Uncle Silas by J. Sheridan Le Fanu
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
"Perhaps other souls than humans are sometimes born into this world, and clothed in human flesh." - J. Sheridan Le Fanu
What a hypnotic book?! Such a page turner! The entire novel gave me countless nights of horror and suspense.
The story begins with an odd personality, Mr. Ruthyn of Knowl, and his young daughter and heiress, Maud. They live a secluded life in the countryside, shut up from all society. This form of life makes Maud ignorant of the world, especially the true evils that lurk outside of it. A change in her father's personality puts her into a state of alarm, for he is capricious and reticent; he speaks of going on a long journey and the fear of abandoning his young daughter. Quite suddenly, he passes away, leaving poor Maud alone in the world and compelled to fulfill her father's dying wish that she should go and live with her Uncle Silas. For Maud, her Uncle has always been draped in a wave of mystery and scandal. She half-hardheartedly sets out for Betram-Haugh, the Ruthyrn's ancestral home, but the evil foreboding of the land and its owner is enough to bring the heiress into a paroxysm of hysterics and sheer terror.
From the very first page, I knew that I would enjoy this read. The author's words flow effortlessly and he has a certain knack of bringing in subtle references to classical pieces of Gothic literature into his story. The main character Maud has a wild imagination, and the author most certainly took advantage of that fact. There were times when I began to question her own sanity, but in my heart I know there was something deeply sinister about Uncle Silas.
All of the main characters were explicitly written, so believable I almost believe that I could encounter them on the street. The roguish governess, Madame de la Rougierre, is without a doubt a memorable character, almost larger than life as she torments poor Maud with her cynicism and cruelty. I half believed she was a witch, especially by the author's vivid description of her "great long nose and hallow low cheeks of hers." For me, she was almost as villainous as Uncle Silas, but of course, no one can be more manipulatively or cunning as Silas.
Half way through the novel, I considered this plot to be the means of a brilliant play. I was quite satisfied when I searched up the book to see that it was once made into a movie in the mid-twentieth century. It is unlikely that I shall watch the film, but it does instill my belief that the larger than life characters are meant for the big screen. I highly enjoyed the novel from beginning to end. The final plot-twist took me by surprise- I never expected such crafty wickedness even from Silas. I highly recommend this book if you enjoy a bit of darkness in a novel with a steady level of suspense, horror and a puzzling mystery. "Uncle Silas" is hand's down a five star read!
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