Mysteries Of Udolpho · Reading Challenges · Tuesday Reflections

Mysteries Of Udolpho Volume 1 Chapters I, II & III

When I accepted MsKatykins offer of having a read along buddy for this book I was relieved, it is quite a daunting book (especially the version I have small print and bible paper) but one I really want to read.

This will not be an in-depth analysis of the work chapter by chapter but instead a hopefully light-hearted banter about our impressions as we read along and see whether we are left sharing opinions or whether each of us reads differently into this novel that inspired Austen’s Northanger Abbey.

Have to say the first pages reminded me why I have picked this up and placed it back on the TBR pile so many times.  The picaresque features heavily in gothic literature and this is no exception.  To us as modern readers the seemingly over detailed descriptions can be rather off-putting but I have to be fair after all we need only google a place-name to see images of it in all its glory for the regency reader only those rich enough to take the grand tours would have any idea what the Pyrenees and other areas looked like.

I guess for the first post the thing to contemplate are the characters as we are introduced to them so I will give you my first impressions…

Monsieur St. Aubert – Our would be heroines father (after all we haven’t met her yet she might not be a heroine in our eyes time will tell) and I rather disliked him after about three lines of description, he comes across as a wimp, disillusioned by the fact other men are not all kind and interested in the finer things such as literature and music he decides to uproot his family and retire to live the pastoral life.  Now I know things were different back then but even I know that keeping a young girl isolated is going to have her yearning for adventure and getting her naive little self in trouble.

Emily – Our would be heroine or as seems more likely the damsel in distress, in the first encounters I have to say she is not particularly likeable.  Due to her secluded life she is self-absorbed and slightly vain.  She is of course well versed in such accomplishments fitting a young lady she is lacking in worldly experience which you know means she is heading for adventure.

The first few chapters are hard going, the death of Emily’s mother does give an insight into the way her father thinks she should behave, no showing emotion and putting on an air of acceptance she cannot feel, and one almost does feel sorry for her in this,

The other characters we meet in these opening chapters do not really leave any lasting impressions at this point although we know some of them will prove to have pivotal roles as the story progresses.

It is not easy going, the style of writing favoured by gothic authors is very description heavy by todays standards, I look forward to seeing what MsKatykins thinks to the next few chapters and whether she agrees with my opinions of the beginning.

Mysteries Of Udolpho · Reading Challenges · Tuesday Reflections

Mysteries – Preconceptions

First apologies for late posting today the monster had his first day of school (well morning the stagger the start) and he loved it and can’t wait to go back tomorrow.  The daughter came and got the rest of her stuff except my desk chair which she was intent on pinching but her boyfriend forgot it hehehe looks like I keep my chair and she will have to buy a new one.  The exodus of her belongings meant I spent the afternoon moving toys into her room and setting it up for the monster, we still have a few pieces missing for his fortress, well I think they are, I really regret not keeping the instructions but it seemed easy after I had done it once turns out it was not so simple 8 months later.


So today is the day I start reading The Mysteries of Udolopho by Ann Radcliffe and I thought it would be interesting to actually think about why I have put this off so long.  I bought the book years ago and it has wallowed in my TBR pile despite the fact I wanted to read it so here are my thoughts.

1) The copy I bought…I bought it second-hand from a charity shop and it is a republished copy in that when it was bound the introduction is repeated at the end of the book after the story finishes.  I know it shouldn’t bother me but for some reason finishing in the middle of the book seems wrong.  I have The World’s Classics version printed in 1988 but it actually looks far older if I am honest and the print is tiny, in an attempt to get round this I have downloaded it for free from Amazon onto the Kindle which is not very well at the minute (monster tried playing with it) so I will have to start with the paper version at least.

2) The cover…

Now I know that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover but let’s be honest of course we do and this one gets rather overlooked amongst all my new brightly coloured more recent purchases.  printing techniques have come a long way in a few short years and I seriously doubt any publisher would pick this as a cover today.

