Have you ever read a book, Squiders, that seemed to take you forever? It’s not so godawful that you want to throw it away and never touch it again, but neither is it riveting enough to pull you through it in a timely manner. And so you just read a little bit at a time whenever you have nothing better to do, and meanwhile you pick up (and get through) other books, just so you’re not stuck with your plodder.
I’m sure we all have these. The last one before this that I read was The Aeneid. I had a grand scheme that I would read all three books (The Iliad, The Aeneid, and The Odyssey), but The Aeneid took me six months and killed all my motivation for ancient Greek literature, so to this day I have still never touched The Odyssey.
(And yes, I realize that The Aeneid is Roman, not Greek.)
On Tuesday afternoon, I finally finished The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe. I’d seen mentions of it in other books for years, and had long heard it mentioned as a classic example of the Gothic novel. So I decided to give it a try, especially since I got it for free on my Kindle. According to my Goodreads update, I was on page 180 on October 22 of last year. I’m not actually sure when I started it.
So, it took me at least 13 months to get through. Maybe more, because I remember the beginning being mind-numbingly slow, and I was lucky to manage 20 pages a day.
Why did it take me so long? Well, the beginning is…slow paced would be putting it kindly. There’s a lot of meandering about the countryside, waxing poetical on the landscapes. For the longest time, I couldn’t figure out why old books dwell so long on description, but I eventually figured out that they had no other way of showing their readers what a place was like. People didn’t travel like we do today, and they didn’t have easy access to pictures. If they wanted to know what the Pyrenees looked like, they had to read the beginning of this book and picture it in their heads. I can just use Google images to get the same result.
Anyway, at least the first third of the book is wandering about describing things. The first 250 pages can be summed up as “young girl’s mother dies, goes on trip with father, falls in love, father dies, and she gets shipped off to Italy with her aunt and her aunt’s creepy new husband.” Udolpho, which is a castle, by the by, doesn’t show up until page 320 or so.
There are also large swaths of poetry throughout which, personal preference, are not my cup of tea, and I will admit to skimming most of them.
The good news is that the end picks up quite a bit. I read the last 200 pages in a week. But, oy, to get there…
Is it worth it to slog through the plodders? Not sure. What do you think, Squiders? Which books have given you issues?
(I also should probably stop with the Gothic novels. They never seem to quite do it for me, yet I keep trying.)
(I say this after just starting Rebecca, and being in the middle of The Haunting of Hill House, though I am not sure the second counts as Gothic.)