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Uncle Silas

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Book Overview

This description may be from another edition of this product. One of the most significant and intriguing Gothic novels of the Victorian period and is enjoyed today as a modern psychological thriller. In UNCLE SILAS (1864) Le Fanu brought up to date Mrs...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

A superb spine-tingler

Joseph Sheridan (J. S.) LeFanu, despite fame in Victorian times, has mostly fallen off the radar of modern readers. His superlative "Uncle Silas" is clear evidence as to why anyone who loves a good yarn will be immediately drawn in by his considerable gifts. This novel has a well-modulated dark atmosphere, clearly drawn and fully human characters and a superb plot.The titular Silas is the uncle of our heroine Maud Ruthyn, who becomes the ward of her mysterious uncle upon her father's death. Silas has an unsavory reputation, having once been accused of murdering a man to whom he owed a gambling debt, but he has, by the time Maud first meets him, apparently repented and found religion. She goes to his home willingly, quickly befriends his saucy daughter Milly and is, for the most part, happy in her new surroundings. The plot thickens from there, and without giving away important details, the reader should know that LeFanu lets loose with a ripping good story that ends most satisfactorily and with some wonderful twists.LeFanu is a skilled writer at the apex of his powers and an astute observer of the human condition. Some of the more telling lines exhibiting his gifts include:" . . . that lady has a certain spirit of opposition within her, and to disclose a small wish of any sort was generally, if it lay in her power, to prevent its accomplishment.""Already I was sorry to lose him. So soon we begin to make a property of what pleases us.""People grow to be friends by liking, Madame, and liking comes of itself, not by bargain.""She had received a note from Papa. He had had the impudence to forgive HER for HIS impertinence.""In very early youth, we do not appreciate the restraints which act upon malignity, or know how effectually fear protects us where conscience is wanting.""One of the terrible dislocations of our habits of mind respecting the dead is that our earthly future is robbed of them, and we thrown exclusively upon retrospect."" 'The world,' he resumed after a short pause, 'has no faith in any man's conversion; it never forgets what he was, it never believes him anything better, it is an inexorable and stupid judge.' "" . . . I had felt, in the whirl and horror of my mind, on the very point of submitting, just as nervous people are said to throw themselves over precipices through sheer dread of falling."Admirers of Wilkie Collins, Thomas Hardy and, to a lesser degree, of Charles Dickens will find much to please them in the classic "Uncle Silas."

Everything a gothic novel should be

"Uncle Silas" has all the ingredients of a great gothic novel: creepy atmosphere, slowly building tension, a sympathetic heroine, and villains you really hate. Don't trust the blurb on the back cover of the Penguin edition, however; it talks about spirits, perception vs. reality, and the like. This is NOT a ghost story. The evil depicted is all too human, which accounts for the story's disturbing effect. A great read.

Excellent!

Uncle Silas lived up to all the rave reviews I had read of it before purchasing the book. Le Fanu's characterization of the Madame was convincingly sinister and he was able to create and maintain a meanacing and forbidding atmosphere throughout the novel. The climax was startling and apropos. What can I say? I love a good gothic novel with excellent plotting and characters. I highly recommend Uncle Silas if you wish to delve into Le Fanu's novels.

Great stuff

This is a real rip-snorter of a gothic novel. Eighteen-year-old Maude, whose mother is dead, has been raised by her wealthy father, an adherent to a peculiar Scandinavian science religion. There are dark rumors afoot about the character of Maude's father's brother, the mysterious Uncle Silas, into whose guardianship Maude is entrusted at her father's death. Maude is the only thing standing between the money she will inherit from her father (when she comes of age) and Silas' considerable debt. Laudanum addiction, poison, big old houses with uninhabited wings, a creepy cousin (Silas' son), and an evil French governess: if you like gothic novels, this one's got it all.

one of the best Victorian thrillers

This is one of my favourite books, and certainly the most outstanding "Gothic" I have read. The pace is leisurely but it has a real grip, the characters (Maude especially) are convincing, and I like Le Fanu's long-breathed sentences.
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