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The Monk (LibriVox Audiobook)

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Matthew Gregory Lewis's The Monk: A Romance is a story of frustrated and unrequited desire between mentor and pupil mixed with elements of the supernatural. It includes several subplots: rape, torture and incest. It is the old story of the forces of good versus the forces of evil, except that in this one evil comes out ahead. When The Monk was first published in 1795, it wa Matthew Gregory Lewis's The Monk: A Romance is a story of frustrated and unrequited desire between mentor and pupil mixed with elements of the supernatural. It includes several subplots: rape, torture and incest. It is the old story of the forces of good versus the forces of evil, except that in this one evil comes out ahead. When The Monk was first published in 1795, it was received well by readers and reviewers causing a second edition to be printed the following year. But by the third year, there began a growing criticism of the book and of Lewis mostly on the basis of immorality. In fact, the book caused such a scandal that Lewis published another version complete with redactions and entire rewrites so as to remove the shame it had brought upon his family and the political institution of which he was a part. The Monk finds itself straddling the genres of Gothicism and Decadence, and includes elements of Romanticism. Lewis also chose to blend the roles of gender in this work--particularly in the character of Rosario/Matilda. The sexual tension between Ambrosio and this character--along with the eventual revelation of true identity--are an exposé on the topic of same-sex love and makes this work an early contribution to LGBT literature. In spite of the mountains of criticism against the book, it remained a best seller well into the 19th century. The version I will read for you is the unexpurgated version including all of the “scandal and immorality” of the original.


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Matthew Gregory Lewis's The Monk: A Romance is a story of frustrated and unrequited desire between mentor and pupil mixed with elements of the supernatural. It includes several subplots: rape, torture and incest. It is the old story of the forces of good versus the forces of evil, except that in this one evil comes out ahead. When The Monk was first published in 1795, it wa Matthew Gregory Lewis's The Monk: A Romance is a story of frustrated and unrequited desire between mentor and pupil mixed with elements of the supernatural. It includes several subplots: rape, torture and incest. It is the old story of the forces of good versus the forces of evil, except that in this one evil comes out ahead. When The Monk was first published in 1795, it was received well by readers and reviewers causing a second edition to be printed the following year. But by the third year, there began a growing criticism of the book and of Lewis mostly on the basis of immorality. In fact, the book caused such a scandal that Lewis published another version complete with redactions and entire rewrites so as to remove the shame it had brought upon his family and the political institution of which he was a part. The Monk finds itself straddling the genres of Gothicism and Decadence, and includes elements of Romanticism. Lewis also chose to blend the roles of gender in this work--particularly in the character of Rosario/Matilda. The sexual tension between Ambrosio and this character--along with the eventual revelation of true identity--are an exposé on the topic of same-sex love and makes this work an early contribution to LGBT literature. In spite of the mountains of criticism against the book, it remained a best seller well into the 19th century. The version I will read for you is the unexpurgated version including all of the “scandal and immorality” of the original.

30 review for The Monk (LibriVox Audiobook)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Bill Kerwin

    When I was younger, I avoided this book because the literary snob in me--a much more insistent voice back then than now--had decided, on the basis of ”informed opinion,” that “The Monk” was a calculated exercise in sensationalism, a device for producing horrific thrills through the deliberate, exploitative use of cheap effects and anti-Catholic stereotypes. Now that I have read it, I see that the literary snob in me had a point. “The Monk” is all of these things. But it is also more. I think the When I was younger, I avoided this book because the literary snob in me--a much more insistent voice back then than now--had decided, on the basis of ”informed opinion,” that “The Monk” was a calculated exercise in sensationalism, a device for producing horrific thrills through the deliberate, exploitative use of cheap effects and anti-Catholic stereotypes. Now that I have read it, I see that the literary snob in me had a point. “The Monk” is all of these things. But it is also more. I think the young Matthew Lewis liked Walpole and loved Radcliff, but believed that they both fell short of his own darker, revolutionary vision, particularly in regard to the supernatural, providence, and fate. For Lewis, the supernatural is neither an obvious intrusion of the symbolic into the actual, a providential and prophetic sign (Walpole) nor a mere objective correlative for the heroine's emotional state which--once it has served its sentimental purpose--can be explained away and summarily discarded (Radcliff). No, the supernatural for Lewis is an elusive, complex phenomenon, a dangerous disruption of the ordinary, which may be mocked by the rationalist or embraced by the gullible, which may at times be a mere legend (or a stratagem exploiting a legend), but could just as easily turn out to be real. And if real, it will be something horribly real--relentless and insistent at best, malevolent and destructive at worst, and only tangentially connected to providence. It is in his radical criticism of providence itself that Lewis differs most markedly from his influences. For Mrs. Radcliff (and Walpole, to a lesser extent) Providence is a benevolent but mischievous uncle who enjoys scaring the children before he rewards them with treats. But for Lewis, Providence is a capricious, unreliable overseer, capable of allowing the spotless innocent to be ravished and destroyed by the wicked. The fact that the wicked one later meets with a terrifying supernatural destruction never quite makes up for the great horror or the grave injustice of the initial violation. In addition, Lewis brings the dark side of Shakespeare plus the spirit of early German Romanticism and the recent French Revolution into the already familiar world of sentimental dialogue, medieval abbeys and Salvator Rosa landscapes, giving the gothic world a wider breadth and a greater force. (A final note: all lovers of Poe should read this novel. Just as "The Fall of the House of Usher" was inspired by "Otranto," so "The Pit and the Pendulum" was inspired by "The Monk." In both cases Poe surpasses his influences, but the comparisons are extremely interesting.)

