Read the First Gothic Novel Ever Written

Read the First Gothic Novel Ever Written

Like many teenagers before me and the hypothetical many after me, there was a time when I fell under the spell of Gothic fiction and submerged myself in that world of castles, romance, and supernatural beings. I began with the staples: Poe, Shelley, Stoker–all popular even in ‘regular’ literature. But given my predisposition for precursors and a vested power in a new credit card, I decided to purchase a novel called The Castle of Otranto.

My research on the novel was limited to Wikipedia articles and Amazon reviews, but I was young,  rash, and quick to make decisions. I was intrigued that this novel, written by Englishman Horace Walpole, is considered to be the first Gothic novel, and thus, the forerunner to other classics of the genre, like Frankenstein or Carmilla. Setting that aspect aside though, I was pleased with the novel after I read it. It was the perfect assortment of tropes, which might seem like a bad thing to some, but felt oddly balanced and served to tell the kind of story Walpole desired. 

You can expect over-the-top expressions of love, marital problems that would be ridiculous today, and of course, the invisible forces of the paranormal to make an appearance in the book. The story can get a bit complicated, with some characters being miraculously related to each other, but the progress of the plot still feels organic. If you are looking for a light read or something that doesn’t demand extreme intellectual involvement, Otranto might be a great choice for fans of classic books.

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