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Romance of the Forest
I wasn't sure what to expect from Romance of the Forest by Ann Radcliffe. Some of the earliest gothics can be quite heavy reading and religious themes dominated. While this particular one was not "heavy", there were elements that irritated me. I did not write about it as soon as I was finished as my reaction might have been too strong. On the other hand, it would have been a more accurate reflection of my feelings.

As a story, it was well-thought out and the plotting was good. However, some of the conversations dragged, but I suppose that reflected the era it was set in. I'm not sure, but I believe I felt at the time that there was some inconsistency in the timing of events, but this may have been due to me skimming over passages that I felt detracted rather than enhanced the story.

Essentially, it is the story of a young girl thrust upon a gentleman and his wife, who are fleeing Paris due to unpaid debts. They find an abandoned church in the forest and make their base there. Apparently, the introduction mentioned that this is the book that provided Austen with inspiration and criticism in Northanger Abbey.

Some of the elements that irritated me were the persistent poetry by our heroine and her own behaviour. I believe the poetry were all Ms. Radcliffe's creation and the critical introduction mentioned how this story was "poetic". Not that I dislike poetry in general, but it was annoying to have our heroine come up with poetry out of the blue every time she looked at a sunset or whatever.

Also, our heroine's moods and vapours made me want to strangle her. She is described as brave, intelligent, pure, etc. Yes, she had to be pure. Early gothics would not dare commit the offence of having her rather "liberal-minded". But the bravery was inconsistent. She was brave enough to go out and investigate when they thought their pursuers had found them. But, after that, anything requiring strength of mind made her swoon. I can't tell you how many times she ended up fainting. She was prostrate with grief when she should have gone to visit her "lover" in jail. That is unbelievable.

If anyone else has read the book, I would love to be able to discuss it. This is the only Radcliffe book I have found and it wasn't quite what I hoped, but I'd still like to read her others.
I don't know how you feel about reading Ebooks or text files but some of Radcliffe's books are free on Project Gutenberg and the Internet Archive. I've downloaded most of them and intend to read them this year.

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