. Gothic fiction isn't really about tightly drawn plots and it certainly isn't about plausibility, it's about triggering a sense of fear and wonder and in that respect A Sicilian Romance, like most of Radcliffe's work, succeeds admirably.

I really enjoyed A Sicilian Romance, if you're looking for a way in to the weird and wonderful world of early Gothic fiction this is a great place to start. It's with Radcliffe that the frequently daft but fascinating excesses of Gothic become merged with a brilliant eye for description and effect. Nobody before Radcliffe, and very few since, could describe a crumbling monastery as seen on a summer's night by the flashes of distant lightning as well as she could. Her scene setting is superb and even her characters take on a depth that puts many of the cardboard cutouts of her predecessors to shame. It's no surprise that when Jane Austen took an affectionate dig at Gothic fiction in her novel Northanger Abbey she set Radcliffe up as the definitive example of the genre. For all of its implausibilities A Sicilian Romance is a very good novel and it shows the author well on her way to the heights of Udolpho and The Italian. Sublime, in every sense of the word.
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on 17 July 2009
Having read Mysteries of Udolpho, I decided to give this one a go. Although it is not as good as Udolpho and is very predictable, it is an entertaining, quick read and I thoroughly enjoyed it!
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on 4 March 2015
A thoroughly enjoyable read and so much easier, and shorter, than the Mysteries of Udolpho. Delightful language of the day.
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on 16 November 2014
Bought for study with the sublime, loved the beautiful descriptions of the natural landscapes and setting the characters trans-versed. Story line and characters were predictable and simple but this is to be expected with the Gothic genre.
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on 8 November 2012
If you've read "Northanger Abbey", then try "A Sicilian Romance" and you'll know exactly why Jane Austen was taking the micky. The good characters are flawless, the bad are evil incarnate and the story is full of dungeons, wicked priests and flinty-hearted parents.
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on 9 March 2013
This is a quick read - if you like gothic, melodramatic, romantic literature, you will like this. Although the characters could be a bit more dimensional, overall it is not a bad read and the ending was satisfying.
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