Book Review: The Italian by Ann Radcliffe

The ItalianTitle: The Italian
Author: Ann Radcliffe
Genre: Classics / Gothic / Romance
2008 (1797)
Publisher: Oxford World’s Classics
Pages: 423
Started: 25th March 2018
Completed: 29th March 2018
Rating: 4.5/5
Summary: From the novel’s opening chapters the reader is ushered into a shadowy world in which crime and religion are mingled. In the church of Santa Maria del Pianto in Naples, Ellena Rosalba and Vincentio di Vivaldi first meet; but their love is ill-omened. Leagued against them are the proud and ambitious Marchese di Vivaldi and her confessor Father Schedoni. When Ellena vanishes on the death of her guardian, Vivaldi sets out in pursuit of her across the mountainous regions of southern Italy before himself falling prey to the Holy Inquisition.

the italian title pageAnn Radcliffe’s The Italian was the last of her books to be published during her lifetime even though she didn’t die until 1823. It’s one of her best-known novels and it has some similarities to Matthew Lewis’ The Monk (1796).

I have previously reviewed A Sicilian Romance (1790), The Romance of the Forest (1791) and The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794).

The Italian is my new favourite Ann Radcliffe novel. There’s just so much to enjoy in this book and it’s a truly wonderful read.

I love the darkness of this novel. It seems more sombre, and a bit more mysterious than her other novels which might be due to the fact that it deals with ideas of religious persecution (especially against Catholics) and national identity in a much more open way compared to her other novels. The plot focuses on Vincentio di Vivaldi and Ellena di Rosalba who fall in love but Vincentio’s mother doesn’t want them to marry and so she schemes with her confessor, Father Schedoni, to prevent the marriage. The book includes an abduction, a monk on trial, and a cruel Abbess amongst many plot twists and surprising events. It’s an intriguing, exciting, and wonderfully complex novel. It also has a very satisfying ending, which all of Radcliffe’s novels do, which rounds of the novel nicely.

Radcliffe’s writing is beautiful. Her descriptions are incredibly vivid and you become fully immersed in the story because you’re so captivated by Radcliffe’s writing. The Italian is full of sublime imagery and Radcliffe’s pastoral images are suitably nostalgic and sentimental. She also uses a lot of pathetic fallacy in The Italian which really amps up the emotional qualities of the book. Radcliffe was the Queen of Gothic writing and this novel has everything you’d ever want in a Gothic novel.

I really like the two main characters in the book and Ellena is a classic Radcliffean heroine. They’re very sweet and you definitely want them to survive the events of the novel so that they can finally be together forever. Father Schedoni is a fantastic antagonist, one of the best I’ve read in a Radcliffe novel, and I really enjoyed reading about his misdeeds.

Overall, The Italian is an incredibly sophisticated novel full of wonderful imagery and well-written characters. It’s a classic Gothic novel and I would not hesitate to recommend this to anyone. If you’re only ever going to read one Radcliffe novel make sure that you pick up The Italian because you won’t regret it.

Disclaimer: None of the links in this post are affiliate links.

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