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jeffrey Keeten

    ”Lucifer stood before him a second time. He borrowed the Seraph’s form to deceive Ambrosio. He appeared in all that ugliness, which since his fall from heaven had been his portion: His blasted limbs still bore marks of the Almighty’s thunder: A swarthy darkness spread itself over his gigantic form: His hands and feet were armed with long Talons: Fury glared in his eyes, which might have struck the bravest heart with terror: Over his huge shoulders waved two enormous sable wings; and his hair was ”Lucifer stood before him a second time. He borrowed the Seraph’s form to deceive Ambrosio. He appeared in all that ugliness, which since his fall from heaven had been his portion: His blasted limbs still bore marks of the Almighty’s thunder: A swarthy darkness spread itself over his gigantic form: His hands and feet were armed with long Talons: Fury glared in his eyes, which might have struck the bravest heart with terror: Over his huge shoulders waved two enormous sable wings; and his hair was supplied by living snakes, which twined themselves round his brows with frightful hissings. In one hand He held a roll of parchment, and in the other an iron pen. Still the lightning flashed around him, and the Thunder with repeated bursts, seemed to announce the dissolution of nature.” How does Ambrosio the most pious, the most venerated monk in all of Madrid find himself at this point bargaining with Lucifer for the tattered remains of his blackened soul? ”His Brother Monks, regarding him as a Superior Being...They were persuaded, that what He did must be right...His monastic seclusion had till now been in his favour, since it gave him no room for discovering his bad qualities. The superiority of his talents raised him too far above his Companions to permit his being jealous of them: His exemplary piety, persuasive eloquence, and pleasing manners had secured him universal Esteem, and consequently He had no injuries to revenge: His Ambition was justified by his acknowledged merit, and his pride considered as no more than proper confidence. He never saw, much less conversed with the other sex; He was ignorant of the pleasures in Woman’s power to bestow. Ambrosio had been left on the monastery doorstep “when he was too young to tell his tale”and had never known a moment of the world beyond those monastic walls. Because of these unique circumstances he had never been exposed to temptation, vice, sin or the charms of the female form. Now the upper class women did find his eloquence when he gave sermons so enticing that he quickly became the most popular monk for hearing confessions. Which I often thought that one of the bonuses of being a member of the cloth would be to hear all the juicy details of confession. Now don’t hold anything back young lady salvation is in the details. I digress. My point is that even with his sheltered upbringing he had a good idea what all those people were getting up to out there in the regular world, but he had an almost scientific detachment from the conception and the temptations of sin. The downfall of Ambrosio was just too tempting for Lucifer. He sends Rosario to the monastery to be Ambrosio’s assistance. Rosario keeps his face hidden under a cowl and makes himself indispensable to Ambrosio. After he has gained the trust of the monk he reveals himself to be a woman, a beautiful woman named Matilda. This was a HOLY SHIT moment for Ambrosio. Needless to say after much wringing of hands and grand speeches about his virtue being beyond reproach he finds out after all he is just a man. ”Dangerous Woman! said He; Into what an abyss of misery have you plunged me! Should your sex be discovered, my honour, nay my life, must pay for the pleasure of a few moments. Fool that I was, to trust myself to your seductions! What can now be done? How can my offence be expiated? What atonement can purchase the pardon of my crime? Wretched Matilda, you have destroyed my quiet for ever!” It really isn’t fair after all. I mean if Lucifer decided to send a beautiful being to any one of us with the intention of getting us to “fall from grace” we would all be doomed. Samuel Taylor Coleridge thought that the creation of Matilda was Lewis’s masterpiece. He said she was “exquisitely imagined” and “superior in wickedness to the most wicked of men." When I think about this book being published in 1796, in the infant stages of novel writing, by a young man of 19 and written in just ten weeks it is staggering to contemplate how wonderfully he developed the villains of this story. The writing is weak when it comes to characters representing the commendable people. They were cardboard cutouts just mere backdrops for the villains to ply their villainy upon. Ambrosio soon tires of the beautiful Matilda and turns his attentions to the seduction of Antonia a timid and innocent girl of 15. Matilda turns demon pimp and acquires magic to help Ambrosio feed his growing lust. Lewis builds the tension in this section as there are several moments when we feel that he is about to accomplish his task and something interferes. He knows it is not right to despoil this girl of her virtue, but he can not resist his own base urges. ”Every feature, look, and motion declares you formed to bless, and to be blessed yourself! Turn not on me those supplicating eyes: Consult your own charms; They will tell you, that I am proof against entreaty. Can I relinquish those limbs so white, so soft, so delicate; Thos swelling breasts, round, full, and elastic! These lips fraught with such inexhaustible sweetness? Can I relinquish these treasures, and leave them to another’s enjoyment? No, Antonia; never, never! I swear it by this kiss, and this! and this!” Of course this is not Ambrosio’s fault. It is the girl’s fault. ”Wretched Girl, you must stay here with me! Here amidst these lonely Tombs, these images of Death, these rotting loathsome corrupted bodies! Here shall you stay, and witness my sufferings; witness what it is to die in the horrors of despondency, and breathe the last groan in blasphemy and curses! And who am I to thank for this? What seduced me into crimes, whose bare remembrance makes me shudder? Fatal Witch! was it not they beauty? Have you not plunged my soul into infamy? Have you not made me a perjured Hypocrite, a Ravisher, an Assassin! Nay, at this moment, does not that angel look bid me despair of God’s forgiveness?" If she just wasn’t so damn beautiful he would have been fine. He would have let her keep her virtue and he would be back on the path to righteousness. Matthew Lewis Now Lewis does ramble around a bit. We follow the adventures of some noblemen trying to save their sister/fiance from being condemned to a convent because her parents made a promise to God. The Prioress turns out to be another great villain and capable of such diabolical vengeance that yet again Lewis made this reader uneasy. He also incorporates the Bleeding Nun into this section. ”WIth trembling apprehension I examined this midnight Visitor. God Almighty! It was the Bleeding Nun! Her face was still veiled. She lifted up her veil slowly. What sight presented itself to my startled eyes! I beheld before me an animated Corse. Her countenance was long and haggard; Her cheeks and lips were bloodless; The paleness of death was spread over her features, and here eye-balls fixed steadfastly upon me were lustreless and hollow.” And the Wandering Jew. ”He spoke in a commanding tone, and drew the sable band from his fore-head. In spite of his injunctions to the contrary, Curiosity would not suffer me to keep my eyes off his face; I raised them, and behold a burning Cross impressed upon his brow. For the horror with which this object inspired me I cannot account, but I never felt its equal! My senses left me for some moments; A mysterious dread overcame my courage, and had not the Exorciser caught my hand, I would Have fallen out of the Circle.” Wandering Jew by Dore Stephen King wrote an interesting introduction to this volume. He puts Walpole and Lewis in perspective with the emergence of this Gothic-Horror genre. ”If this new genre had an Elvis Presley, it was Walpole. Then came Matthew Lewis the genre’s first punk, the Johnny Rotten of the Gothic novel. The Monk was a black engine of sex and the supernatural that changed the genre--and the novel itself--forever.” Is that Johnny Rotten or is that Matthew Lewis? That sums up for me why when I was deciding between three stars and four stars I gave the push to four. Lewis published the first edition Anonymously, but then when it became a sensation he published the second edition under his own name and added M.P. to reflect his recently acquired seat in the House of Commons. Charges of “immorality” and “wild extravagances” started to be flung in his direction and “an injunction to restrain its sales was obtained”. Bowing to pressure he reworked and removed some of the more offensive passages. There is nothing like a little controversy to drum up book sales. Where Walpole and Radcliffe kept the true horror of their writing off screen Lewis audaciously grabs the reader’s hand and forces it into the maw of the gruesome. He writes vividly of the most horrible circumstances. He even came to the attention of Lord Byron. "Wonder-working Lewis, Monk or Bard, who fain wouldst make Parnassus a churchyard; Even Satan's self with thee might dread to dwell, And in thy skull discern a deeper hell." Ghosts, demons, burning crosses, diabolical evil, incest, murder, riots, rape, robbery, crypts, and demonic magic kept the pages turning. If he had put more flesh on the bones of the more honorable characters bringing them up to par with the ingenious descriptions of his villains this would have been a novel to contend with the very best. If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com I also have a Facebook blogger page at:https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten

  3. 5 out of 5

    Better Eggs

    This is such a great fun book to read. It's really not like anything else at all, it's so extreme in every way. It was written in the era of the great classics, but this one is never going to be taught in schools. The book out-Gothics all the Gothic novels you ever read, Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey isn't even related to the raw perversion and criminality of this madcap horror ride through the forbidden where taboos fall one by one as the The Monk, unable to live up to his vows gives in to ever This is such a great fun book to read. It's really not like anything else at all, it's so extreme in every way. It was written in the era of the great classics, but this one is never going to be taught in schools. The book out-Gothics all the Gothic novels you ever read, Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey isn't even related to the raw perversion and criminality of this madcap horror ride through the forbidden where taboos fall one by one as the The Monk, unable to live up to his vows gives in to every deviant temptation. In him, every tenet of pure, celibate monastic existence becomes corrupted and evil. The Monk has everything - a cross-dressing seductive heroine, get thee to a nunnery oh you virgin (but not for long), sex, incest, rape, madness, torture, death, crypts, poison, magic, ghosts, bandits, vermin, the devil and the total moral and social degradation of all concerned. The author, who was only 20 at the time, let his fevered imagination run as wild as it wanted and then whipped it on a bit further. The most perverted and extreme taboos were just eccentricities to be worked into the characters and plot. What makes the book so outstanding, and why it has never been out of print in the over 200 years since it was first published, is that it is written with great intelligence and insight into people's psyches by an extremely talented author. And, unlike some classics, it isn't in the least bit boring. But seriously, no one is ever going to be asked to write a book report in school for it. I might have though. If I'd know about the book I would have done it as 'summer reading'. Those reports had to be read out to the class. That would have enlivened things a bit. It's free here. It says it's a romance. I wouldn't really call it that! Edited for some egregious typos, bad grammar and triple-redundant words, mostly 'mad'.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Hannah Greendale

