There are some days I am convinced my brain is just dying on me, just I don’t know the cause, it’s a case of choose one of too much wine, too much internet, too little sleep – or maybe all three.
Anyway – I swear it is. I am positively battling this month to read The Recess by Sophia Lee.
For those remotely interested The Recess has been on my must read list for about five years now – and has just hit the top. It is billed as one of the original Gothic Novels, published in the early 1780s and reputed to be a major influence on Radcliffe amongst others.
I know the debate around art v nature was raging violently at the time – but just thinking about the quotation from Radcliffe in the post about water below – I find this in The Recess
"Imagination, Madam, may sometimes surpass the wonders of art, but those of nature leave all imagination far behind."
So clearly all on the same hymn sheet here.
A footnote at the end of volume 1 in my text remarks that volume 1 was published in 1783, and volumes 2 and 3 not until 1785, leaving readers complaining about being left in considerable suspense.
Maybe just as well that there weren’t internet forums back then, but really readers – you must have been desperate for entertainment.
I mean, to be fair, I’m only on page 160, and already our heroine has survived living the first 15 years of her life in a secret underground chamber, before forming an ill advised and hasty marriage with a favourite of Elizabeth I, escaping to France only to see this husband murdered before her eyes, captured and shipped to Jamaica giving birth to a daughter on the voyage, survived an attempt to force her into marriage again, involved in a slave uprising, seven years in a Jamaican prison before being rescued and sent back to England.
It’s just the language, you get the feeling you can skip whole pages because the prose is so convoluted, but when you do you find that you’ve missed a key plot twist, since they are always hidden amongst the florid descriptions, and the innumerable times that the heroine feels the need to thank her maker, equally for whatever twist of fate she has survived or beautiful sunset she has seen.
I am determined to finish this – I’m sure it will make me a better person – just not quite sure which of us – me or Matlilda – will die first.
Reading: The Recess by Sophia Lee !
Gothic Charm School by Jillian Venters