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The Italian Paperback – Oct 11 2008
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"An ingenious performance." --Samuel Taylor Coleridge --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
About the Author
E. J. Clery is Research Fellow in English at Sheffield Hallam University and author of The Rise of Supernatural Fiction 1762-1800 (1995). She has edited Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto in Oxford World's Classics.
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I found myself wondering why the story went the way it did because on so many occasions it didn't feel quite unified (especially when Vincentio was being tried). It was interesting to follow Ellena yet I didn't quite see the point of it until her parentage came into play (although the struggle of their love because of her perceived low-birth felt pointless at the end) and by then it felt too late despite how relevant it was. I think I would have enjoyed the story more were the viewpoints not so separate but I understand why they were like that - I just wish it didn't stay so long with one person.
I'm glad for yet another good example of Gothic horror but I don't think I'd read this again - it's not completely out of the question but it wasn't as strong an example because of the weird journeys the plot went on. At least it wasn't a tragic end but it felt like too long a read and the POVs were too broken up for me to find it an enjoyable read outside of research.
Published in 1796, "The Italian" became an instant success, cementing the fame of Ann Radcliffe among the liteary circle. Her name has been already well-known with her previous work "The Mysteries of Udolpho" two years before, but in my book this follow-up is better than the other. Of course, it depends on your view which is superior, but it is commonly agreed that Ann Radcliffe's position in the history of English literature is secured by those two Gothic classics, which clearly gave inspiration to Jane Austen, who wrote the joyful "Northanger Abbey."
The story is rather simple in the beginning. It tells of a romantic love of young dashing nobleman Vivaldi in Naples, who falls in love with a girl Ellena. But his plan of marriage is soon interrupted by the vicious monk Schedoni. Then ensue abduction, murder (attempted or not), and the Inquisition. There are lot of suspense, terror, and thrill that come from the fluent narrative of Radcliffe, who knows how to engage the readers' attention. (And thankfully, "The Italian" is free from any lengthy poems that are found aplenty among "Udolpho.")
To be sure, the third part of the book is damaged by its too complicated relations between characters, and too rapid pen of the author to wrap up the events with rational explanations about the mysterious things in the first part of the book, but the whole book manages to sustain our interest to the end.Read more ›
Well, back to the novel itself. The story opens in the year 1764 in Naples, Italy as a group of English tourists are visiting a church. They notice a diabolical looking man who they are informed can never leave the safety of the church walls because he is an assasin. The place is his last sanctuary from those who wish to kill him. Of course the group asks to hear the tale of the assasin and The Italian begins.
The story opens as a young nobleman named Vincentio di Vivaldi spots the beautiful but common Ellena Rosalba during church service and falls in love with her. From this Dantesque beginning we are led into a Romeo and Juliet scenario in which Vivaldi begins to woo her without the approval of his parents. Then we have the apperance of a cowled priest who appears to warn Vivaldi of future events before they happen. Vivaldi chases him a couple of times but all he ever finds is thin air. As the book continues, Vivaldi's mother will stop at nothing to keep her son from marrying his one true love.Read more ›
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