    Click here to watch a video review of this book on my BookTube channel, From Beginning to Bookend. Scandalous and scintillating, The Monk is a literary marvel.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Amalia Gavea

    ‘’I must have your soul; must have it mine, and mine forever.’’ This is one of the pioneers of Gothic Fiction, a work that defined one of the most fascinating, demanding and controversial genres. A novel written in the end of the 18th century that shocked the reading audience of its time with its last, darkness and violence. But what about the contemporary readers? Well, a few hundred years later and ‘’The Monk’’ still continues to attract us. My first experience with Lewis’ novel took place du ‘’I must have your soul; must have it mine, and mine forever.’’ This is one of the pioneers of Gothic Fiction, a work that defined one of the most fascinating, demanding and controversial genres. A novel written in the end of the 18th century that shocked the reading audience of its time with its last, darkness and violence. But what about the contemporary readers? Well, a few hundred years later and ‘’The Monk’’ still continues to attract us. My first experience with Lewis’ novel took place during my studies, in an exciting course called ‘’The Bible in English Literature’’. Since then, I’ve overlooked reading it and I don’t know why. This Christmas, an amazing colleague gave me a collector’s edition as a Christmas present. I think she knows me well. In Madrid, Ambrosio is a charismatic monk who dazzles the congregation with fiery sermons. A younger monk, Rosario, is his faithful shadow and confidante. However, Rosario is actually a young lady who has no other way to be close to him except disguising herself as a boy. Ambrosio discovers the truth and succumbs, because he is weak in spirit and in flesh. When his attentions turn to a young lady from a noble family, all Hell breaks loose. Literally, I assure you… ‘’The Monk’’ echoes Shakespeare and the Jacobite playwrights quite clearly. The cross-dressing, the scandalous love affairs, the ambivalent outcome, the extreme depiction of violence and punishment. The action is set in Spain, faithful to the stereotype which imagine the people of the Southern part of Europe as more vulnerable and governed by their passions, within a context that breaks apart the two institutions which are supposed to provide comfort and security. The Family and the Church. Dishonesty is common. ‘’Holy’’ men break their vows, noble sons try to trick virgins into their path, parents bargain their children away. It is a world far more terrifying than any satanic involvement could ever create and it is too real. Obsession leads to crimes and Lewis paints a dark portrait of a society that is corrupted to the core. Men and women blame God for their ‘’weak souls’’ while choosing a path that leads nowhere. The atmosphere is tangible with dark sensuality and violent lust and madness, as Lewis depicts a country and an era in all their attractive paranoia. We live in the time when violence and sex are always around, often used to shock but ending up being nothing. We aren’t easily shocked now, exposed to them from an outrageously young age through TV and video games. ‘’The Monk’’ may seem to us anything but shocking. Some may say that it stereotypically places the women in the archetypal roles of the Seductress or the Virgin. Yes, well, obviously! Take the story within its historical context and you’ll have the explanation. But wouldn’t this be too simplistic to consider? We love ‘’A Song of Ice and Fire’’ (most of us, at least….), we love Stephen King and Gothic Fiction has never been better both in Literature as well as in exceptional TV series like BBC’s ‘’Taboo’’. Violence, darkness and sexual implications don’t shock us, but dark stories of quality continue to fascinate us and will always do so. And by ‘’quality’’, I mean Literature, not mass-produced porn garbage...Darkness continues to rule many a life, forming a kind of obsession that may lead to horror and despair. This is why ‘’The Monk’’ still remains an iconic creation in the vastness of Literature. I would also wholeheartedly suggest the 2011 film version of the novel, starring Vincent Cassel at his best. My review can also be found on https://theopinionatedreaderblog.word...

  6. 5 out of 5

    Henry Avila

    Ambrosio, the abbot, is the perfect monk, head of an abbey in Madrid, and the idol of the city, a young, handsome, charismatic man, with a spellbinding voice, that thrills the congregation at his church. All the people flock to it, to hear his sermons, five minutes after the bells ring, the church is overflowing, and the noble families are there, silently the assembly listens, a living saint, they witness, the proud people are ecstatic, in this modern age (the 1700's), God has sent them Ambrosio Ambrosio, the abbot, is the perfect monk, head of an abbey in Madrid, and the idol of the city, a young, handsome, charismatic man, with a spellbinding voice, that thrills the congregation at his church. All the people flock to it, to hear his sermons, five minutes after the bells ring, the church is overflowing, and the noble families are there, silently the assembly listens, a living saint, they witness, the proud people are ecstatic, in this modern age (the 1700's), God has sent them Ambrosio! The Capuchin Friar (an order of independent Franciscans), the Monk, is not what he appears to be, everything, a mirage, the orphan, found at the door of the abbey, as an infant, raised in the monastery, never leaving its grounds, nobody knows where the child came from... Now evil thoughts permeates his curious mind, lust and debauchery, after thirty dull years, the Monk, wants to have some fun, the deadly boredom must end soon, risk his reputation, if only the abbot had a chance...Ambrosio is close to a novice by the name of Rosario, his only friend, who mysteriously arrived at the abbey, this young gentleman, always covers his face, keeps to himself, except for the abbot, their discussions are what the monk looks forward to, during the bleak daily ennui. But finally in the garden of the abbey, Rosario reveals to Ambrosio, he's a she, a woman called Matilda, of course , after a short hesitation, carnal knowledge commences, that "She" looks like the Madonna, doesn't hurt. The abbot soon shows lack of interest, a new, fresh conquest is needed, the very accommodating Rosario/Matilda , through witchcraft, helps him, try to violate another innocent woman... Midnight, at the cemetery, he hears the owls ominous shrieks, opens the gate, into the vast, dark, eerie underground vaults of the abbey's graveyard, jointly used by the nearby convent. Ambrosio slowly descends the forbidding stairs, his heart is pounding, a flickering lamp to show the many decaying bodies, unknown vermin creeping around the horrific scene, while the monks and nuns above, hold a sacred procession, viewed by the citizens of Madrid, he goes on, until he reaches the tomb of the supposedly dead, Antonia , the drugged girl, is still alive and waking up just now, she see him and thinks all will be safe, the Monk moves closer.......Later he hears the sound of footsteps approaching him, fiend, friend or enemy? The uneasy monk awaits in the gloom, is his destiny, death or life? ...Condemned when first published, in England, in 1796, and thus a bestseller, considered now, the Gothic classic novel, even though the twenty -year- old British author, uses Italian names in Spain, murder, incest, parricide, lascivious men and willing women (including an old maid). Religious bigotry, Black Magic, and some strange, creepy, and weird scenes, supernatural atmosphere too, graveyards, ghosts, demons, secret identities, and a hidden prisoner, held by, yes nuns. Everything that a reader, comes to expect and dread, hate and love, in this type of book, it's all there, not for everyone...Young Matthew Gregory Lewis, was an English M.P. during the bright daylight.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Paul Bryant

