The Monk – Spoiler Free

Or spoiler-lite.   I should probably never promise to be completely spoiler-free.   The Monk by Matthew Lewis was huge HUGE back in the day.  A Gothic novel that packs every gothic trope in it’s I’m-not-sure-how-many-pages-because-I-read-the-ebook.  I have a weakness for Gothic novels which lead me to read things like The Mysteries of Udolpho in my misspent youth.   Long, tedious, wait forever for revelations which weren’t all that dramatic when you got to them.   I tried to read Melmoth the Wanderer, but when I accidentally skipped 100 pages and couldn’t tell, I stopped.   The Monk suffers from none of this.   It dives right into the action and pretty soon horrible things are happening right and left.  Always remember, if you show a gypsy curse in the first scene, it’s got to go off in the third act.   Innocent young women go through hell.   There are picturesque castles, ghosts, bandits, sorcery, evil monks and nuns – it is, as I said before, packed.


There are tedious parts and many intolerable attitudes about sex and women that haven’t entirely died out even today, but if you don’t expect that from a 200 year old book, I’m not sure what to tell you.    One of the so-called heroes or men you expect to be heroic completely falls down on the job.   The other does pretty well, but neither is terribly impressive.   The timelines of the plots are ridiculous.  The villain is a dope which can get frustrating.   Characters are introduced and disappear for no good reason.   It is a heavily flawed book no one could get away with writing today, but if you like this sort of story, and I do, a little tolerance and it’s still a real page-turner.

2 thoughts on “The Monk – Spoiler Free”

  1. I always thought that the reason I got stuck in Northanger Abbey was because I needed to read The Mysteries of Udolpho first, but now I read in a little article that Jane sent Matthew Lewis up in that book. So maybe, with The Monk under my belt, I don’t have to read TMoU!

    I have Melmoth the Wanderer as yet unread on my shelf. Maybe this should be a future readalong. From what you’ve written about it, I don’t think I could get through it on my own.

    1. I haven’t tried Northanger Abbey though I saw a version on TV. A little Udolpho goes a long way. If Lewis used the word bosom a lot, it’s nothing on Radcliffe’s use of ‘sublime.’ I think I’ve sort of been saving Northanger Abbey since I know it’s a sendup of Gothic novels and therefore assume I’ll love it.

      I would give Melmoth another try. Especially in a readalong. Manageable portions in which we can spout off weekly about how good/mediocre/horrible it is a great way to read a long, old book.

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