The Castle of Wolfenbach: A German Story by Eliza Parsons
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
"The Castle of Wolfenbach" is a tale that has left me with mixed feelings. I had first heard of this novel when reading through Jane Austen's "Northanger Abbey," and later stumbled upon it when reading a list of the greatest Gothic horror novels of all time. I can see the reasoning behind it being listed as a Gothic fiction, but it cannot hold a candle to some of the greater works that have since been published in the late nineteenth century. All the same, this is a great staple of Gothic literature. It has ghosts to a certain degree, an ancient castle that lies in the deep forestry of Germany, and a horrid story of murder and betrayal. I was captivated by the plot-line from the start, but to my disappointment it was not fulfilling enough to hold my interests entirely.
Maltidia is an honourable, good-hearted woman. Indeed, she is quite spotless in the eyes of society. She is a amiable, sensible, and a well-behaved child that is indebted to her uncle's partiality towards her. Upon discovering the awful truth of her family's relations, Maltidia flees for her life and seeks refuge in the Castle of Wolfenbach. It is from there that the real story begins, but it still did not enrapture me wholly. Perhaps, it was the main character's penchant of fainting at every moment, and when not falling to the floor when being frazzled with pure nerves she is brought to a state of baleful tears. I know this is a classic troupe of women fainting when full of fear, but in this novel it was beyond redundant, it was almost humorous in a way. Oh, the amount of times Maltilda "Quitted the apartment with a flood of tears," or "Leaning on her friend's shoulder, burst into a flood of tears," is beyond me. The poor girl was sensible for a moment, and then bawling her eyes out in another. I know I am reading this novel with a modern day perspective, but it still puzzles me how so many women and men can be brought into a state of tears at any moment.
The villains were absolutely delicious, if only we could have seen more of them. They were the true monsters in this story, and they did not disappoint. Parson's characterizations of them were descriptive and their true motives were ambiguous until the very end. I could receive nothing but sheer delight whenever they came across the page, but that is perhaps because of my natural tendency to be dazzled by villains in classical pieces of literature. All in all, I would recommend this novel to anyone that enjoys literature from the eighteenth and nineteenth century. If you enjoy a story of murder, cruelty and a touch of ghosts then this is the book for you.
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