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De un desarrollo sorprendente, la trama de este libro va de una leyenda que se antoja ingenua a amores escondidos, traiciones familiares, invocaciones demoníacas exitosas y la más brutal violencia. Aquí se recrean escenarios cotidianos de su tiempo. De no ser por la evidente tendencia a lo macabro y sórdido, bien podría leerse como una novela costumbrista, de recreación de la Europa del siglo XVIII. Un tiempo donde los más terribles crímenes se cometían a instancias de los monasterios y la inquisición; donde el verdadero horror daba rienda en el interior de las catacumbas; donde las cofradías religiosas actuaban con impunidad y a escondidas; un tiempo que se parece mucho al actual, por los personajes dispuestos a todo con tal de obtener venganza o satisfacción o, también, de llegar a la mujer amada.

Published: LD Books - Lectorum on Dec 4, 1924
ISBN: 9781939048936
List price: $6.99
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I can't decide if this is mock-goth or just really over-the-top-goth. I know Gothic is extreme by definition, but this one includes every cliché of the genre you can think of, plus a few elements that read really modern and self-aware. Kind of like late noir films, except with nuns, ghosts and dungeons (so, way better than late noir films).

The thesis, inasmuch as there is one, is rather revolutionary for its time: ignorance isn't virtue, it's just ignorance. So basically, integrists who go around judging others are just scared, repressed people who should get over themselves and join the rest of us in, you know, life. And I thought I had patented that idea.read more
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Unless you are a graduate student of gothic literature (or perhaps especially), this is the type of book that is best read with a glass of merlot in an soft leather armchair and preferably late at night. The experience of reading this work, hard to put into words, can be roughly described as "full speed ahead and damn the torpedoes." Medievalesque notions of virtue and honour reign supreme in the actions of Don Lorenzo, bands of thieves congregate in the forests outside of Strasbourg, ghosts patrol the inner chambers, and devils slink among the monasteries. Oh yes, and did we mention the part about the monk bringing innocent maidens down to the catacombs? If you're a sucker for wild romances that channel Voltaire's Candide or the picturesque adventures of Don Quixote, Lewis's work is certainly for you. Even if you're not, a bit of decadent indulgence never hurt anyone.read more
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One of the things which is often said about this novel is that it represents Lewis's rage against a society in which he was unable to freely express his (homo)sexuality and now that I've read it I am left scratching my head over this claim - if only because, Ambrosio's seemingly paternal affection for presumed boy novice "Rosario" apart, there is nothing in the novel which suggests homosexual themes.Rage against something, however, there does seem to be. In his introduction, Maclachlan discusses what he terms Lewis's misogyny but is this correct? While we may speak of the malicious treachery of Antonia's aunt Rodolpha, the actively evil Matilda and the ridiculously flirtatious middle-aged or elderly Leonella, we may also point to several of the male characters who are hopelessly unmanned in the course of the novel - for example Don Raymond's taking to his bed in a fit of the vapours following the loss of Agnes, and the Baron Lindenberg who is completely passive and dominated by his wife. So if some of the female characters are "unsexed" then so are at least some of the male ones too. And Ambrosio doesn't exactly put up much of a fight against the loss of his own virtue. Matilda may be a temptress but she doesn't have to work too hard to part him from his virtue. Noticeably, too, Matilda has the wit and sophistication to bargain a good deal out of the Devil, whereas the supposedly intellectually more sophisticated monk dithers to the point of panic before finally and hurriedly making a bargain that isn't. But then, women were regarded as the Devil's creatures so perhaps He has a soft spot for us.The events of the novel are the standard stuff of gothic literature - a sensational rollercoaster of graveyards, the imagery of death, plenty of sex (all of it heterosexual), rape and plots against female virtue, murder, torture, hypocrisy, family secrets, physical and moral corruption, unlikely co-incidences et al.This was for the most part unexpectedly entertaining, indeed compelling, reading although it did bludgeon the reader quite mercilessly at times.read more
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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.

This is also the only 18th-century book I've read that includes magic. All the others have been resolutely set in the real world; it was surprising to me to realize that we were actually going to be horsing around with ghosts and demons here. Weird, huh? It could certainly be that I've just missed all the magic - I'm sure this can't be the only book to include it - but in general the 1700s seemed to completely eschew the supernatural. And it's not like they had no example: Shakespeare used magic in several of his plays, and The Monk is an exploration of the Faust legend that he probably heard about from Marlowe. (Some specific similarities in a couple of key scenes point to Marlowe.) I'm not a huge fan of magic-y stuff anyway, so I doubt this is what made me dislike Enlightenment literature so much; just thought it was interesting.