    Calling all Gothic Novel fans : you have to read The Monk - this is the Texas Chainsaw Massacre of Gothic novels which will unjade the most jaded. Here you will find much fun to be had with nuns, priests with uncontrollable underwear, more nuns, pregnant nuns, nuns with minimal clothing, nuns giving birth in frankly unsanitory conditions attended only by untrained inappropriate monks, heaving bosoms, unspeakable acts, souls in the process of being damned for all eternity, mostly ghostly ectoplas Calling all Gothic Novel fans : you have to read The Monk - this is the Texas Chainsaw Massacre of Gothic novels which will unjade the most jaded. Here you will find much fun to be had with nuns, priests with uncontrollable underwear, more nuns, pregnant nuns, nuns with minimal clothing, nuns giving birth in frankly unsanitory conditions attended only by untrained inappropriate monks, heaving bosoms, unspeakable acts, souls in the process of being damned for all eternity, mostly ghostly ectoplasm, also big rats. The things that happen to people after they are dead in this book are more than happen to living people in some other books I have read. I remember well that as I perused this volume, those many years ago, my hair rose perpendicularly from my scalp and tingles spread across my nether regions.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Sean Barrs the Bookdragon

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Does character redemption exist in Lewis’s world? No, I think not. The vile protagonist degrades himself on every level. Here’s a list to show how messed up he is: 1. He lusts after his sister. 2. He becomes obsessed. 3. He tries to rape his sister. 4. He goes insane. 5. He tries to kill his sister. 6. He yields his soul to Satan. 7. The end He's just a little bit too creepy; he’s a complete sex pest with stalker like tendencies. This is incredibly Gothic, more so than most Gothic classics. But, is t Does character redemption exist in Lewis’s world? No, I think not. The vile protagonist degrades himself on every level. Here’s a list to show how messed up he is: 1. He lusts after his sister. 2. He becomes obsessed. 3. He tries to rape his sister. 4. He goes insane. 5. He tries to kill his sister. 6. He yields his soul to Satan. 7. The end He's just a little bit too creepy; he’s a complete sex pest with stalker like tendencies. This is incredibly Gothic, more so than most Gothic classics. But, is that necessarily a good thing? Certainly, it was enjoyable in parts, but, ultimately, it left me feeling rather dissatisfied. The power of seduction was running through this novel; the monk really had no chance of surviving it. He would have had to have an iron will to face the powers that were exerted on him. Even the most remote doubt in his beliefs could be exploited by Lucifer. The Monk has one major weakness, and that’s women. So, Lucifer sends the most perfect women, for the Monk, to corrupt him and apply directly to his one vulnerability. I never felt like there was any chance in hell of Ambrosio resisting the charms; it wasn’t like he was divided or displayed a struggle of resistance, he simply fell over his heels in made obsessive love. There were no two ways about it. He had no chance. He was doomed from the first page. At times, it felt like it was over before it began. It was blatant that the Monk’s indulgence would lead to a cycle of moral degradation. He was obviously going to be defeated by the devil and end up in some form of hell. I just didn’t need to read it to know how it was going to play out. The sexual elements were also a little bit sordid. What I mean is, it was blatant and in your face. It lacked all the subtlety of Dracula and the brilliance of Stoker’s metaphorical actions. I think this was merely written to shock its readership. Obviously, at the time such lust in books was rare and surprising especially on such a fantastical sexual level. The Monk lusts after his own sister, albeit unknowingly, but it was like it was added to just to enhance the seducing power of evil. There was lust for the sake of lust, incest for the sake of incest, and sexual imagery for the sake of sexual imagery. I didn’t take a lot from it. And it was one big inglorious headache. It took me a while to get over the disjointed style of the prose, the frequent shifts in narrator and the similar sounding characters. I would have been lost without a plot summary, and a breakdown of the characters. It all felt rather difficult to follow. Now I know what you’re thinking- isn’t that a problem with me personally rather than the novel? Well, yes, I suppose it is. But, this book was a struggle. There was something about it that put me off from the very beginning. And it only got worse. This is a classic that I really don’t like.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kirstine

    “What? live to plunge myself in infamy? to become an agent of hell? to work the destruction in both you and myself?” Alright, this book is hilarious. However, there are a few spoilers in this review. If you think you’ll read The Monk someday (and you should, seriously), maybe come back to this another time. Or don’t, who knows, maybe it won’t be so bad? Maybe this is the best, most spoiler free review you’ll ever read in your life? (see, I’m tempting you, because it’s the theme of the book!). I’m “What? live to plunge myself in infamy? to become an agent of hell? to work the destruction in both you and myself?” Alright, this book is hilarious. However, there are a few spoilers in this review. If you think you’ll read The Monk someday (and you should, seriously), maybe come back to this another time. Or don’t, who knows, maybe it won’t be so bad? Maybe this is the best, most spoiler free review you’ll ever read in your life? (see, I’m tempting you, because it’s the theme of the book!). I’m serious though, there are spoilers. So it features Ambrosio, our “Bad Blood” monk, who at firsts seems a very devout believer and as though he’s generally a good person. This is a lie. Sure he gets “seduced” by his trusty novice sidekick Rosario, who turns out to be a woman named Matilda (and how’s a man supposed to resist that, I mean, she’s a WOMAN and PRETTY, get it together Ambrosio), but really his capacity for sin was there from the start, it was only, truly, a matter of time before he fell and in his vanity and stupidity forgot how to get back up. So the first sin is committed by sleeping with a dying Matilda! Of course, because she’s a woman, and not a helpless idiot, she doesn’t die and he, being a man, and a shitty one at that, tires of her, like, a week after they started doing the do. There are tears, but instead of shunning him and leaving the monastery to seek greener pastures she offers to help him seduce his new target, the pious, innocent Antonia (and really, Ambrosio, you maybe shouldn’t trust a woman who cheated death, but he’s not really that smart and kind of a coward). In between those two plotting on how to get into her pants, there’s another plot involving Don Lorenzo, who’s also in love with Antonia (popular gal, that innocence really attracts the men), and his friend Don Raymond who’s in love with Lorenzo’s sister, Agnes, who’s in a convent in the same city. A great detail is how the villains of the story almost all belong to the convent/monastery, God needs better representatives. There are many stories-within-the-story, one involving a ghost (really, one of the best parts of the story), one involving a band of robbers luring people into a house only to murder them and steal their money, but my personal favourite is Antonia’s aging aunt Leonella finding a young, handsome, gold digging man who agrees to marry her despite her unattractive features (that she’s completely oblivious to), but because of her wealth. You go, Leonella, you’re the true heroine of this story. The whole thing is just… a lot. I mean, someone gets torn a apart by an angry crowd, there are TWO kidnappings, someone gives birth to a baby IN A DUNGEON, someone gets raped and murdered in a freaking crypt, there’s torture, love-me-or-I-die romance, and then the Devil shows up to buy a few souls and fling someone off a cliff. There are so many hilarious moments and brilliant details (like Antionia’s mother, Elvira, copying out the bible by hand, leaving out the steamy bits, so Antonia will be safe in her complete and child-like innocence, because that always ends well), and it wasn’t overtly sexist, not more than I expected at least. The men were mostly useless without the women, so that makes up for it. For a book that was written in 10 weeks, by someone not yet 20, it is quite impressive. Other than the excellent plot(s), there is depth and serious consideration hidden in there, even some literary critique. It’s not merely frivolous entertainment, which only heightens the enjoyment. What a book, what an adventure, what a good time. I loved it, I loved it so much.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Apatt

