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Uncle Silas by Sheridan Le Fanu
#1
"Uncle Silas" was written in 1864 and situated 20 years earlier. Though the phrases are long and full of words we nowadays rarely use, this only adds to establishing the setting, and I expect a contemporary author might as well have written like that just for that effect. It can be a bit tiresome reading longwinded monologues like:
"You are not to be alarmed about your Uncle Silas, because your being afraid would unfit you for an important service which you have undertaken for your family, the nature of which I shall soon understand, and which, although it is quite passive, would be made very sad if illusory fears were allowed to steal into your mind."
This line, by the by, illustrates the gist of the novel: Our heroine, Maud, will be entrusted in Uncle Silas' care, which might put her in danger as well. Maud isn't the destitute little governess we know from many gothic romances; she is an extremely wealthy heiress, which puts her in danger from both fortune hunting suitors and money hungry relatives.

It's written in first person a few years after the story took place and readers need to believe she still knows the content of all those elaborate discussions, and even is able to relate exact hearsay of some of Silas' odd ramblings. The heroine describes herself as being impulsive, which would imply her taking actions now and then. However, she's as passive as can be: docile, complying, crying, hands wringing, the epitome ingenue. Nevertheless, she's sympathetic and it's not very frustrating to read about this crying and handwringing all the time. She's just a sweet girl. And the villains are just villains and the kind people are just that. A bit caricatural even. So the reader knows early on who the bad guys are and what probably will happen in the course of the novel. This won't keep you from avidly reading on, of course, or else Mr. Le Fanu wouldn't have written a classic.

There's hardly any romance so I wouldn't call it a gothic romance.

I think this book holds well over time and I would recommend it to anyone who wishes to read one of the great classic gothics.
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#2
One of the many delights of UNCLE SILAS is the magnificently preposterous basic premise. A man wishes to rescue the reputation of his brother, whom everyone else suspects of being a murderer, by stipulating in his will that the brother should be the guardian of the man's daughter and stand to inherit a vast fortune if she should die before coming of age. What a noble, if somewhat misguided, experiment!
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