ETA: Oh, it's Gothic. Stemming from Horace Walpole's 1767 "Castle of Otrando." Okay.read more
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Now don't get me wrong. I think The Monk is quite an achievement for a nineteen year old. And a hella fun read. But there is a certain adolescent ...umh, ...er,..." yearning"... that distinguishes this novel and its psychological insights from say, Stendhals's The Red and The Black. You know, that kind of "yearning" that Cialis and Viagra help promote - yet suggest that you see a physician about if it lasts more than eight hours. Somehow I think Matthew Lewis spent more than a few days, in his teen years, in London infirmaries (or bawdy houses) resolving his priapisms.Still, how can you not be charmed by a Gothic tour de force that includes a Bleeding Nun, a Wandering Jew, a girl in monk drag, and a charismatic but villainous cleric who was born a few centuries too soon for televangelism fame. Not to mention thugs and wayside inns, ghosts, love philtres, Satanic rites, crypts, graveyards and enough genteel yet passionate lust to make you think you're at a Charo concert. Oh, don't forget Domina, a Mother Superior in the Joan Crawford mold, who would have no trouble improvising a second use for wire coat hangers.My only real problem, in reading the novel - which is surprisingly swift and smooth, considering its age and unsolicited interjections of poetry - was keeping straight the names of some of the supporting male characters. Lewis sometimes refers to a character by his relationship to another (uncle, nephew etc) sometimes by his title (Duke of whatever), sometimes by his Christian name, and sometimes descriptively. This confusion is further exacerbated by the presence of several young women - Antonia, Mathilda, and Agnes - who all morph into similarly described Romantic-cum-sex objects at moments in the novel. It takes a bit of concentration to keep them all straight. This concentration counters the pace of Lewis's storytelling which champs at the bit to run a steeplechase.Quite a romp - all in all - and a bit daring for its day. Although, I suppose, not as daring for an Englishman as if the villainous cleric had been a member of the Church of England. More sort of "Oh those Spanish and their Holy Roman church, eh wot? In short, another Gothic novel, that I wish Stanley Kubrick had made into a film, and which might have covered some of the same ground as "Eyes Wide Shut".read more
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Never before has an old classic been so enjoyable. As improbable as it might seem in retrospect, I studied this book in literature class among the larger topic of gothic literature and it remains one of my favorite books to this day.Lewis pushes all the characteristics of the gothic genre to their extreme until all the situations reach the limit between absurd and parody. But in spite of all its critical humor, or maybe even because of it, the book never gives the impression of mockery - the love of Lewis for writing and the genre he inhabits permeates throughout with passionate enthusiasm.Just as interesting to study for Lewis' indeniable command of style and literary codes as it is just plain fun to read for its outrageous content, The Monk is the equivalent in book form of a rave party on crack thrown in the most respectable of cathedrals.read more
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This book was censored towards the end of the 18th century. And now I know why: it is lurid. There passion, rape, incest, sex...in the monastery, convent, garden, and mausoleum. This book would no be out of date for the present as a trashy romance story. The book is a fast read, although some readers, like me, will find that the two long digressions that appear in the book will make you go back to the beginning to remember what the other characters' names are, the original plot, what happened earlier, etc. However, the digressions make for a good gothic tale unto its self. The mini-story "The Bleeding Nun" is full of horror, ghosts, midnight trysts, murder, gloomy castles, forbidden love that I did not mind the digression that much. Ambrosio becomes enamored of a novitiate in his monastery that turns out to be a woman called Matilde. She seduces him and they have sex in her bedroom. He eventually gets tired of her and sets his sight on the beautiful, innocent, doe-eyed Antonia. Matilde helps him to take away Antonia's innocence, with a very surprising twist at the end that Satan tells Ambrosio as he holds the monk over the ravine. Meanwhile, back at the convent, Agatha's brother and her lover, by whom she became pregnant in the convent garden, are attempting to retrieve Agatha from the tyrannous Mother Superior at St. Claire's convent, who punishes Agatha and will not let her go because her connections promote as an elite convent. This book was an interpretation of Ann Radcliffe's "The Mysteries of Udolpho", who countered Lewis' "The Monk" with "The Italian." "The Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk" is a good biography that later turned out to be false and a similar plot structure to Lewis' work. Going more towards the literature side of things, "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" features a priest as a villain as well. Also, if you're interested in reading parodies, Jane Austen's "Northanger Abbey" is an excellent choice. "The Monk" was also turned into a movie called "Seduction of a Priest". (Recommendations taken from Wikipedia)read more
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What an entertaining book, overloaded and packed with the conventions of gothic horror. Admittedly, I laughed my way through some stuff, especially the long narrations by some characters, the way events seemed to go from silly to absurd, BUT, it did justice to its genre while managing to have a good poke at hypocrisy and blind faith. The ending was awesome. I could have done without the lengthy poems, but otherwise I'm so glad I read this.read more
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Gothic novels aren't typically my genre, but maybe I should start reading them more often... I thoroughly enjoyed Matthew Lewis' "The Monk."Sure, it's book filled with depravity-- apparently the first book ever written with a priest as its villain. The book is heaped with every horror imaginable-- yet still manages to provide an entertaining story with plenty of twists and turns.(For anyone reading this edition, do not read the book jacket... it inexplicably gives away the final horrors that Lewis spent so much time building up to. Odd decision... this was the 2002 edition by Oxford University Press.)read more
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Lewis writes a lurid tale of lust, deception, betrayal, and intrigue set in eighteenth-century Spain -- mostly. His writes against a backdrop of Catholic excess as well as demonism. Although he gives way to literary excesses of his own, his story keeps one interested and turning pages. His work exemplifies the English attitudes toward Catholicism and the Black Legend.read more
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It's hard to believe that this book was published in 1796. I can't even imagine how shocking this book was back then, because it certainly shocked me here in 2008. I bought the book because I was interested in reading The Italian by Ann Radcliffe and figured I should read The Monk first. I never expected to like it, but I loved it. I loved all the supernatural aspects of this book; it was something I wasn't expecting. This book can make you feel so many emotions as you read it: anger, sadness, happiness.There's nothing I love more in a book than a bunch of different characters whose stories intertwine with each other with everything unfolding with each chapter.I can't say anything else except: give it a read; you may be surprised how much you like it.read more
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One of my all-time favorite books. Lewis took the traditional themes and plots of gothic novels and followed them to their logical, albeit socially unacceptable, endings. Rumor is, this book offended Radcliffe so terribly that she felt compelled to rewrite it, leading to her novel, The Italian. Lewis also acknowledged the comedy inherent in the melodrama of the genre and ran with it, making for some unexpectedly hysterical scenes. If you enjoy gothic novels and don't take yourself too seriously, you have to read this.read more
