THE MONK by Matthew Gregory Lewis was first published in 1796. It is an early gothic novel and despite being written over two hundred years ago, now considered under the classification of classic, it is a real page turner. Matthew Lewis has described the story in an effective manner, and this book is a good display of his story-telling. Previously read a few books related to the specific genre: Gothic, I am very much fascinated by the writings, the display of the words, and different type of plots. And by other books I mean Frankenstein by Mary Shelley and Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. I don’t know if Dracula by Bram Stoker is a true horror or can also be considered as a part-gothic but it does give the similar experience and produce similar set of feelings inside me.
The book is set in a monastery of the Capuchins in Madrid, Spain, and the overall plot is mesh of three stories appended together and sharing same set of characters. The story starts with the Monk, Ambrosio, on whom the title emphasise. He is one of the most respected abbot both in the monastery and in Madrid. He never leaves the monastery except once a week, to deliver his sermons that attract a large amount of crowd from all over the city. He is dedicated to his vows and is almost considered a saint by the few. But being a human, he is duped by a young woman called Matilda in to breaking his vows. He is then driven by a passion of lust and sexual temptation. After failing to resist his newly discovered fervour, he continues to commit one crime after the other, each worse than before.
The second account introduced is of Marquis de las Cisternas. When Marquis rescues a baroness from a gang of bandits, he is invited to accompany her to the Castle Lindenberg in Germany where he meets and falls in love with her niece, Agnes and learns the legend of the Bleeding Nun. Marquis manages to reveal all his adventures to a friend who also happens to be the brother of Agnes, Lorenzo de Medina. This takes us to the third accountant of the story, Antonia.
When a young girl from Murcia named Antonia arrives in Madrid, she and Lorenzo fall in love. Due to their ranks and in terms of wealth, it becomes difficult for them to continue their romance. Soon the Monk has his eyes on her, and then the gruesome tale of the horror starts which leads us to the end of the novel and all three accounts that the author focuses are now woven with each other.
The fact that the plot grows with the each character’s tale makes it a real page turner. You will not be at all be surprised if you manage to finish it even in one sitting. The characters play a major role in this book. The plot is not much of nuisance but is not a challenging one either. The characters will try to make a strong impact on a reader once he is done reading the book. The narrative tone of the book is smooth and easy to adapt and comprise visible signs of irony and sarcasm. Lewis did manage successfully and engagingly to produce this work at the age of 19. This book has many typical elements of Gothic Fiction, and is a daring tale written accordance to time in which it is published due to the themes of murder, rape, incest, violence, torture, and can be a reason why Lewis was charged for blasphemy.
3.5 out of 5!