    This was going to be part of my themed Halloween 2017 Reads, but I overestimated my reading speed (or lack thereof) and here we are in December. Just as well I suppose as The Monk: A Romance took me 48 days to read, mostly as an audiobook I was listening to in the bus on my two hours commutes to work. Ah, but those were vastly amusing bus journeys thanks to this outrageously fun, (unintentionally) silly book. The Monk is often described as a gothic novel, which is not inaccurate but to my mind, i This was going to be part of my themed Halloween 2017 Reads, but I overestimated my reading speed (or lack thereof) and here we are in December. Just as well I suppose as The Monk: A Romance took me 48 days to read, mostly as an audiobook I was listening to in the bus on my two hours commutes to work. Ah, but those were vastly amusing bus journeys thanks to this outrageously fun, (unintentionally) silly book. The Monk is often described as a gothic novel, which is not inaccurate but to my mind, it is a no holds barred supernatural occult horror novel. However, it was published in 1796, prior to the birth of horror as a genre of fiction. While the language is unavoidably dated, the plot feels like an occult horror novel from the 70s, something Dennis Wheatley could have written. The novel is set in Spain and is made up of two main plotlines that only intersect toward the end of the book. There is plotline about a poor girl called Agnes who is committed to a convent against her will by her overzealous mother. To makes matters worse after “taking the veil” she realizes that she is pregnant with her lover’s child, this caused the super cruel prioress to imprison her in a ratty dungeon. An actual scene from the book! The central story arc, however, is about the eponymous monk, called Ambrosio who is introduced to us at the beginning of the book as an extremely pious abbot, but by becomes a depraved sex maniac by the end of the book. Ambrosio’s downfall is caused by the seduction by the amazingly wicked Matilda, introduced to us disguised as a monk called Rosario. It turns out that Matilda is a Satanist and, using her wiles, manages to lead Ambrosio away from his religion and God. She also persuades him to avail himself of her black magic artifacts to have his way with have his ways with another beautiful girl called Antonia. I had no idea what to expect from The Monk, but I literally did not expect the Spanish Inquisition! Yes, the dreaded S.I. make an appearance in this book, their chief weapons are surprise and fear ...fear and surprise ... and ruthless efficiency... Anyway, besides the S.I., I also did not expect the book’s descent into a tale of rape, murder, torture and general mayhem. The first half of the narrative is a fairly restrained gothic tale of a monk losing his religion, an innocent girl imprisoned in a convent, and her friends’ efforts to liberate her. Suddenly ghosts, demons, and black magic things are all over the place. I found the book’s sudden shift in tone vastly amusing. However, this novel is not for the faint of heart, especially as the author is very unkind to beautiful innocent young ladies in this book. Most of Matthew Lewis’ female characters have no agency to speak of, with the obvious exception of the Satanic femme fatale Matilda, and Antonia’s brave mother. The dialogue tends to be longwinded and flowery, but I like it! I don’t really see how this book can be analyzed as a serious work of literature. It is more like an evil romp with little in the way of moral lessons or philosophy to impart, read it for a hoot I would say. But only if you like this sort of thing (hooty Satanic romps). Definitely recommended for Iron Maiden fans. Note: Audiobook read by James K. White for Librivox (free audiobooks). On the whole a pretty good narration, thank you. Quotes: “It was not so lovely from regularity of features as from sweetness and sensibility of Countenance. The several parts of her face considered separately, many of them were far from handsome; but when examined together, the whole was adorable.” “She was wise enough to hold her tongue. As this is the only instance known of a Woman's ever having done so, it was judged worthy to be recorded here.” “Suddenly deprived of pleasures, the use of which had made them an absolute want, the Monk felt this restraint severely. Naturally addicted to the gratification of the senses, in the full vigour of manhood, and heat of blood, He had suffered his temperament to acquire such ascendency that his lust was become madness.”

  11. 5 out of 5

    Dan Porter

    I think Wilkie Collins has spoiled me when it comes to this type of Victorian/Gothic/Thriller because it's so hard to match his writing and storytelling skills. That being said, I'll add that The Monk was a fun read. While it's clearly an attack on organized religion - the Catholic church in particular - a close reading makes it also clear that Lewis found a significant difference between organized religion and a personal relationship with a Supreme Being. While he provides several interesting t I think Wilkie Collins has spoiled me when it comes to this type of Victorian/Gothic/Thriller because it's so hard to match his writing and storytelling skills. That being said, I'll add that The Monk was a fun read. While it's clearly an attack on organized religion - the Catholic church in particular - a close reading makes it also clear that Lewis found a significant difference between organized religion and a personal relationship with a Supreme Being. While he provides several interesting twists, his inexperience - at age 19 - at storytelling is evident as he inserts seemingly innocuous scenes early for the purpose of explaining his twists later. That's as annoying in an 18th century book as it is in a current TV crime drama. It's also possible to tell when a twist is coming by the increase in his verbosity as he tries to build tension and suspense. His best twist is saved for last but is presented in such an "Oh, by the way" manner in his rush to finish the story that it loses most of its shock value. Despite these shortcomings, this is a good book for any fan of Gothic literature or for a stormy weekend curled up in your favorite reading spot.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Peter

    One of the weirdest gothic tales I ever come across. In parts surreal. Highly recommended!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Minh

    OMGGGGGGG.... I totally CANNOT believe that the author of this book was 19 YEARS OLD when he wrote this, and he wrote it under 10 WEEKS . This is a masterpiece!! A 18TH CENTURY GOTHIC GODDAMN MASTERPIECE!!! Seriously high school kids would have loved the hell out of this and seek to read more classics were they not confined to snoring tomes like... idk, A scarlet letter? (Sorry, Hawthorne I have never gotten used to you ). "The Monk" retells the stories of a monk who abandons his virtues to be OMGGGGGGG.... I totally CANNOT believe that the author of this book was 19 YEARS OLD when he wrote this, and he wrote it under 10 WEEKS . This is a masterpiece!! A 18TH CENTURY GOTHIC GODDAMN MASTERPIECE!!! Seriously high school kids would have loved the hell out of this and seek to read more classics were they not confined to snoring tomes like... idk, A scarlet letter? (Sorry, Hawthorne I have never gotten used to you ). "The Monk" retells the stories of a monk who abandons his virtues to become perfidious. So engulfed with lust and horror that he went at length to sell his soul for the devil and commit most heinous crimes. I was at first expected to read some long and boring stories about theology and rambling monologues, but this book turned out to have EVERYTHING that made a novel awesome : romance, poetry, murder, death, kidnapping, evil schemes, satire, social commentary, rape, incest, ghost, demons, poison, secret underground entrances, a devil that throw a guy off a cliff, and FUCKING great PLOT TWISTS! I was so blown away at the end that I nearly ripped my hair off and sunk into irretrievable euphoria. Lewis's novel, with anti-Catholic sentiments influenced by the French Revolution, was actually banned in England when it first published but that only instigated more people to read it, albeit illicitly. Well, who cannot help but being enchanted by Lewis? Even Edgar A. Poe cited him as an inspiration for his short story "The Pit and The Pendulum."

  14. 5 out of 5

    Cindy

    O Father Ambrosio, stop Monking around! This book was quite a surprise. Yes, there are all sorts of hypocritical Monk-y debauchery and lustful, euphemism-filled scenes. But there are also two romantic subplots that filled with action, swashbuckling heroes, damsels in distress and deceit. All three stories end up intertwining in unexpected ways. Did more people in olden times have prosopagnosia, or what? Why was it so damn easy to disguise yourself? I had all sorts of naughty fun reading even more f O Father Ambrosio, stop Monking around! This book was quite a surprise. Yes, there are all sorts of hypocritical Monk-y debauchery and lustful, euphemism-filled scenes. But there are also two romantic subplots that filled with action, swashbuckling heroes, damsels in distress and deceit. All three stories end up intertwining in unexpected ways. Did more people in olden times have prosopagnosia, or what? Why was it so damn easy to disguise yourself? I had all sorts of naughty fun reading even more filthiness between the lines of the book. I can see why it got Lewis renounced as MP. Naughty, naughty man. But thanks for giving us such a fun book! --------- I just wanted to update my review with a list of the cool words I found in The Monk: * probity: integrity and uprightness; honesty. * opprobrium: the disgrace or the reproach incurred by conduct considered outrageously shameful; infamy. * Mountebank: a person who sells quack medicines, as from a platform in public places, attracting and influencing an audience by tricks, storytelling, etc. * perfidy: deliberate breach of faith or trust; faithlessness; treachery: perfidy that goes unpunished. * iniquity: gross injustice or wickedness. * prolix: extended to great, unnecessary, or tedious length; long and wordy.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    This book has long been on my TBR but I really didn't know that much about it. I have to say I was completely hooked from the beginning. Yes, the language is dated and there are parts that are a bit tedious. I think better editing would have done wonders. There were some really good twists at the end that while I thought they were great I would have liked more backstory on them. There were a couple of very disturbing scenes (one rape scene in particular was just haunting). This is a must read fo This book has long been on my TBR but I really didn't know that much about it. I have to say I was completely hooked from the beginning. Yes, the language is dated and there are parts that are a bit tedious. I think better editing would have done wonders. There were some really good twists at the end that while I thought they were great I would have liked more backstory on them. There were a couple of very disturbing scenes (one rape scene in particular was just haunting). This is a must read for gothic-lit fans and I'm really glad I finally got to it.