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Gory and incestuous. Proof that not all two hundred year old novels are boring, but otherwise not to be recommended.read more
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Don't be scared off by the book's 18th century publication date: this story is as shocking and titillating as anything in modern lit. The Monk has it all: scandal, conspiracy, murder, villainy, hypocrisy, incest, rape, betrayal, ghosts, demons, corpses, and enough gruesome detail to rival an episode of CSI.The story focuses on the corruption and eventual destruction of Ambrosio, "The Man of Holiness", a Capuchin monk whose outward piety conceals vanity and a lust for power, from which seeds grow spiraling tendrils of evil that eventually destroy him, with a little help from Old Smokey himself. (Lucifer actually makes a juicy cameo appearance at the end – don’t miss it!).Love how "meaty" the story is: within the main narrative, Lewis embeds digressions and side stories that add to the entertainment and general spookiness of the story. Caught up in the main narrative (in which the Brave Cavalier Lorenzo attempts to woo the Innocent Virgin Antonia; Noble Raymond attempts to rescue his True Love Agnes from the schemes of Villainous Family Members and an Evil Prioress; and the Mad Monk Ambrosio is gradually corrupted), you may be tempted to skip these parts, but don't! Elvira's sad history, the story of Lorenzo’s brush with bloodthirsty bandits in the forests of Germany, and especially the tale of the Bleeding Nun and the Wandering Jew are fully as diverting as the main narrative. Love, too, how the author incorporates all the stereotypical elements of gothic fiction – mad monks, wicked nuns, brave knights, naïve virgins, scheming family members, crypts, corpses, devils, and sorcery – while still managing to create a story that feels fresh, literate, and well-crafted. Lewis may have picked a dubious genre, but there’s nothing dubious about his plotting or prose. Indeed, Ambrosio’s decline is presented in so gradual and logical a fashion, may shock you almost as much as it shocks Ambrosio at the end to realize how far he’s fallen, and how fast. Finally, love how the book lays the foundation for so much literature that’s come since. Reading along, you’ll catch definite whiffs of Bronte, Poe, Hawthorn, Byron, Eco, and Perez-Reverte, among others. Were I a scholar, would love to research how this text provides a bridge between the old-style horror of medieval morality plays and modern lit.Because, beneath the shock and titillation, this is at its core a morality play, in which evildoers are punished and virtue is rewarded. (Except for a few necessarily tragic consequences, because evil can’t happen without victims, after all). A little spooky, a little melodramatic, a lot entertaining, and good triumphs over evil yet again … what more do you want from a book?read more
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This book takes a chapter or two to get into, although ti's relatively fast paced when you do. I think the plot moves along nicely and is really interested. I actually enjoyed reading it. I also appreciated Lewis' descriptive style. My only complaint is that at times it's hard to follow who's who.read more
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Published two years after Ann Radcliffe's The Mysteries of Udolpho, The Monk is still very much a gothic novel but it's also a very different style of gothic novel compared to Radcliffe's Udolpho.Whilst Radcliffe's novel focuses on creating a sense of terror in its readers (defined by Radcliffe as something that 'expands the soul, and awakens the facilities to a high degree of life'), The Monk seems intent on creating a sense of horror instead (something which 'contracts, freezes, and nearly annihilates them' according to Radcliffe). Where Radcliffe inspires terror by leaving things up to the reader's imagination, Lewis inspires horror by describing things in all their gory detail.This, amongst other things, makes Lewis' book a much more graphic and shocking read and it wasn't really a surprise to find in the introduction that Lewis had to remove all mentions of sexual activity, seductions, murder attempts and descriptions of unclothed female bodies as well as provocative words like 'lust' in later editions of the book.Perhaps because Lewis spells things out more for his readers, this felt like a less demanding read than The Mysteries of Udolpho; it was much easier to get into and moved a lot faster. Having said that, I think my personal preference is for Radcliffe's style of gothic writing rather than Lewis'.Radcliffe wrote The Italian in 1797 as a reply to Lewis' The Monk and The Italian is going to be my next gothic read.read more
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Having just completed The Name of the Rose I thought I would continue the monastery theme with the Monk. My naive self even thought they would be pretty similar in content. Whereas The Name of the Rose is an excellent and well crafted mystery, The Monk is a creepy and suspenseful horror novel. The novel follows the story of two main sets of characters; the monk, Ambrosio and his love Antonia and Lorenzo and his sister Agnes. The two sets are connected in a variety of ways but for most of the story are kept separate. This is an excellent plot device as it juxtaposes the evil and corruption of Ambrosio and the honour and fidelity of Lorenzo. Ambrosio is the hero of the city. A pious and highly respected monk, he is the model that everyone else looks too. Even heroes, however, can be tempted and Ambrosio gives in to these temptations. Before he knows it he is overcome by passions and moves further and further away from the man Madrid thinks he is. He attention becomes fixed on Antonia, a young virgin in the city and become intent on her corruption. Lorenzo on the other hand has just come to Madrid. He meet Antonia and is determined to make her his bride. Before he can, however, he gets caught up trying to rescue his unfortunate sister from her covenant, in order to reunite her with her husband-to-be. Lorenzo is only working for the good of his sister (and her fiancee) whereas Ambrosio is only working for the destruction of Antonia. It's hard to miss who the good guy and bad guy are supposed to be. The book isn't completely straightforward though! There are some good twists and surprises at the end.The descriptions and dialogue in this novel, though flowery, are powerful and you can relate the settings and understand the motivation of the characters. Lewis' writing is poetic and I often found myself reading for much longer than I intended to. A couple times I found he got a little carried away and took the reader away from the main plot(s). The back-story of Agnes and her fiancee also seemed to go on for longer than necessary.Overall a beautifully written novel with some heroic and very creepy characters. It's a novel that's going to sit with me for awhile and I think will reveal even more on a second reading. The depiction of Ambrosio fall for piety to ruin is truly disturbing and makes one question their own motivations and ability to resist temptation.read more
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Published in 1796, according to the introduction this is one of the foundational novels of the Gothic genre and thus horror. Interestingly, Lewis was only 19 years old when he wrote it, the same age as Mary Shelley when she published Frankenstein. The novel involves three intertwined stories: Ambrosio, the monk of the title, and his fall from grace; Don Lorenzo and his attempts to gain the hand of Antonia, and the struggles of Don Raymond and Agnes to overcome the obstacles to their union. The narrative often sounds old fashioned, and the plot is often absurd, yet the novel is engaging--enough to keep my interest through the 300 odd pages The author definitely has issues with the Catholic Church that often took the plot and many characters over the top, and there are misogynist comments at times--yet some strong female characters as well. Filled with ghosts, evil monks and nuns, bandits and pacts with Satan himself--it's also full of wit and verve, shot through with dark humor, lurid, cheesy, but great fun.read more
