Udolpho- The Flowers in the Attic of 1794?

Everybody is buzzing about Flowers in The Attic because of   Leila Roy’s stunningly detailed recap of the book’s awfulness.

Her post made me wish I had a list of all the horrors I’m finding in “The Mysteries of Udolpho” by Ann Radcliffe. You may know the book from Northanger Abbey, where it makes a great impact on the heroine.

I’m now wondering if the heroine of that book would be reading V.C. Andrews if she had lived in the 80s. It’s got some of the same trappings, including mysterious letters hidden in dad’s closet that must MUST be destroyed before anyone reads them.

If I could make such a list, I’m sure I would have marked things like the scenes of Emily and her father trying to find a safe place to stay at night – over and over and over again. Look, the man is dying! Just stay at the hotel another night!

The list would also point out that using the plot device of music played by an unseen hand TWICE is ridiculous.

But mostly the list would contain sentences like this one:

Emily, called, as she had  requested, at an early hour, awoke, little refreshed  by sleep, for uneasy dreams had pursued her, and marred the kindest blessing of the unhappy.

Seven commas! It is possible to decode that sentence but doing it sentence after sentence for a whole slow-moving book is just annoying.

And I do mean slow-moving. The descriptions of the French country side are enough to choke a horse.  Then there’s the weeping. Normally, when a main character dies, we skip ahead a little bit. Not here. Every single one of Emily’s tears is documented. Page after page of weeping. And then a tiny break. And then she sees the tree where she and dad used to sit and

 so  often, at this hour, they had sat beneath the shade  together, and with her dear mother so often had  conversed on the subject of a future state.

Oh, those future state chats! Those were the good old days! And yes, she really used “so often” twice in that sentence.


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