Review: The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole

I have to admit, I picked The Castle of Otranto from the library because it was a very slim volume. At 140 pages, it suited me nicely. And then I couldn’t resist this blurb:

Manfred, wicked lord of Otranto Castle, is horrified when his son is crushed to death on his wedding day.

Well, sounds pretty exciting! Murder? Intrigue? Romance? Drama? Quite possibly! But not in this book!

The Castle of OtrantoThe Castle of Otranto was written in 1764 by Horace Walpole and it’s done deliberately in the style of an early medieval saga. Walpole, an MP at the time, was fascinated with this period of history. In terms of language, it borrows heavily from the sagas of the Arthurian knights, and its intention appears to be to provide a new story in this canon. The conceit of the novel is that it is from an ancient text and has been translated from Italian.

I once spent a lovely ten days at Brunswick Heads – in my backpack, I had a tent, sleeping bag, and fifteen of the biggest books I could find in the library – and one of those days was devoted to Thomas Malory’s Le Mort D’Arthur. I lay about like some layabout reading Arthurian romance all day. Literally, all day. So, generally, I love this shit.

But not this shit.

There are some people who can write a story as though it’s written in a different time, but this 18th century dude was unable to capture the best of medieval writing without destroying it. I probably missed something dreadfully important and clever, but mostly it just bugged me.


Geez, this is a terrible review. I mean, it’s badly written and doesn’t tell you anything useful. One thing I will say, though, is that if you ever have a spare ten days there are worse things you can do than just laying about reading book after book after book. Best holiday ever!

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Nat Newman

Nat Newman is an award-winning writer of short stories, content, podcasts, feature articles, drunk text messages and, soon, a novella.

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