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At once a masterpiece of Gothic literature and a cautionary tale, The Monk is a vast and winding tale of romance, horror, and mystery. The story itself can actually be broken into three separate story lines. The first deals with the titular monk Ambrosio, a pious, well respected Capuchin who falls prey to the seductions of the lovely Matilda. With the help of Matilda and her sorcery, he ensnares the helpless young Antonia. The second relates to Don Raymond (the Marquis de las Cisternas) and his adventures with bandits and ghosts which culminate in his meeting and falling in love with Agnes, sister of his cavalier Lorenzo. The third story line follows the aforementioned Lorenzo and his attempts to romance Antonia as well as his endeavors to help Don Raymond free Agnes from the Convent of St. Clare. Teeming with elements of the fantastic and supernatural as well as horrific scenes of torture and rape, The Monk is not for the faint of heart. Lauded as the precursor to the modern horror novel, it is easy to see where horror's founding fathers drew their inspiration. This is a must read for fans of both Gothic and horror literature.read more
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What a long way we've come since Walpole! This book was actually scary in parts, and certainly gruesome and disturbing. Also a big shift from the "happily ever after" of most early Gothic novels.read more
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Quite different than most other "classics" that I've read. This story, while very slightly still showing it's age, could easily have been written for modern times. Except for the large side-story midway through, I enjoyed reading about the downfall of the Abbot Ambrosio. Quite a gothic read for sure!read more
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This book was simultaneously supremely entertaining and quite disturbing. It's definitely not for the faint of heart- it has quite its share of rape, incest, torture, deals with Satan, murder, etc... The main character is Father Ambrosio, an ultra-pious monk turned raving sex fiend. It also features a couple of gallant, knightly types- Raymond and Lorenzo- and their lady loves, Agnes and Antonia, respectively. There's also the beautiful Matilda, who turns Ambrosio to the Dark Side, so to speak. The story itself focuses on Ambrosio's fall from grace, Don Raymond's attempts to rescue Agnes from crazy murder nuns, and Antonia's various misfortunes, which culminate (SPOILERZ) in her being raped and murdered by her big brother, Ambrosio. Cheers!This book does contain some rather sizable doses of anti-Catholicism and misogyny tossed into the mix, but, you know, times were different back then... Also, some of plot twists seemed a bit contrived even with the context considered, but overall it's a very enjoyable read. The language is a tad old-fashioned, but, even so, it's quite difficult to put down.read more
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It's no coincidence that the opening epigraph of Lewis' one and only novel is from Shakespeare's _Measure for Measure_. Both works have pillars of public moral rectitude collapsing after encountering their first major temptation of carnality. Monk Ambrosio figures in for a penny, in for a pound, and starts the slide from mere sex to murder, incest, despair, and damnation. Lewis' streamlined prose abandons the detailed descriptions of Gothic architecture and Alpine vistas favored by his model Ann Radcliffe. And, in a plot of not two but four frustrated lovers, he crams many a gruesome incident and image. No Radcliffean rationalism for Lewis. Despite frequent criticms of the superstition of Spain during the Inquistion, this plot revels in the supernatural with curses, ghosts, Bleeding Nuns, Wandering Jews, and the Prince of Demons himself. Yet, despite the melodrama, there is an air of psychological realism in how Monk Ambrosio rationalizes his escalation of evil. Perhaps more disturbing is the mind of Matilda, his first lover, and her willingness to advise and aid his evil even after he has sexually spurned her. Stephen King's introduction is, like many such introductions to classic works, an unfortunate spoiler of much of the plot. However, most of his observations are valid and interesting though I'm dubious that all English novels before Horace Walpole's _The Castle of Otranto_ had moral purposes. (Lewis novel seems to have no serious moral statement except, perhaps, that the chaste life of the convent and monastery is unnatural.) Oxford University Press seems to have taken the typesetting of this edition from an earlier one. A lot of asterisks show up in the text without accompanying footnotes. A minor annoyance to a novel that holds up well after more than 200 years.read more
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This book is marvelously ludicrous. There is so much going on, and most of it is sordid. Nuns having babies? Check. Nuns locked in cellars by other nuns? Check. Priests having affairs? Check. Demons? Check. As if you needed more convincing, the novel also features a description of the afterlife, so if you were wondering what happens, just pick this one up.

Speaking seriously, this work is a lovely example of how the earlier novel looked when it was aimed at a certain segment of society, which would have been educated but not necessarily highly affluent people (not that the highly affluent didn't indulge, I am sure they did). It's also important to remember that books like these found their way into early circulating libraries, where they would have been presented in three installments (hence the length!). This book is 18th century smut. It's the Janet Evanovich of their time (no offense intended, smut has its place!). It's interesting that, in the 18th c., even smut had to have a moral lesson, as The Monk does. Fascinating.

As a final note, I do think that the biggest hold up in the reading process is the lack of what we as modern readers would consider a standard plot. The plot as we now know it is a relatively modern invention, so this novel offers good perspective.

For a novel of approximately the same time period with a different audience and purpose in mind, try Burney's Evelina.read more
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The 500 pages breeze by in this ridiculous Gothic soap opera.read more
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Lurid tale of a monk whose arrogance and virtuous pride materialises into horrible crimes throughout the seclusion of his abbey and its adjoining sepulchre. A compendium of gothic tastes, it involves many of its cliches: the Inquisition and corrupt religious officials, medieval settings, caves, dungeons, and an orgy of transgressive acts: rape, incest, murder and pacts with the devil. This is a good page-turner, in spite of its many digressions, in which Lewis deftly weaves the plots and sub-plots of this gothic yarn.read more
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A titillating portrayal of depravity.read more
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By most accounts, this is the beginning of the horror genre, and its heady mix of gothic settings, evil villains, innocent maidens, and horrific actions and circumstances--not to mention some supernatural witchcraft to balance everything out--comes together to make for a page-turning read. It's sometimes difficult to imagine readers journeying through this more than two hundred years ago, since it did a fine job of keeping me up late here in 2009.If Charles Dickens and Stephen King were ever to work together in heaven for a literary child, this might well be what would come up. Fun, dark, strange, and suspenseful---it's recommended.read more
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Despite its antiquity (1796), Lewis's sordid tale still holds up after all these years. And its tale of religious debauchery is still pretty timely, and probably always will be. Turn down your threshold for melodrama and enjoy.read more
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I can't decide if this is mock-goth or just really over-the-top-goth. I know Gothic is extreme by definition, but this one includes every cliché of the genre you can think of, plus a few elements that read really modern and self-aware. Kind of like late noir films, except with nuns, ghosts and dungeons (so, way better than late noir films).

