The Hunchback of Notre-Dame by Victor Hugo
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
A story with the potential to reel the readers in, but did not exactly hit the mark. I have very little knowledge of 'The Hunchback of Notre-Dame' although I am well aware of the named author, Victor Hugo. There is no doubt in my mind that he is a talented and prolific writer. He uses his words as a paintbrush, describing the city like a bird that soars through the air to take in its surroundings. He does not write in a poetic way, but he does describe the scenery with such descriptiveness that the reader feels like they are in the hollowed gloom of Notre Dame.
The story centers around a few characters, each with their own designs in life and want to make the most of their opportunities in France. The focal point is the looming tower of Notre Dame, its figure head emits throughout the city like a God high up in the sky. In the dark dwelling of its hollowed abyss is a decrepit, limping monster-like creature named "Quasimodo." he is known as one of the central characters, the Hunchback of Notre Dame.
The origins of his Quasimodo comes in little snippets throughout the novel, making him a mystery to both the characters of the book and the readers alike. I came into the novel with a clear expectation that he would be the central character, but I was terribly wrong. Over time the readers becomes acquainted with other members of the Cathedral, both the glorious noble and the helpless fallen. I had taken an interest in the Priest, the Archdeacon Claude Frollo, mostly because he appeared to be a haunted man, torn between his loyalty to the church and his desire to learn more of the sciences. His secret dabbling in alchemy and possibly sorcery adds a certain element of Gothic notary that is prevalent in this genre.
The person that stole the show is a young woman, a Bohemian Gypsy, which naturally steals the heart of many characters in the film. Her name is Esmeralda. She takes on the stereotypical characteristics of that time period for "Gypsies." She is young, beautiful, enchanting and feared by God-fearing men. She is like a ray of starlight, dancing effortlessly in the street, which unfortunately spells disaster for her in the end.
I confess that I spent a good portion of this novel skimming through the pages. Reading the full-length novel on an e-book was a mistake, and it is one that I would not recommend to others. The author has a talent of creating memorable characters, but the long-extended descriptiveness of the city streets, the history of the cathedral and the features of the poverty-stricken people lost my interest. I found most of my attention was fixated on Esmeralda and her devoted goat. To me it screamed witchcraft, so I was not surprised when others whispered those very words in the dark alleyways of Paris.
I can comprehend the reasoning for this novel to be listed as Gothic romance. It is dark to be sure, it has elements of the supernatural, the grotesque, and the disfiguration of the soul of man. I suppose most readers would have imagined that it is the most blackhearted villain would be the Hunchback of Notre Dame, but they are terribly wrong. Beauty is held in the eye of the beholder, and in the case of this novel it is especially true. Although I did not finish the book in its entirety, I can understand the reason it is proclaimed as a masterful piece. The author does have a natural art of drawing the reader in, but for myself, I found it burdensome to read and at long last I gave up on the adventure.
For those readers that enjoy a good dark tale with seedy characters scuttling down dark alleyways and tightly enclosed abbey's then this is the book for you. If you love anything involving "Gypsies" or a great grizzly tale of love and despair, I can assure you that this is the ideal novel for you. As to my parting words, if I want to read a book about a "Holy man" losing his sanity over a beautiful woman that he can never be with because of his sacred vows to the Church, I would rather read the deliciously sinful and exceptionally Gothic horror story 'The Monk' by Matthew Gregory Lewis.
I will leave this book review with my favourite quote from this book, coming from none other but the deeply despaired and undeniably lusty Priest. The prisoner recoiled with horror. “Oh!” said the priest, “young girl, have pity upon me! You think yourself unhappy; alas! alas! you know not what unhappiness is. Oh! to love a woman! to be a priest!"
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The Black Cat by Edgar Allan Poe
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
"Yet, mad am I not — and very surely do I not dream. But to-morrow I die, and to-day I would unburthen my soul."
Dark. Psychological. Traumatic. Thrilling. Suspenseful.
Those are some of the words that come to my mind when I contemplate about this short story by Edgar Allan Poe. You can tell that he is in his element, writing in the style of suspenseful drama to keep the reader on pin and needles. If you are a fan of the classic "The Tell-Tale Heart" or "The Oval Portrait," I can assure you that you will enjoy this short read too.
The story begins with the narrator making an ambiguous confession, it is clear that his mind is a little unhinged. He begins the tale where he is a young man, innocent and kind to both fellow man and creature, but his nature begins to alter into something far more sinister. The reader observes his gradual degradation, the manner in which he treats his wife and his devoted black cat, Pluto, until it becomes clear that he has become something of a monster in his own household. How will this story end? You will have to read the book to uncover the truth? I can assure you that this story is not what you expect, and the last few lines will stay in your memory forever. A thrilling read, and one that I highly recommend to those that love Gothic horror or dark supernatural tales.
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The Ghoul by John Joseph Connelly
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
"The Ghoul" is sure to be a classic piece of Gothic literature.
Echoing the descriptive narrative flair of Charles Dickens, the author of "The Ghoul" takes the reader into the seedy districts of El Ravel, where crime, cruelty and devilish characters await you.
From the onset, I thought the highly descriptive narrative was very Charles Dickens like, as if the readers were walking down the cobbled streets and seeing the city from the eye's of various characters. The main character in this Gothic novel is a humble priest, Marçal, a kindly man that feels that it is his purpose in life to serve God and to bring relief to those that are suffering. Still a novice, he accepts a new position in the bustling city, El Ravel, in Barcelona. Immediately he is taking back by the need of the city; the high crime rate, poverty and overall suffering of the people of his parish. As he becomes familiar with his role as the new priest of El Ravel, he takes it upon himself to explore the dregs of society, and becomes acquainted with the city's prostitutes, criminals, and beggars lining up along the dirty streets. Marçal is determined to be an ever shining light in the midst of a great darkness. The people in the city begin to think favourably of him, and he is slowly succeeding in bringing people back into the church, but little does he know the dark forces surrounding him, anxious to bring him to his doom.