  16. 4 out of 5

    William2

    This novel is all about Christian, specifically Catholic, sexual hysteria. Sex seems to determine everyone's motivation in the first volume. This makes sense when you consider that it was written by a nineteen year old for whom these obsessions were no doubt a daily occurence. Fortunately for us, he has managed to sublimate them into the form of a novel. (Which puts me in mind of E.M. Forster, who, when touched on the ass by an admirer at a tender age, promptly went home and wrote Maurice.) A du This novel is all about Christian, specifically Catholic, sexual hysteria. Sex seems to determine everyone's motivation in the first volume. This makes sense when you consider that it was written by a nineteen year old for whom these obsessions were no doubt a daily occurence. Fortunately for us, he has managed to sublimate them into the form of a novel. (Which puts me in mind of E.M. Forster, who, when touched on the ass by an admirer at a tender age, promptly went home and wrote Maurice.) A duenna and her charge arrive in Madrid from provincial Mucia some time in the very late eighteenth century. For some reason no doubt to be made clear later, they arrive at a church where the much talked about Father Ambrosio is to speak. The father is a paragon of virtue. He has spent his thirty years entirely immersed in studies and prayer at the local Capuchin monastery. While waiting for the good father to arrive the duenna, Leonella, who is fifty-one, and her charge, Antonia, who is fifteen, are questioned by two young men and their tale of woe is gradually revealed. This is essentially a tale of Antonia's mother, seduced by a libertine, who runs away with her to the West Indies where thirteen years later he dies leaving her penniless so she must return to Spain with baby Antonia in tow to throw herself on the mercy of her outraged father. The wholly pure Ambrosio then spends the next sixty pages undergoing two events: the first is his heartless condemnation of a nun who has allowed herself to be seduced. She is with child but Ambrosio gives her into the hands of the prioress of her order for purposes of punishment; the second event is Ambrosio's seduction by a woman disguised as a young man, one Rosario, who has shamelessly broken the sanctity of the monastery. That at least is how Ambrosio sees it before he eventually gives way to godless and all too enjoyable rutting with the woman. These pages are tumescent with hot-blooded satanic sex. It is hard to believe they first saw the light of day in 1796. What an earth-shattering fireball this novel must have been then. One of the gentlemen entertaining the two new arrivals at the church is a nobleman, Lorenzo. It is his sister, Agnes, who has just been sacrificed by Father Ambrosio to the prioress. Now we enter into a long divagation narrated by the sister's nobleman lover, the Marquis de las Cisternas. First there is the interlude in the forest outside Strasborg in which the Marquis walks into a nest of banditti who wish him only ill. This is a vividly described section with lots of action and blood. At extraordinary length, the Marquis survives, as he must if we are to get the story of how Agnes becomes trapped into entering a convent by a guardian jealous of her relationship with the Marquis. This section involves some decisions on the part of the Marquis that no adult man with any romantic experience would make. In other words, the crudeness here really smacks of a nineteen year old writing his first novel. Yet the vivacity of the writing somehow continues to hold the reader despite these howlers. Later, we move on to Ambrosio's repeated sexcapades with Matilda (Rosario). The prioress's lie to brother Lorenzo that his sister Agnes has died in childbirth. Father Ambrosio as he overhears the prioress's evil plans for punishing Agnes on his way to an assignation with Matilda. Father Ambrosio's attempted seduction of a the young Antonia, innocent of carnal knowledge, and his deal with the devil to gain access to her lily-white body. The satisfying denouement I will not describe. Suffice it to say that Lewis's writing becomes more assured as he proceeds. By chapter 7, more than half way through, his writing becomes, as John Berryman discusses in his introduction, "passionate and astonishing."

  17. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    Now that I've finished this fabulous piece, I remember I read it several years ago. However, this time around I enjoyed it so much more. Be it because of age, wisdom, life knocking me around a bit more, don't know the reason why only that I absolutely couldn't shut up talking about it with my husband all night last night. For being only 19 when he wrote it and during the particular time period, he was very astute at the cultural swing that was occuring at the time. There is even a note of awarene Now that I've finished this fabulous piece, I remember I read it several years ago. However, this time around I enjoyed it so much more. Be it because of age, wisdom, life knocking me around a bit more, don't know the reason why only that I absolutely couldn't shut up talking about it with my husband all night last night. For being only 19 when he wrote it and during the particular time period, he was very astute at the cultural swing that was occuring at the time. There is even a note of awareness regarding his own role in society as a writer....very impressive! I haven't loved a book like this since Dostoevsky's "Demons"....people enslaved by their own passions....Wow! It's rare that a book will entice so many different emotions in me. I felt shock, horror, despair, joy, love, hate, disgust....so many things entricately woven in a tale of prideful sin and unrequited love. Wow! Wow! Wow! Note though...it's not an "easy" read....older english is very different but well worth the effort!

  18. 5 out of 5

    WhiskeyintheJar/Kyraryker

    3.5 stars Dreams, magic terrors, spells of mighty power, Witches, and ghosts who rove at midnight hour. I read this for the Classic Horror Halloween Bingo square. It's said this was written by a 19/20 yr old and within 10 weeks, which if true, is amazing. The format of having a main character, Ambrosio (the monk), and then having secondary characters branch off from him and tangentially going astray and telling their stories, only to have them all come together in the end, was extremely compellin 3.5 stars Dreams, magic terrors, spells of mighty power, Witches, and ghosts who rove at midnight hour. I read this for the Classic Horror Halloween Bingo square. It's said this was written by a 19/20 yr old and within 10 weeks, which if true, is amazing. The format of having a main character, Ambrosio (the monk), and then having secondary characters branch off from him and tangentially going astray and telling their stories, only to have them all come together in the end, was extremely compelling. I was expecting more creepiness, it takes until the 50% mark for a ghost to appear: At length the Clock struck two. The Apparition rose from her seat, and approached the side of the bed. She grasped with her icy fingers my hand which hung lifeless upon the Coverture, and pressing her cold lips to mine, again repeated, "Raymond! Raymond! Thou art mine! Raymond! Raymond! I am thine! &c.----" She then dropped my hand, quitted the chamber with slow steps, and the Door closed after her. Till that moment the faculties of my body had been all suspended; Those of my mind had alone been waking. The charm now ceased to operate: The blood which had been frozen in my veins rushed back to my heart with violence: I uttered a deep groan, and sank lifeless upon my pillow. Until the last 30-20% the story is really about love, lust, and jealousy. As an atheist I don't hold religious individuals, rather they be in high ranking positions in the church, to a higher regard. I don't think it is any more crazy that a monk would give into his lust than an average non-religious male. (Not talking about Ambrosio's later desire to rape Antonia; he wants her and she doesn't want him. This is a different issue than him being turned on by Mathilda who willing wants to sleep with him) Religious individuals might find this story more, I don't know, worrisome because of the themes of non-infallibility regarding sin; no one is safe from the devil. I did really enjoy how the author played around with the themes of religious doctrine and the hypocrisy/corruption of its supposed devout leaders, men putting the blame on women for their failings, jealousy, and power. If you read this looking for a Gothic, I think you'd hit the gold mine with it's verbiage and tone. Like I mentioned, the more creepy scenes didn't have a strong presence until the ending with the Devil making a strong appearance: He appeared in all that ugliness which since his fall from heaven had been his portion: His blasted limbs still bore marks of the Almighty's thunder: A swarthy darkness spread itself over his gigantic form: His hands and feet were armed with long Talons: Fury glared in his eyes, which might have struck the bravest heart with terror: Over his huge shoulders waved two enormous sable wings; and his hair was supplied by living snakes, which twined themselves round his brows with frightful hissings. In one hand He held a roll of parchment, and in the other an iron pen. Still the lightning flashed around him, and the Thunder with repeated bursts, seemed to announce the dissolution of Nature. This story had some twists and turns with characters having some pretty intriguing life stories. I didn't find it as outlandish as some reviews led me to believe it was going to be (a lot mention how Ambrosio lusts and rapes his sister. He didn't know it was his sister during his obsession, so calling him incestuous seems a bit unfair). I read a small amount of horror stories and watch a ton of horror movies so maybe my creep/crazy bar is set too high but I did notice two movies were made about this and Netflix has the 2011 on DVD so I'll be adding it to the queue. Man was born for society. However little He may be attached to the World, He never can wholly forget it, or bear to be wholly forgotten by it.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Bill