The thesis, inasmuch as there is one, is rather revolutionary for its time: ignorance isn't virtue, it's just ignorance. So basically, integrists who go around judging others are just scared, repressed people who should get over themselves and join the rest of us in, you know, life. And I thought I had patented that idea.
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Unless you are a graduate student of gothic literature (or perhaps especially), this is the type of book that is best read with a glass of merlot in an soft leather armchair and preferably late at night. The experience of reading this work, hard to put into words, can be roughly described as "full speed ahead and damn the torpedoes." Medievalesque notions of virtue and honour reign supreme in the actions of Don Lorenzo, bands of thieves congregate in the forests outside of Strasbourg, ghosts patrol the inner chambers, and devils slink among the monasteries. Oh yes, and did we mention the part about the monk bringing innocent maidens down to the catacombs? If you're a sucker for wild romances that channel Voltaire's Candide or the picturesque adventures of Don Quixote, Lewis's work is certainly for you. Even if you're not, a bit of decadent indulgence never hurt anyone.
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One of the things which is often said about this novel is that it represents Lewis's rage against a society in which he was unable to freely express his (homo)sexuality and now that I've read it I am left scratching my head over this claim - if only because, Ambrosio's seemingly paternal affection for presumed boy novice "Rosario" apart, there is nothing in the novel which suggests homosexual themes.Rage against something, however, there does seem to be. In his introduction, Maclachlan discusses what he terms Lewis's misogyny but is this correct? While we may speak of the malicious treachery of Antonia's aunt Rodolpha, the actively evil Matilda and the ridiculously flirtatious middle-aged or elderly Leonella, we may also point to several of the male characters who are hopelessly unmanned in the course of the novel - for example Don Raymond's taking to his bed in a fit of the vapours following the loss of Agnes, and the Baron Lindenberg who is completely passive and dominated by his wife. So if some of the female characters are "unsexed" then so are at least some of the male ones too. And Ambrosio doesn't exactly put up much of a fight against the loss of his own virtue. Matilda may be a temptress but she doesn't have to work too hard to part him from his virtue. Noticeably, too, Matilda has the wit and sophistication to bargain a good deal out of the Devil, whereas the supposedly intellectually more sophisticated monk dithers to the point of panic before finally and hurriedly making a bargain that isn't. But then, women were regarded as the Devil's creatures so perhaps He has a soft spot for us.The events of the novel are the standard stuff of gothic literature - a sensational rollercoaster of graveyards, the imagery of death, plenty of sex (all of it heterosexual), rape and plots against female virtue, murder, torture, hypocrisy, family secrets, physical and moral corruption, unlikely co-incidences et al.This was for the most part unexpectedly entertaining, indeed compelling, reading although it did bludgeon the reader quite mercilessly at times.
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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.

This is also the only 18th-century book I've read that includes magic. All the others have been resolutely set in the real world; it was surprising to me to realize that we were actually going to be horsing around with ghosts and demons here. Weird, huh? It could certainly be that I've just missed all the magic - I'm sure this can't be the only book to include it - but in general the 1700s seemed to completely eschew the supernatural. And it's not like they had no example: Shakespeare used magic in several of his plays, and The Monk is an exploration of the Faust legend that he probably heard about from Marlowe. (Some specific similarities in a couple of key scenes point to Marlowe.) I'm not a huge fan of magic-y stuff anyway, so I doubt this is what made me dislike Enlightenment literature so much; just thought it was interesting.

ETA: Oh, it's Gothic. Stemming from Horace Walpole's 1767 "Castle of Otrando." Okay.
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Now don't get me wrong. I think The Monk is quite an achievement for a nineteen year old. And a hella fun read. But there is a certain adolescent ...umh, ...er,..." yearning"... that distinguishes this novel and its psychological insights from say, Stendhals's The Red and The Black. You know, that kind of "yearning" that Cialis and Viagra help promote - yet suggest that you see a physician about if it lasts more than eight hours. Somehow I think Matthew Lewis spent more than a few days, in his teen years, in London infirmaries (or bawdy houses) resolving his priapisms.Still, how can you not be charmed by a Gothic tour de force that includes a Bleeding Nun, a Wandering Jew, a girl in monk drag, and a charismatic but villainous cleric who was born a few centuries too soon for televangelism fame. Not to mention thugs and wayside inns, ghosts, love philtres, Satanic rites, crypts, graveyards and enough genteel yet passionate lust to make you think you're at a Charo concert. Oh, don't forget Domina, a Mother Superior in the Joan Crawford mold, who would have no trouble improvising a second use for wire coat hangers.My only real problem, in reading the novel - which is surprisingly swift and smooth, considering its age and unsolicited interjections of poetry - was keeping straight the names of some of the supporting male characters. Lewis sometimes refers to a character by his relationship to another (uncle, nephew etc) sometimes by his title (Duke of whatever), sometimes by his Christian name, and sometimes descriptively. This confusion is further exacerbated by the presence of several young women - Antonia, Mathilda, and Agnes - who all morph into similarly described Romantic-cum-sex objects at moments in the novel. It takes a bit of concentration to keep them all straight. This concentration counters the pace of Lewis's storytelling which champs at the bit to run a steeplechase.Quite a romp - all in all - and a bit daring for its day. Although, I suppose, not as daring for an Englishman as if the villainous cleric had been a member of the Church of England. More sort of "Oh those Spanish and their Holy Roman church, eh wot? In short, another Gothic novel, that I wish Stanley Kubrick had made into a film, and which might have covered some of the same ground as "Eyes Wide Shut".