3)  Fear of disappointment, this is a book which Jane Austen read, it inspired Northanger Abbey, so what if I hate it?  Will it mar my enjoyment of Austen’s work?  Will I think less of her if I think it boring or farcical?  I love Austen’s work and cannot imagine it will but there is still trepidation at seeing her not as a genius but as a woman who loved reading.  I have devoured my own share of chick lit and found guilty pleasure in places I would never admit to reading but I think it is the fact this shaped her writing which gives it greater importance.

4) Will it live up to the hype?  The books of this genre were considered scandalous and thought to corrupt young women’s minds.  Now I fully accept I am well beyond being corrupted but what if it has no substance other than what would have been a secret thrill for the Regency reader, I want it to be good so badly that I fear my expectations may be too high.

So I am off to read now, is there a book you have put off reading and why? Please share your thoughts

Characters · Plots · Research · WIP Wednesday

A Peek in a Notebook

Monet’s living notebook

Years ago when I first left school I went to Art College instead of taking A levels we had just moved towns and it seemed like a good idea at the time.  In hindsight it was wrong but there was one experience which made the failure worth the lost years.  That was the college trip to Paris. As a city I hated it wander off the tourist paths and you found dirty grubby streets, we even had our own adventure walking through the red light district trying to get back to the youth hostel from one gallery but that is a story for another day.

My best memory of that trip was a little obscure looking gallery filled with the most amazing treasures…Monet’s paintings.  I was fascinated by Monet for two reasons.  First of course were his wonderful paintings, I loved Impressionists but especially Monet.  To stand before the sheer magnitude of his canvas’ to see each individual brush stroke up close was breath-taking.  For me I think it was the first time I truly understood the meaning of the word genius.  But it is the second reason that is the focus of this post.  It is the fact he created and grew and entire garden just so he could paint it.  He planned the views, the colours, the layout all so he could paint his visions.  And in a lesser way this is how I view my note books.  They are my garden starting out as ideas, seedlings planted some to grow to maturity some plucked away.  I thought it might be fun to share a few picture of the note-book I use for my novel.

These are early pages after all I don’t want to give too much away lol.  I started off with collections of images…no thats not true. I started off with the idea I had idea’s about how certain characters would look and act and I searched out images which fit what I envisioned.   I scrawled on around and even over certain images taking notes of the parts that fit with what I wanted, asking myself questions, working out what research I needed to do to find the answers I needed.

I saw those early scribbles as the first tentative brushstrokes or the skimming of charcoal on paper providing an outline for what I wanted to create.

As you can see these early pages become more and more filled with my looping scrawl as more thoughts come to me.  You will also see I love to doodle on the pages as I think.  It has been a long time since I took the time to practise my drawing skills maybe in time if I put in a little more effort as I doodle they will be worth looking at once more.  You can also see on these first pages the skeleton for the novels structure just a quick note in chapter form of the novels timeline.  It held it most of the way with obviously more details and a few changes in later versions.

I did lose track of myself on the occasional page where my terrible scribbling become too confusing to read myself later but as the note-book was only ever meant for me to see I did not think it neccessary to worry about nice neat flowing handwriting but as the book continues as the note-book begins to contain facts and ideas for actual use then it does get better.  no point having a great line if you can’t read what it was.

Someone else made a comment to me that one day if I ever got published people would want to see my note-books and I laughed.  Maybe if that day ever came it might be wise for me to destroy them and pretend they never existed rather than disappoint with my terrible drawings and appalling writing but I don’t think I could ever do that.  Disorganised as they are this is how my ideas have grown, the pages where my characters were born and took their first breaths I don’t think I would ever want to part with them.

I didn’t want to carry on further into the note book afterall pages of text are no where near as amusing as scribbled pictures and random notes but I hope you enjoyed a little peek into how my mind works. Maybe in writing this I have learnt a lesson myself not just about realising myself how I work but also that spending a few extra minutes when writing in my note-books would not only ensure I can read my own writing but one day might make me feel more comfortable about sharing more from them.

Do you use a note-book or are you a straight to computer writer?  If you do what is scribbled in the margins of yours?