I thought the author's writing style closely echoed Wilkie Collins and Charles Dickens. If you are a fan of Collin's "The Moonstone" or "The Woman in White," it is likely that you will love Connelly's work. There were also instances in the end, when I thought of Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein," which brought a certain level of paranormal and horror elements into the mix. "The Monk" by Matthew Lewis also came across my mind more than once, probably because Connely's "Marçal" so closely resembled the fallen character of Lewis' "Ambrisio." Indeed, they were both self-righteous man that were unknowingly lured by unknown forces, all contrived by the Devil. I believe if you are a lover of classic Gothic literature, or a spooky tale that will leave you turning the page well into the night, then "The Ghoul" is the book for you.
The only fault I found was the beginning, because it felt quite sluggish and I was impatient for the plot to really begin. Half-way through the novel things began to pick up, and the reader was able to witness all manners of events quickly unfolding for the main characters. I also developed a feeling of empathy for Marçal, which is attributed to the marvellous writing skills of Connely. In the end, this young priest was too good for such a seedy, sordid place. There are instances in life, or even in this world, where light can sometimes be blotted out by supreme darkness. There are sad instances where evil does win, and we are helpless to watch "the fall" as it were, or at least in this case, the unexpected fate of Marçal. I believe this quote in the novel epitomizes the failings of this Godly devout priest:
"I see that you have a good heart and your intentions are noble but to be perfectly frank, your wide-eyed optimism and naïve attitude to rescuing our godforsaken little precinct are at best, misguided and misplaced."
If you are a lover of nineteenth century literature, or possess a penchant for horror and the grotesque then this is the book for you. Drama, suspense, and mystery are all the words I would use to describe the novel. I eagerly await for Connelly's next book, and hope that he will one day publish "The Ghoul" in a physical format so that I can add to my book shelf.
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Dark romanticism is distinguishable from the Romanticism period because there is emphasis on human fallibility, specifically the capability to fall from grace and relish in our carnal desires and sin. Similarly, their view of nature can fall into the same category. Nature suddenly turns into a cold, dreary, darkened place; it is violent and uncontrollable, which makes it all the more dangerous. Some would argue that dark romanticism has a pessimistic worldview, and perhaps there is some merit in this scholarly argument. While Romanticism looks upon human nature in a positive light, it is the Dark Romantics that highlight the corrupted nature of our hearts and the sheer anguish and terror we can place upon others.
For some artists in this field they blame social reforms, a direct result that mangles mankind into a darker form of themselves. There is evidence of this in Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter," a popular piece of literary work in his time. In contrast, other literary writers believed that it was not social reforms that made them fall from grace, but purely their susceptibility to be self-destructive, thereby, indulging themselves in sin, orgy and a defiance towards God. I would argue that this period of literary writing explores the morality of man, it is a time of spiritual and emotional exploration, where the writer can dive into this fictional world and reexamine the inner workings of man. One of the most prolific writers of Dark Romanticism is Edgar Allan Poe. When you analyze his stories such as "The Raven," or "The Tell-Tale Heart," you can see that he is examining the darker side of human emotion, ranging from deep despair to the macabre. Poe does not highlight the lightness of our nature, but the deeply mutilated, grotesque and fearful side that lies within our soul. There are some other artists that embrace this genre of literature, such as Emily Brontë, Mary Shelley, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, and Emily Dickenson.
This literary subgenre of Dark Romanticism is still prevalent today. There are artists and writers that still feel the need to explore the corrupted side of human nature and their tendency to fall into sin and disgrace. I have come across a marvellous short story by Monica Crosson called "The Ode to Dark Romanticism," which you can read by clicking in on this link here. There is also a range of poets in the twenty-first century that are inspired by the works of Edgar Allan Poe and H.P. Lovecraft, one of which is an interesting curated set of poems that can be found in Cassandra L. Thompson's "Crow Calls: Volume One."
My published work the "Far from Home" series will fall into this subgenre too, especially in the final edition which will premiere in the year 2022 or 2023. In "Far from Home: Book Three," the main character, Amelie, will have to battle with her conflicting emotions when she encounters a strange man that has a mystical connection to her. The idea of reincarnations will be explored in "Far From Home: Book Three," as well as human fallibility and the great temptation of sin when being lured by a powerful forces that verge on the edge of the supernatural.
Vampires have always had a desirable lure upon the female sex; their immorality, unnatural beauty, and the sexual aura which they exude makes the main female characters fall into their grasp. In the first two editions of "Far from Home" we know that young Victoria Reeds is no exception, but will Amelie Stewart have a chance to fight against her own carnal desires? For the reader we see that the enchanting engima- the delectable presence of Aodhan McVeigh has made many women fall to his charms, but when it comes to Amelie Stewart the situation is altered because she so closely resembles the woman he loved. "Far from Home: Book Three" examines the range of human emotions- pain, anguish, despair, but it also sheds light upon the nature of man and whether it can lead them to salvation or utter destruction.
I hope this short article enlightened you upon this interesting subgenre. It is not only prevalent in literary works, but also in music and art works. I highly encourage you to explore this brave new world! Dark Romanticism gave birth to Gothic Fiction, and it is the reason we have such famous works such as Horace Walpole's "The Castle of Otranto," Hawthorne's "The Birthmark," and Poe's "The Fall of House Usher." Their writings are still an inspiration today, especially for myself as I continue my journey as a self-published author. Be sure to check out my works, such as "The Tragic Tale of Teddy Woven" or "Far from Home: Book One," if you enjoy dark Gothic reads.
Thank you for taking the time to read this article,