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Never before has an old classic been so enjoyable. As improbable as it might seem in retrospect, I studied this book in literature class among the larger topic of gothic literature and it remains one of my favorite books to this day.Lewis pushes all the characteristics of the gothic genre to their extreme until all the situations reach the limit between absurd and parody. But in spite of all its critical humor, or maybe even because of it, the book never gives the impression of mockery - the love of Lewis for writing and the genre he inhabits permeates throughout with passionate enthusiasm.Just as interesting to study for Lewis' indeniable command of style and literary codes as it is just plain fun to read for its outrageous content, The Monk is the equivalent in book form of a rave party on crack thrown in the most respectable of cathedrals.
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This book was censored towards the end of the 18th century. And now I know why: it is lurid. There passion, rape, incest, sex...in the monastery, convent, garden, and mausoleum. This book would no be out of date for the present as a trashy romance story. The book is a fast read, although some readers, like me, will find that the two long digressions that appear in the book will make you go back to the beginning to remember what the other characters' names are, the original plot, what happened earlier, etc. However, the digressions make for a good gothic tale unto its self. The mini-story "The Bleeding Nun" is full of horror, ghosts, midnight trysts, murder, gloomy castles, forbidden love that I did not mind the digression that much. Ambrosio becomes enamored of a novitiate in his monastery that turns out to be a woman called Matilde. She seduces him and they have sex in her bedroom. He eventually gets tired of her and sets his sight on the beautiful, innocent, doe-eyed Antonia. Matilde helps him to take away Antonia's innocence, with a very surprising twist at the end that Satan tells Ambrosio as he holds the monk over the ravine. Meanwhile, back at the convent, Agatha's brother and her lover, by whom she became pregnant in the convent garden, are attempting to retrieve Agatha from the tyrannous Mother Superior at St. Claire's convent, who punishes Agatha and will not let her go because her connections promote as an elite convent. This book was an interpretation of Ann Radcliffe's "The Mysteries of Udolpho", who countered Lewis' "The Monk" with "The Italian." "The Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk" is a good biography that later turned out to be false and a similar plot structure to Lewis' work. Going more towards the literature side of things, "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" features a priest as a villain as well. Also, if you're interested in reading parodies, Jane Austen's "Northanger Abbey" is an excellent choice. "The Monk" was also turned into a movie called "Seduction of a Priest". (Recommendations taken from Wikipedia)
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What an entertaining book, overloaded and packed with the conventions of gothic horror. Admittedly, I laughed my way through some stuff, especially the long narrations by some characters, the way events seemed to go from silly to absurd, BUT, it did justice to its genre while managing to have a good poke at hypocrisy and blind faith. The ending was awesome. I could have done without the lengthy poems, but otherwise I'm so glad I read this.
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Gothic novels aren't typically my genre, but maybe I should start reading them more often... I thoroughly enjoyed Matthew Lewis' "The Monk."Sure, it's book filled with depravity-- apparently the first book ever written with a priest as its villain. The book is heaped with every horror imaginable-- yet still manages to provide an entertaining story with plenty of twists and turns.(For anyone reading this edition, do not read the book jacket... it inexplicably gives away the final horrors that Lewis spent so much time building up to. Odd decision... this was the 2002 edition by Oxford University Press.)
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Lewis writes a lurid tale of lust, deception, betrayal, and intrigue set in eighteenth-century Spain -- mostly. His writes against a backdrop of Catholic excess as well as demonism. Although he gives way to literary excesses of his own, his story keeps one interested and turning pages. His work exemplifies the English attitudes toward Catholicism and the Black Legend.
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It's hard to believe that this book was published in 1796. I can't even imagine how shocking this book was back then, because it certainly shocked me here in 2008. I bought the book because I was interested in reading The Italian by Ann Radcliffe and figured I should read The Monk first. I never expected to like it, but I loved it. I loved all the supernatural aspects of this book; it was something I wasn't expecting. This book can make you feel so many emotions as you read it: anger, sadness, happiness.There's nothing I love more in a book than a bunch of different characters whose stories intertwine with each other with everything unfolding with each chapter.I can't say anything else except: give it a read; you may be surprised how much you like it.
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One of my all-time favorite books. Lewis took the traditional themes and plots of gothic novels and followed them to their logical, albeit socially unacceptable, endings. Rumor is, this book offended Radcliffe so terribly that she felt compelled to rewrite it, leading to her novel, The Italian. Lewis also acknowledged the comedy inherent in the melodrama of the genre and ran with it, making for some unexpectedly hysterical scenes. If you enjoy gothic novels and don't take yourself too seriously, you have to read this.
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Gory and incestuous. Proof that not all two hundred year old novels are boring, but otherwise not to be recommended.
