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,
Clarimonde by Théophile Gautier
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
"Clarimonde" is a fantastical tale that undoubtedly falls into the Gothic horror genre. Gautier's story is incredibly short, but it leaves a firm impression upon the reader's mind. The last lines are a harrowing reminder of the great tragedies of a wandering eye, especially when it lands upon a beautiful woman like Clarimonde. Gautier's final lines are the following:
Never gaze upon a woman, and walk abroad only with eyes ever fixed upon the ground; for however chaste and watchful one may be, the error of a single moment is enough to make one lose eternity.
This short story recounts the memories of a priest, Romuald, and his chance encounter with Clarimonde. Their eyes meet at the most inopportune time, right when he is about to make his sacred vows to chastity and to live out a religious life for all the rest of his days. He utters the holy vows mechanically, but already his heart is lost to the great beauties of this young woman. He chances to meet her yet again, a year later at Clarimonde's death bed where she is covered over in a white veil and adorned with flowers in her hair. Her beauty is so exquisite he can hardly believe that she is truly dead- the absence of her breath and the cold skin feel like a betrayal when he looks upon the gorgeous face of this woman that has left an everlasting place in his heart. In a moment of profound passion, Romuald digresses:
Ah, must I confess it? That exquisite perfection of bodily form, although purified and made sacred by the shadow of death, affected me more voluptuously than it should have done, and that repose so closely resembled slumber that one might well have mistaken it for such. I forgot that I had come there to perform a funeral ceremony; I fancied myself a young bridegroom entering the chamber of the bride...
In a state of despair he passes out over her bed, unable to chant the holy prayers to let her spirit depart from her body. Days later he chances to meet her yet again! Is it really Clarimonde that has come back from the dead? Or is this all a maddening form of fanatical illusions in the dead of night? In vain, he tries to forget the young woman's promise that she will return to him on the 'morrow, hoping it was just some sensuous dream, but in his soul Romuald knows that everything about Clarimonde is not as it appears to be...
I highly recommend this story for anyone that is a fan of Robert Louis Stevenson's "Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde." There is a similar theme prevalent between the two, where the characters cannot fathom how they are capable of such evil, and yet, be also morally good. There is a lot of inward conversations about morality and philosophical questions about the lives that people are able to lead. Romuald had wanted to be a priest, it was supposed to be his life's calling, but the second he laid his eyes on Clarimond it forces his heart to change. He could not love or worship God, or even sacrifice his life to chastity and loneliness once this beauteous woman caught his eye. The Gothic horror element of night creatures, evil spirits and vampires added a paranormal/supernatural element to this short novel. I recommend this read to all that have a fascination with this type of genre. Furthermore, I look forward to reading more of Gautier's work in the future.
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The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
If one of the family did but gurgle in his throat, a bystander would be likely enough to whisper, between jest and earnest, “He has Maule’s blood to drink!”
"The House of the Seven Gables" is supposedly a classic read, but a highly forgettable one. The story is narrated in third person, told by a rather abstracted and somewhat indifferent narrator that describes in detail the history of the house and its occupants. Hawthorne is unquestionably a talented writer with a wide array of vocabulary that corresponds well with the Gothic genre, however, the author is guilty of overwriting. The first chapter alone describes the layout of the house and its history, it was unnecessarily descriptive to the point that I wondered when the reader would be introduced to a single character in the story. It is not until the final few pages of the first chapter that the reader encounters dialogue, and it is so unaccountably short that the reader is hardly acquainted with the house's founder, Colonel Pyncheon, before his life takes a tragic turn.
Admittedly, I did not finish the entire novel. I was disinterested from the start, but this long-drawn out narrative dissipated into nothingness once the reader is finally acquainted with the main character of the present day, Hepzibah Pyncheon, a decrepit old sinister that is resentful towards the plebeians that continually snub her after she opens up a shop in her patrimonial estate. It was at this point that I closed the book and decided there is hardly anything scary or truly Gothic to entice me further. Indeed, this is a classic novel, but it's not the one for me. I was looking forward to reading Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter," but after this novel I might just put it towards the end of my tbr list. All in all, I applaud the efforts of this author, but I find Seven Gables is a far-cry from the classic pieces of literature that belong to the Gothic genre of that time period.
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