Away Days · Tuesday Reflections

Lazy Sunday – More Warwick Castle

Its sunday and the weather is grey and while not actually raining yet you know it is thinking about it.  Have spent the morning being productive here on the blog I have finished sorting out the awards page plus set one up for the reading challenge and after this post thats what I intend to spend the afternoon doing..reading.  A few of your blogs still have posts for me to catch up with and I only have around 50 pages left of The Wolf Gift by Anne Rice to read.  I also have something different to read @StephenJMyers has published a story via twitter which I am quite looking forward to having a look at and seeing how it works.

I debated what I should post today and I decided that I would try to go back to my original plan of having a sunday Photo blog so what would you like to see decisions, decisions…in the end I decided rather than skip back and forth between posts working out which pictures I already posted I would simply put up a slide show of all the Warwick Castle photos for you to skip through at your leisure.

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Away Days · Tuesday Reflections

Warwick Castle

Last december I visited Warwick Castle I posted a few pics in my post Clinging to the Flagpole but as I took loads of pics thought you would enjoy seeing a few more.

Horses Armour on display in the Great Hall it is fascinating to see the work that has been put into the animals protection is of the same quality as that of it’s rider.  The armour was not just for battle purposes but a sign of the wealth of its owner very much like todays car the horse was not only a means of transport but also a status symbol.

The huge tressle tables in the great hall were laid for a more modern manner of feasting but gave a really good impression of what it must have been like to attend a medieval banquet in such splendid surroundings



I wish I had got a picture of the other half stood next to this as one of the things that struck him quite profoundly was just how short people were back then.  My other half is six foot one and was almost a foot taller than the tallest suit of armour we saw.  It is also interesting when you considered how strong these men must have been to wield weapons while wearing these cumbersome suits.  Was also good to see the vulnerabilities especially as the novel I am writing is medieval fantasy it helped me envision the type of armour I want my characters to wear.

When you consider the alternative to death on the battlefield though I think if I was facing defeat I would have been tempted to simply strip my armour off and throw myself into the fray in the hopes of a quick dispatch. The medieval form of justice certainly would be seen as a deterrent these days basically you are thrown into a dank cell if you are lucky and then have to battle it out with the other occupants for any sort of nourishment that is thrown in.

If you are unlucky then special treatment awaited you in many forms which I may blog about at a later date so I shall not dwell on it right now I know you guys have the imaginations to come up with a few forms of torture without any prompting.


I thought it might be good to include another pic of me just to prove there were no lasting effects of me clinging to that flag pole. There were the most stunning views over the river from here and the steep drop behind the castle shows just how difficult it would have been to capture the castle.

The next few pics are of the Trebuchet and the Ballista that they have there both are working examples and if you time your visit right then you can see them in action.  Sadly we didn’t but I hope to see the ones in action at Cardiff Castle this summer.

Well I hope you enjoyed a few of the masses of photos I took over my two days in Warwick I shall leave you with a few more castle pics and at some point will post some of the ones I took round Warwick itself.

Away Days · Research · Tuesday Reflections

Clinging to the flagpole

I think you can tell a lot about people from their photos, not just those they star in but the things they chose to take photos of so on this page I want to share some of things that interest me.  This pic was taken at Warwick Castle at sunset last year in December.  The thing I was most proud of during my visit was I overcame my fear of height enough to climb up the ramparts although there is a pic of me clinging to a flag pole at the top of the highest one. Will find that and post it at some point lol

Well as promised I dug out the picture of me on the tallest tower of Warwick Castle desperately clinging to the flagpole trying to steady my nerves to look over the edge.  While it is never possible to fully research everything about a subject I do think where you can you should.  With this repeating through my head I set off up the stairs to the uppermost reaches of the ramparts.  Now first let me say I gained a new respect for those soldiers and peasants who were forced to ascend these steps to defend the castle or deliver supplies.  Fair enough the people were a lot smaller, but those twisting staircases are enough to make anyone dizzy at normal speed with their tight turns.  As you can see from my face, not the most flattering photo, my fear was genuine.  But I have to say after a few very deep breaths I did make it over to the side. The views were spectacular, and it really did give me a better idea about what it would have been like ascending those towers and overseeing your kiingdom.  ImageImageImageImage