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Don't be scared off by the book's 18th century publication date: this story is as shocking and titillating as anything in modern lit. The Monk has it all: scandal, conspiracy, murder, villainy, hypocrisy, incest, rape, betrayal, ghosts, demons, corpses, and enough gruesome detail to rival an episode of CSI.The story focuses on the corruption and eventual destruction of Ambrosio, "The Man of Holiness", a Capuchin monk whose outward piety conceals vanity and a lust for power, from which seeds grow spiraling tendrils of evil that eventually destroy him, with a little help from Old Smokey himself. (Lucifer actually makes a juicy cameo appearance at the end – don’t miss it!).Love how "meaty" the story is: within the main narrative, Lewis embeds digressions and side stories that add to the entertainment and general spookiness of the story. Caught up in the main narrative (in which the Brave Cavalier Lorenzo attempts to woo the Innocent Virgin Antonia; Noble Raymond attempts to rescue his True Love Agnes from the schemes of Villainous Family Members and an Evil Prioress; and the Mad Monk Ambrosio is gradually corrupted), you may be tempted to skip these parts, but don't! Elvira's sad history, the story of Lorenzo’s brush with bloodthirsty bandits in the forests of Germany, and especially the tale of the Bleeding Nun and the Wandering Jew are fully as diverting as the main narrative. Love, too, how the author incorporates all the stereotypical elements of gothic fiction – mad monks, wicked nuns, brave knights, naïve virgins, scheming family members, crypts, corpses, devils, and sorcery – while still managing to create a story that feels fresh, literate, and well-crafted. Lewis may have picked a dubious genre, but there’s nothing dubious about his plotting or prose. Indeed, Ambrosio’s decline is presented in so gradual and logical a fashion, may shock you almost as much as it shocks Ambrosio at the end to realize how far he’s fallen, and how fast. Finally, love how the book lays the foundation for so much literature that’s come since. Reading along, you’ll catch definite whiffs of Bronte, Poe, Hawthorn, Byron, Eco, and Perez-Reverte, among others. Were I a scholar, would love to research how this text provides a bridge between the old-style horror of medieval morality plays and modern lit.Because, beneath the shock and titillation, this is at its core a morality play, in which evildoers are punished and virtue is rewarded. (Except for a few necessarily tragic consequences, because evil can’t happen without victims, after all). A little spooky, a little melodramatic, a lot entertaining, and good triumphs over evil yet again … what more do you want from a book?
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This book takes a chapter or two to get into, although ti's relatively fast paced when you do. I think the plot moves along nicely and is really interested. I actually enjoyed reading it. I also appreciated Lewis' descriptive style. My only complaint is that at times it's hard to follow who's who.
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Published two years after Ann Radcliffe's The Mysteries of Udolpho, The Monk is still very much a gothic novel but it's also a very different style of gothic novel compared to Radcliffe's Udolpho.Whilst Radcliffe's novel focuses on creating a sense of terror in its readers (defined by Radcliffe as something that 'expands the soul, and awakens the facilities to a high degree of life'), The Monk seems intent on creating a sense of horror instead (something which 'contracts, freezes, and nearly annihilates them' according to Radcliffe). Where Radcliffe inspires terror by leaving things up to the reader's imagination, Lewis inspires horror by describing things in all their gory detail.This, amongst other things, makes Lewis' book a much more graphic and shocking read and it wasn't really a surprise to find in the introduction that Lewis had to remove all mentions of sexual activity, seductions, murder attempts and descriptions of unclothed female bodies as well as provocative words like 'lust' in later editions of the book.Perhaps because Lewis spells things out more for his readers, this felt like a less demanding read than The Mysteries of Udolpho; it was much easier to get into and moved a lot faster. Having said that, I think my personal preference is for Radcliffe's style of gothic writing rather than Lewis'.Radcliffe wrote The Italian in 1797 as a reply to Lewis' The Monk and The Italian is going to be my next gothic read.
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Having just completed The Name of the Rose I thought I would continue the monastery theme with the Monk. My naive self even thought they would be pretty similar in content. Whereas The Name of the Rose is an excellent and well crafted mystery, The Monk is a creepy and suspenseful horror novel. The novel follows the story of two main sets of characters; the monk, Ambrosio and his love Antonia and Lorenzo and his sister Agnes. The two sets are connected in a variety of ways but for most of the story are kept separate. This is an excellent plot device as it juxtaposes the evil and corruption of Ambrosio and the honour and fidelity of Lorenzo. Ambrosio is the hero of the city. A pious and highly respected monk, he is the model that everyone else looks too. Even heroes, however, can be tempted and Ambrosio gives in to these temptations. Before he knows it he is overcome by passions and moves further and further away from the man Madrid thinks he is. He attention becomes fixed on Antonia, a young virgin in the city and become intent on her corruption. Lorenzo on the other hand has just come to Madrid. He meet Antonia and is determined to make her his bride. Before he can, however, he gets caught up trying to rescue his unfortunate sister from her covenant, in order to reunite her with her husband-to-be. Lorenzo is only working for the good of his sister (and her fiancee) whereas Ambrosio is only working for the destruction of Antonia. It's hard to miss who the good guy and bad guy are supposed to be. The book isn't completely straightforward though! There are some good twists and surprises at the end.The descriptions and dialogue in this novel, though flowery, are powerful and you can relate the settings and understand the motivation of the characters. Lewis' writing is poetic and I often found myself reading for much longer than I intended to. A couple times I found he got a little carried away and took the reader away from the main plot(s). The back-story of Agnes and her fiancee also seemed to go on for longer than necessary.Overall a beautifully written novel with some heroic and very creepy characters. It's a novel that's going to sit with me for awhile and I think will reveal even more on a second reading. The depiction of Ambrosio fall for piety to ruin is truly disturbing and makes one question their own motivations and ability to resist temptation.
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Published in 1796, according to the introduction this is one of the foundational novels of the Gothic genre and thus horror. Interestingly, Lewis was only 19 years old when he wrote it, the same age as Mary Shelley when she published Frankenstein. The novel involves three intertwined stories: Ambrosio, the monk of the title, and his fall from grace; Don Lorenzo and his attempts to gain the hand of Antonia, and the struggles of Don Raymond and Agnes to overcome the obstacles to their union. The narrative often sounds old fashioned, and the plot is often absurd, yet the novel is engaging--enough to keep my interest through the 300 odd pages The author definitely has issues with the Catholic Church that often took the plot and many characters over the top, and there are misogynist comments at times--yet some strong female characters as well. Filled with ghosts, evil monks and nuns, bandits and pacts with Satan himself--it's also full of wit and verve, shot through with dark humor, lurid, cheesy, but great fun.
