Category: Horace Walpole

book review – The Castle of Otranto – Horace Walpole

“Shocked with these lamentable sounds, and dreading he knew not what, he advanced hastily – but what a sight for a father’s eyes! – 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 proportionable quantity of black feathers.”

This slim but dense book comes with a reputation akin to wearing black and winklepickers with the Sisters of Mercy on the stereo.

The word Gothic has connotations that are valid with the idea of the creepiness but perhaps would put some readers off preventing a readership from enjoying this clever tale of treachery and ambition.

In some ways it reminds you of Macbeth and at other points the magical world of Peake’s Gormenghast came to mind.

The story is perhaps slightly less accessible than you would like because of the language but once you get used to that the events of the story start to exert their power over the imagination.

Starting with what has become the classic – I found this manuscript somewhere in Italy and thought I would publish it – approach the story gets straight into the action.

A castle dominated by a Prince that has manipulated events to take power is set for the nuptials of the Prince’s son and his chosen bride. But when the son is killed in a freak accident things start to move rapidly and ghostly premonitions indicate that the son is the first to die if the father will not relinquish the castle.

Far from taking heed what follows is a tale of a man determined to hold on to power even if it means the destruction of everything he holds dear.

In a Shakespearean type of way several moments of hidden and mistaken identity are revealed that compound the Prince’s problems and reveal that events have moved far beyond his control.

In the midst of all of the ghostly sightings and terror love blossoms and the future foundation of the castle of Otranto emerges.

Not the easiest book to read thanks not just to the style but also the various references are dropped in about claims to thrones and lineage that can become confusing and despite its slimline look it took a while to read.

Still for those fancying a chill as the night’s draw in it provides a few scares and plenty to keep the imagination going.