    I loved the language of this one. It had a deliciously creepy old school vibe to it. Probably on the account that is was originally penned in 1796. Truly a classic and holds up remarkably well.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Wreade1872

    Well that was absolute chaos. I'm very tempted to give it 4 stars but... can't quite. This is so over the top. Its a complete melodrama, but it also goes to places so much more extreme than i expected. It's is also a complete mess. The author tends to follow a character until he hits a wall, then backup and head off in another direction. A lot of it feels very pulpy, its clear that a lot of it was not planned out from the start, despite the annoying foreshadowing we get. It stops every so often Well that was absolute chaos. I'm very tempted to give it 4 stars but... can't quite. This is so over the top. Its a complete melodrama, but it also goes to places so much more extreme than i expected. It's is also a complete mess. The author tends to follow a character until he hits a wall, then backup and head off in another direction. A lot of it feels very pulpy, its clear that a lot of it was not planned out from the start, despite the annoying foreshadowing we get. It stops every so often to do a little poem or song and characters seem to switch personalities at the drop of a hat. On the other hand it also has a remarkable amount of humanity. People act in very human ways. Their thoughts and motivations make sense a lot of the time... and then it breaks out into crazy supernatural stuff. This review is as uneven as the novel ;) . Oh and then there's the weird view of superstition it keeps bringing up. At times it feels like it might be a joke but it makes such a big deal of people not being superstitious even while actual apparently supernatural stuff is happening. I mean at one point (view spoiler)[a demon (hide spoiler)] laughs at how superstitious people are! Also i couldn't get that episode of the Simpsons with Ned Flanders as (view spoiler)[the devil (hide spoiler)] out of my head during those final dungeon scenes, i don't think that was the mood the author was going for :lol . The ending gets even more uneven than the rest, there were several points were i expected it to end but it just kept going.. much like this review. The most pulpy and extreme of the Gothic's i've read and really fun for long stretches.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Shala Howell

    Rendered nearly senseless by the impact of reading words so breathlessly written, she nonetheless persisted in reviewing a book whose attractions she could not have resisted, had her mind not been steeled by the remembrance of a 1000 other works more artfully written. ---- If you like that sort of writing, go read this book. It's got lots and lots of pages of it.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Michele

    The granddaddy of all gothic novels. Hugely over the top but oh, such fun -- bandits and dungeons and ghosts, impoverished beauties and degenerate monks and wicked nuns, mysterious orphans and ancient castles and the summoning of demons, lost loves and lost souls and lost virtue, this book has it all. I think my favorite bits were Matilda's logical arguments in favor of sin - suspiciously clever yet quite convincing :)

  23. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    Finally, some fun in the Enlightenment. The Monk is a blast, a page-turner, chock full of insane plot twists and sinning. It can't be accused of being terribly well-written, so you know that old debate between eloquence and plot? If you tip heavily toward eloquence, you might not like this as much. But for me, clawing my way out of a pit of Oh-So-Literary books starved for plot...it's just what I needed. The only 18th-century book that I had more fun with was Voltaire's Candide.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Althea Ann

    I somehow managed to get through this much of my life, including a college class in gothic literature; without ever reading this book. How? It was great! Published in 1796 and written by a 19-year-old, it was a massive, bestselling success in its day - and it really still holds up as a fun, entertaining read. This particular edition had the most *awful* introduction EVER, though. (I will not dignify the author of said intro by even mentioning his name, which I had never heard before anyway.) It wa I somehow managed to get through this much of my life, including a college class in gothic literature; without ever reading this book. How? It was great! Published in 1796 and written by a 19-year-old, it was a massive, bestselling success in its day - and it really still holds up as a fun, entertaining read. This particular edition had the most *awful* introduction EVER, though. (I will not dignify the author of said intro by even mentioning his name, which I had never heard before anyway.) It was snide, condescending, and totally missed the point, by criticizing gothic literature as a genre, Lewis as a writer and the Monk in general - and damning it with faint praise, for the WRONG things. (the intro was written in the '50's, before the new attention the gothic genre has gotten in academia). Anyway, the intro-writer was trying to judge the book as a Work of Literature, and an Exploration of the Fall of a Virtuous Man, and all that kind of crap. It's NOT. It's an intentionally blasphemous, often hilarious, tragically dramatic tale, full of sorcery, devil-worship, ill-fated (and not-so-ill-fated) love, scandal, murder, ghosts, the Inquisition, cruel nuns, spooky castles, exotic locales, torture, dungeons, beautiful maidens... and of course, the particularly evil titular Monk. Yes, there's some pointed commentary of the hypocrisy of many religious types, as well as some quite funny social commentary (which often seems AMAZINGLY apropos for today, considering the age of the book) - but this was a book written to entertain - and titillate. It's definitely not as shocking today as it probably was then - and the plot is not quite as tightly sewn together as modern editors demand - but it's still a rousing good read.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    This must be one of the most difficult novels to grade, so far. I have no idea how many stars to give it, four or five. It's so strange and unique that I'm incapable of comparing it to any other literature. I know it inspired Ann Radcliffe's The Italian, but I can't see many significant similarities between the two. The story is so dark, I can't think of another novel in the same way. Most gothic fiction fade in comparison. The main story is about a man's fall from the highest of grace and rank t This must be one of the most difficult novels to grade, so far. I have no idea how many stars to give it, four or five. It's so strange and unique that I'm incapable of comparing it to any other literature. I know it inspired Ann Radcliffe's The Italian, but I can't see many significant similarities between the two. The story is so dark, I can't think of another novel in the same way. Most gothic fiction fade in comparison. The main story is about a man's fall from the highest of grace and rank to the lowest darkness of deception. Ambrosio is not just any man. He is the highest, most graceful person - a monk, and the most virtuous, religious monk there could be. That kind of adds to the magnitude of the crimes, in some way. These contrasts are everywhere to be seen throughout the book. Lewis gives a very interesting perspective on what could happen when someone, who has been shielded from the world his whole life, is suddenly exposed to temptation of human nature. The novel has gained a lot of attention because of its emotional, sexual and passionate content. It must have been controversial at the time. Temptation has always been perceived as a threat, an unpredictable danger. That part in the book reminded me of another one with similar events. The Bible. When Ambrosio has tasted the forbidden fruit, he forgets who he is and gets totally consumed by everything opposite to his previous life. Then he gets bitten by a snake. It's impossible to predict the events that are in stock for him. Manipulation, deceit, kidnapping, rape, murder, even witchcraft follow his new passion for women. There's no turning back. Spoilers Naturally, there comes a time when ordinary people, normally busy with living their lives, catch up and take a stand. I'm not sure what the complete ruin of the monastery really meant, if there were some allegories hidden behind it. I read somewhere that Lewis thought of the mob and the destruction as events similar to the french revolution. I see a parallel between the demolition of the building and Ambrosio's destiny. A destiny deserved by hypocrites. But unfortunately not all people inside were guilty. Is the collateral damage the price to pay for the angry mob, when justice takes its revenge? People innocent of the crime fall prey to the devastation, because justice is blind. I guess the religious conventions are to blame for a lot of the crimes. Where it not for the church, Ambrosio wouldn't have gone to such great lengths to cover everything up and Agnes would have been able to get married to her beloved right away, give birth in safety and ensure her child's survival. But if there is one ground theme, it is the characteristic of hypocrisy. It's being portrayed as the biggest of sins, because it overshadows everything else. Thanks to hypocrisy, fatal crimes is being committed and it deserves to be punished severely, beyond reasonable relevance I might add. The bloodbath on the street was really horrible and the inquisition was frightening in its ruthless striving after confessions. Actually, the violence surprised and disturbed me. It's very fierce up to the last page. Ambrosio's final decision to sell his soul to the devil to avoid hell after death suited his character perfectly. Unfortunately for him, his decision might have been worse. End of spoilers The fact that Lewis was only nineteen when he wrote the book, and managed to complete it in ten weeks, is very impressive. Unfortunately, his other novels didn't get the same response. The only thing that disappointed me was that the modest characters, such as Agnes and Antonia, got little room. They would have contributed more to the story and made the story even more subtle, if they had been considered as important as the other characters.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    4.5 stars for this book This book is shocking, especially considering the period it was written (1776). This is a gothic book through and though filled with sex, magic, ghostly violence! A perfect tale for the month of October! Update 05/05/018 I’m changing my rating to 5 stars. This book is just unbelievable shocking and fascinating.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Latasha

