Questions for ‘A Sicilian Romance’ by Ann Radcliffe

A Sicilian Romance
Front cover of ‘A Sicilian Romance’, Ann Radcliffe. Edition: IndoEuropeanPublishing.com (2010).

Below are some questions for you to consider after reading our third book, A Sicilian Romance. We’d love to hear your thoughts, so please do share them in the  comments box below.

What did you like most (and least) about the book?

What are your thoughts about Ann Radcliffe’s approach to the supernatural in A Sicilian Romance?

What do you think she is saying about women’s opportunities at this time?

What do you think about the choices Julia makes in the novel?

Would you think of Ann Radcliffe as a feminist?

How important do you think the rural setting is for the novel?

What emotions do you think the author was trying to evoke when she wrote the novel? Do you think she succeeded?

Did the book surprise you at all?

Would you consider reading another book by Ann Radcliffe?

5 comments on “Questions for ‘A Sicilian Romance’ by Ann Radcliffe

  1. Hmm, I found this book quite a challenge. The language she used meant I needed to concentrate more than I normally do.
    Regarding the supernatural, I wonder if it was a book ‘of it’s time’? To me, it seemed obvious that the noises and sights were a person rather than a ghost. Maybe when it was written, people were more willing to believe otherwise?
    It is clear that women’s opportunities were very limited and controlled by men. Was Ann Radcliffe a feminist is a tricky one. On the one hand, Julia is strong in not accepting the life and roles designated to her. But she does do a lot of fainting and getting rescued too.


    • Hi Helen – thank you for your comments. Well done for persevering with the book despite finding it a bit of a challenge! And do keep your eye out for our next blogpost. We will be discussing Radcliffe’s treatment of the supernatural. We will also discuss Julia’s fainting!


  2. Like Helen I found this a little harder to read and quite difficult to relate to the time period and characters. The setting in Sicily sounded wonderful but the psychological terror didn’t really resound with me or perhaps modern day audiences. The treatment of women was obviously awful and I am sure it would have appealed to many readers when originally written . Perhaps I am just not a fan of the Gothic novel !

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Lesley H

    I enjoyed this book,although I felt the twists and turns the plot made were predictable.It was an enjoyable romp with melodramatic events which made the modern reader smile rather than be fearful Perhaps this is because we know what to expect from a Gothic novel. When Ann Radcliffe wrote she was helping create a new genre whereas we know now how this sort of story plays out.
    I was a little frustrated with the female characters because they were almost forced into acting a certain way e.g helpless heroine needing rescuing by a brave handsome ‘knight’. They were pawns in a game mainly played out by male characters. This again, could be me as a modern woman, with all the new opportunities we have, looking back at a time when this was not the case and using my values to judge theirs.
    I think the rural setting is important in that the woods allow people to get lost and found by others, in the way characters in Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ do. People can lose themselves and their way, discover other lost characters and be dropped in or rescued from trouble as they meet others hiding in the woods, It creates a range of emotions in the reader- fear as they lose themselves in the dark, trepidation as they hear unidentifiable sounds, relief as the forest provides a barrier between hunter and hunted.
    I’m not sure if the Gothic novel allows Ann Radcliffe to fully express her views on women as she is very restricted by the form. Her female characters are made or broken by the men in their lives.Julia and Hippolitus’ sister are both given the choice of marry this man or give your life to God. Julia’s mother was imprisoned by her husband. Although the women go through many trials and tribulations.There is a great deal of sighing and forbearance and not so much fighting back. However, perhaps this is what Ann Radcliffe was saying about women’s opportunities at the time-restricted and restrained by society.

    Like Sue and Helen I found Ann Radcliife’s approach to the supernatural quite predictable, but it was good to see the male characters also frightened by the ghostly sounds. I look forward to reading more about the role of the supernatural in the Gothic novel.
    Would I read another Ann Radcliffe novel?Yes, just to see how she plays with the Gothic novel form and I would be able to ascertain more clearly what she wants her reader to take from the book

    Liked by 1 person

  4. So, I’m about two months behind on this one, but since I just finished it I thought I’d add my comment anyway just in case someone else reads back too…

    Overall, what I enjoyed about the book was reading something from the time – although of course, it is set even further back than it was written (and the notes explaining Ann Radcliffe’s anachronisms were quite funny – I wouldn’t have noticed that at all!). I really liked the use of the sublime, again because of knowing its influence as an idea at the time.

    I was actually surprised, however, by Radcliffe’s natural explanations of the supernatural. Ghosts and the ‘spectral’ still remained strong in society until the mid/late 1800s, so her emphasis on science was really interesting to me (although both servants’ and protagonists’ easy conviction that sound were ghostly may of course be allowed by the time, even if AR didn’t subscribe to it…). Nevertheless, the ‘rational’ explanation and outcome was not what I had expected of something labelled a ‘horror’ story. Although sometimes a bit ‘obvious’ or even clumsy in today’s standards, I liked her use of nature to convey moods, atmospheres, and even foreboding the plot’s events.

    I also appreciated all the ‘easter eggs’ AR hid throughout the book – though admittedly I wouldn’t have discovered them without the helpful notes. Nevertheless, I think this allows us to glimpse the author and her contemporary setting ever so slightly, which is nice.

    Anyway, as the final paragraph in the book really drives home, this is a moral story – there’s little room for other interpretation than it being a classic tale of good vs. evil. This meant that the characters were, again in today’s standards, very ‘flat’ and un-nuanced: either good or bad, with no scope for more complexity. Or, well, perhaps the exception is Julia’s behaviour towards the church/God in the convent – I found that quite interesting. As often is the case, I was left wanting to know more about especially peripheral characters; Maria de Vellorno (the not-so-real marchioness), for example, would have been fascinating to learn more about. What kind of person could do what she did? She displayed both vulnerability and anger (not very lady-like, I suppose – perhaps that’s why I was fascinated), jealousy and inventive deception – and ended in a way I had really not foreseen! The bandit son of Duke Luomo was another one that struck me as a really intriguing character…!

    As for Julia, I kept thinking she needed to loosen her corset; all that fainting can’t be normal. And poor Emilia was nearly forgotten about…! Towards the end, I felt a bit tired of caves with hidden (but locked) doors in them. But this is my nitpicking; overall it was a really fascinating read. Not least knowing that it was really the first book of its kind, what I now think of as clichéd was of course not yet so at the time. Thanks for the prompt to read something I hadn’t otherwise stumbled upon!


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