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At once a masterpiece of Gothic literature and a cautionary tale, The Monk is a vast and winding tale of romance, horror, and mystery. The story itself can actually be broken into three separate story lines. The first deals with the titular monk Ambrosio, a pious, well respected Capuchin who falls prey to the seductions of the lovely Matilda. With the help of Matilda and her sorcery, he ensnares the helpless young Antonia. The second relates to Don Raymond (the Marquis de las Cisternas) and his adventures with bandits and ghosts which culminate in his meeting and falling in love with Agnes, sister of his cavalier Lorenzo. The third story line follows the aforementioned Lorenzo and his attempts to romance Antonia as well as his endeavors to help Don Raymond free Agnes from the Convent of St. Clare. Teeming with elements of the fantastic and supernatural as well as horrific scenes of torture and rape, The Monk is not for the faint of heart. Lauded as the precursor to the modern horror novel, it is easy to see where horror's founding fathers drew their inspiration. This is a must read for fans of both Gothic and horror literature.
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What a long way we've come since Walpole! This book was actually scary in parts, and certainly gruesome and disturbing. Also a big shift from the "happily ever after" of most early Gothic novels.
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Quite different than most other "classics" that I've read. This story, while very slightly still showing it's age, could easily have been written for modern times. Except for the large side-story midway through, I enjoyed reading about the downfall of the Abbot Ambrosio. Quite a gothic read for sure!
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This book was simultaneously supremely entertaining and quite disturbing. It's definitely not for the faint of heart- it has quite its share of rape, incest, torture, deals with Satan, murder, etc... The main character is Father Ambrosio, an ultra-pious monk turned raving sex fiend. It also features a couple of gallant, knightly types- Raymond and Lorenzo- and their lady loves, Agnes and Antonia, respectively. There's also the beautiful Matilda, who turns Ambrosio to the Dark Side, so to speak. The story itself focuses on Ambrosio's fall from grace, Don Raymond's attempts to rescue Agnes from crazy murder nuns, and Antonia's various misfortunes, which culminate (SPOILERZ) in her being raped and murdered by her big brother, Ambrosio. Cheers!This book does contain some rather sizable doses of anti-Catholicism and misogyny tossed into the mix, but, you know, times were different back then... Also, some of plot twists seemed a bit contrived even with the context considered, but overall it's a very enjoyable read. The language is a tad old-fashioned, but, even so, it's quite difficult to put down.
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It's no coincidence that the opening epigraph of Lewis' one and only novel is from Shakespeare's _Measure for Measure_. Both works have pillars of public moral rectitude collapsing after encountering their first major temptation of carnality. Monk Ambrosio figures in for a penny, in for a pound, and starts the slide from mere sex to murder, incest, despair, and damnation. Lewis' streamlined prose abandons the detailed descriptions of Gothic architecture and Alpine vistas favored by his model Ann Radcliffe. And, in a plot of not two but four frustrated lovers, he crams many a gruesome incident and image. No Radcliffean rationalism for Lewis. Despite frequent criticms of the superstition of Spain during the Inquistion, this plot revels in the supernatural with curses, ghosts, Bleeding Nuns, Wandering Jews, and the Prince of Demons himself. Yet, despite the melodrama, there is an air of psychological realism in how Monk Ambrosio rationalizes his escalation of evil. Perhaps more disturbing is the mind of Matilda, his first lover, and her willingness to advise and aid his evil even after he has sexually spurned her. Stephen King's introduction is, like many such introductions to classic works, an unfortunate spoiler of much of the plot. However, most of his observations are valid and interesting though I'm dubious that all English novels before Horace Walpole's _The Castle of Otranto_ had moral purposes. (Lewis novel seems to have no serious moral statement except, perhaps, that the chaste life of the convent and monastery is unnatural.) Oxford University Press seems to have taken the typesetting of this edition from an earlier one. A lot of asterisks show up in the text without accompanying footnotes. A minor annoyance to a novel that holds up well after more than 200 years.
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This book is marvelously ludicrous. There is so much going on, and most of it is sordid. Nuns having babies? Check. Nuns locked in cellars by other nuns? Check. Priests having affairs? Check. Demons? Check. As if you needed more convincing, the novel also features a description of the afterlife, so if you were wondering what happens, just pick this one up.

Speaking seriously, this work is a lovely example of how the earlier novel looked when it was aimed at a certain segment of society, which would have been educated but not necessarily highly affluent people (not that the highly affluent didn't indulge, I am sure they did). It's also important to remember that books like these found their way into early circulating libraries, where they would have been presented in three installments (hence the length!). This book is 18th century smut. It's the Janet Evanovich of their time (no offense intended, smut has its place!). It's interesting that, in the 18th c., even smut had to have a moral lesson, as The Monk does. Fascinating.

As a final note, I do think that the biggest hold up in the reading process is the lack of what we as modern readers would consider a standard plot. The plot as we now know it is a relatively modern invention, so this novel offers good perspective.

For a novel of approximately the same time period with a different audience and purpose in mind, try Burney's Evelina.
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The 500 pages breeze by in this ridiculous Gothic soap opera.
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Lurid tale of a monk whose arrogance and virtuous pride materialises into horrible crimes throughout the seclusion of his abbey and its adjoining sepulchre. A compendium of gothic tastes, it involves many of its cliches: the Inquisition and corrupt religious officials, medieval settings, caves, dungeons, and an orgy of transgressive acts: rape, incest, murder and pacts with the devil. This is a good page-turner, in spite of its many digressions, in which Lewis deftly weaves the plots and sub-plots of this gothic yarn.
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A titillating portrayal of depravity.
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By most accounts, this is the beginning of the horror genre, and its heady mix of gothic settings, evil villains, innocent maidens, and horrific actions and circumstances--not to mention some supernatural witchcraft to balance everything out--comes together to make for a page-turning read. It's sometimes difficult to imagine readers journeying through this more than two hundred years ago, since it did a fine job of keeping me up late here in 2009.If Charles Dickens and Stephen King were ever to work together in heaven for a literary child, this might well be what would come up. Fun, dark, strange, and suspenseful---it's recommended.
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Despite its antiquity (1796), Lewis's sordid tale still holds up after all these years. And its tale of religious debauchery is still pretty timely, and probably always will be. Turn down your threshold for melodrama and enjoy.
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