    WOW! this book is fantastic, shocking and scandalous! it continued to go to dark places and kept surprising me over & over. I highly recommend this book. read it. it's free.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Fede

    Mmh. I'm not very keen on gothic novels, but in this case the premises were quite intriguing: a scandalous subject, some allegedly blasphemeous and sexually charged contents, the author's modern writing style... all this made me look favourably on this book and leave my usual prejudice aside for once. Something I usually regret. However, Lewis was only twenty years old when he wrote "The Monk", so I'll try to be as lenient as possible in pointing out the main flaws of his most famous novel. Firs Mmh. I'm not very keen on gothic novels, but in this case the premises were quite intriguing: a scandalous subject, some allegedly blasphemeous and sexually charged contents, the author's modern writing style... all this made me look favourably on this book and leave my usual prejudice aside for once. Something I usually regret. However, Lewis was only twenty years old when he wrote "The Monk", so I'll try to be as lenient as possible in pointing out the main flaws of his most famous novel. First of all, the storyline. An abbot is seduced by a girl disguised as a young monk, who introduces him to sex, black magic and blasphemy. They have a great fun for a while; unfortunately, it only takes a week for the monk to get bored of his sexy kitten. When this occurs, the young sorceress encourages his sexual promiscuity and uses her power to help him rape a girl. A failure, followed by a murder, followed by a lot of debauchery and a - quite predictably - tragic ending. Two subplots revolve around these events: two unhappy love stories, doomed by the monk's devilish lust and a good deal of violence, hypocrisy and religious fanaticism. The thing is that what is supposed to be the main story - the monk's temptation, corruption and destruction - gets literally buried under the weight of the subplots, more and more prevailing throughout the book. It's a closed circle of events and accidents actually, entangled but predictable like the incestuous liaisons of the Forrester family. Furthermore, there's plenty of clichés I can hardly bear in literature and art: ghosts, pseudo-satanism, papier-mâché medieval architecture, helpless heroines, lovelorn heroes... in short, all the gothic and romantic paraphernalia a twenty-year-old writer could ever gather in one single book. Now, the characters. Flat. Stereotypical. Shallow. The abbot - who's supposed to have the greatest potential as a villain - turns out to be little more than a demented presumptuous, a cunt-crazed minus habens; the young temptress, whether she is a sorceress or the Devil or whatever, unravels her nature too soon, thus burning out all the reader's interest in a few pages; the positive heroes are so dumb that one tends to side with the evil ones on principle; the victims deserves to be victimised. There's absolutely no psychological analysis here, hence my difficulty in finding any interest in the story. One is asked to take too many things for granted, something I'm just unable to do. Sorry. Last but not least, the setting. Spain in - I guess - the last decades of the 18th century, when the novel was written. I wonder what Lewis knew exactly about Catholicism. I'm not going to say we Catholics have been keen on the most daring achievements of knowledge throughout history, but, hey, Lewis' depiction of the Church is just hilarious: Goya's paintings are a vision of Wonderland in comparison. He talks about ecclesiastical hierarchy, Inquisition, papal bulls etc. with no idea of their meaning, as though by hearsay, something I found definitely annoying. I mean, I have nothing against a good critic of religion - any religion - and its 'earthly pillars'; quite the contrary. But critic should be based on knowledge, not ramblings. Oh, no. Everytime I promise to be kind I always end up being the same old bitch.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    Free download available at Project Gutenberg. ADVERTISEMENT The first idea of this Romance was suggested by the story of the Santon Barsisa, related in The Guardian.—The Bleeding Nun is a tradition still credited in many parts of Germany; and I have been told that the ruins of the Castle of Lauenstein, which She is supposed to haunt, may yet be seen upon the borders of Thuringia.—The Water-King, from the third to the twelfth stanza, is the fragment of an original Danish Ballad—And Belerma and Dura Free download available at Project Gutenberg. ADVERTISEMENT The first idea of this Romance was suggested by the story of the Santon Barsisa, related in The Guardian.—The Bleeding Nun is a tradition still credited in many parts of Germany; and I have been told that the ruins of the Castle of Lauenstein, which She is supposed to haunt, may yet be seen upon the borders of Thuringia.—The Water-King, from the third to the twelfth stanza, is the fragment of an original Danish Ballad—And Belerma and Durandarte is translated from some stanzas to be found in a collection of old Spanish poetry, which contains also the popular song of Gayferos and Melesindra, mentioned in Don Quixote.—I have now made a full avowal of all the plagiarisms of which I am aware myself; but I doubt not, many more may be found, of which I am at present totally unconscious.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Stanka

    If you are curious to find out in what circumstances a young novice at the convent cries out: "Father, I am a woman!" and then puts a sharp knife to her "beauteous orb," which -- by the way -- is gleaming in the moonlight, and threatens to kill herself, then read this novel (it's like Don Quixote, composed of many stories). The strangest book: if you think your 21st century has taught you all there is to know about sensual sexual unfulfilled yet on the brink, think again! Here is a story of abso If you are curious to find out in what circumstances a young novice at the convent cries out: "Father, I am a woman!" and then puts a sharp knife to her "beauteous orb," which -- by the way -- is gleaming in the moonlight, and threatens to kill herself, then read this novel (it's like Don Quixote, composed of many stories). The strangest book: if you think your 21st century has taught you all there is to know about sensual sexual unfulfilled yet on the brink, think again! Here is a story of absolute restraint but dripping all the same... And funny, because who can take it seriously?

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