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» » The Horrors of Oakendale Abbey

The Horrors of Oakendale Abbey by Mrs Carver

The Horrors of Oakendale Abbey
The Horrors of Oakendale Abbey
Mrs Carver
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Minerva Pr Inc (June 1997)
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  • ᴜɴɪᴄᴏʀɴ
That quote is from the introduction, which should be read after the book, since it gives the plot away. But do read it. The editor offers daring interpretations of the novel, drawn from folklore and Jungian psychology.

Oakendale Abbey is a totally readable, enjoyable Gothic that plunges the reader into the story without delays or poetic effusions. Beautiful young Laura arrives suddenly at ruined old Oakendale Abbey. Ghostly noises and gruesome apparitions have successfully kept visitors and villagers at bay for generations. But Laura is being forced to reside there until the gloomy rooms and isolated situation break her spirit.

Rich, haughty, handsome Lord Oakendale wants to make Laura his mistress, but although a friendless orphan, she's staunchly resisting him.

Laura has a fascinating back-story carrying her, as a lost child, from the East Indies to France to England. And she's in love with a young man (Eugene) whose parentage is also veiled in mystery. These personal histories combine with the horrid proceedings at Oakendale Abbey to make for an eventful plot.

Oakendale Abbey is indeed a terrible place, with blood-stained chambers and underground dungeons concealing dreadful deeds. But I'll leave it to you to discover the horrific reality behind the ghostly horrors.

The authorship of Oakendale Abbey (1797) has been a mystery for two centuries. I came across an article on the Web asserting that "Mrs. Carver" was actually Sir Anthony Carlisle, surgeon (a professional carver of bodies). Carlisle had good reason to hide behind a pseudonym, since the dissipated Lord Oakendale was probably inspired by Carlisle's father-in-law!

I highly recommend The Horrors of Oakendale Abbey as a clever, fast-paced, well-written Gothic with a delightfully feisty and fearless heroine.
  • SiIеnt
I am filled with gratitude for Zittaw Press and Valancourt Books, the two small presses that are bringing back to us the wonderful gothic novels that were all the rage in popular literature 200 years ago. Fantasy and horror connoisseurs now have access to those exotic and tantalizing titles that they never would have had a hope of tracking down just two years ago. To date I have finished reading five of them, and you know what? They're good!

Mrs. Carver's Horrors of Oakendale Abbey has been been one of the more enjoyable reads. This is the story of the lovely Laura, a foundling forced to flee Revolutionary France during the Reign of Terror when her foster father's severed head is found mounted on a stake outside the family home. In the confusion of emigrating to the coast of Wales she becomes separated from her foster mother, and while wandering along the shore in her forlorn state she is discovered by the aristocratic sensualist Lord Oakendale. He wisks her off to his London mansion where she resists his efforts to seduce her. In order to place her in an even more desparate situation, he sends her away to live in the vast, ancient, abandoned, and reputedly haunted Oakendale Abbey in Cumberland. His theory is that after being subjected to the horrors of solitude in this loathsome setting, she will rush into his arms and gladly accept the least odious of her disagreeable choices.

The rural Oakendale Abbey is the site of very real horrors. Laura (an unusually spirited protagonist) encounters skeletons and hanging bodies during her explorations of the Abbey that are real and not just figments as is the case in the more genteel gothic romances. She also discovers the letter case that she made herself for her long lost love Eugene, and is devastated at the thought that one of the skeletons might be the remains of the man that she lost her heart to when he was a visitor of her foster parents in France. Nefarious activities are going on in the background of the Abbey that put her in peril every day, and soon Lord Oakendale receives the news that Laura has disappeared! He simultaneously makes a discovery that throws a whole new light on Laura's identity, and he rushes out to the Abbey to find her, with very different motives now than his original goal of libidinous seduction.

Other characters from Laura's past begin showing up, and things get very complicated as true identities and family relationships become clarified. I do not want to spoil the story for anyone who has not yet read the book. Suffice it to say that this is a page-turner with an interesting and convoluted plot, and is capable of pulling in the modern reader as it did our ancestors many generations ago.

It is clear that this book was heavily influenced by Eliza Parson's The Castle of Wolfenbach, another Goth that is available in a tasteful modern edition. But there are several differences: Mrs. Carver dispenses with Eliza Parson's painstaking analysis and onion-like peeling away of the layers of the overwrought sentiments of her persecuted heroine Madelein. Instead she plunges into graphic descriptions of mutilated bodies and horrifying tableaux, which I venture to say is more likely to be congenial to modern tastes. Mrs. Carver was quite uninhibited in this respect, which is rare among the Gothic authoresses.

The Zittaw edition is characteristically classy, with an interesting cover that well represents the book's contents, and an informative introduction by Curt Herr. The book however seems to have been rushed to press, as it contains numerous typographic errors (not typical of the other Zittaw editions I own). While this is regrettable, it does not interfere over much with the reader's understanding of the text. I hesitated between rating this a "four star" or a "five star" book, but settled upon "five stars" through the shear joy of being given access to these resurrected gems by the courageous (and no doubt financially risky) ventures of Zittaw Press and Valancourt Books. Thank you Franz Potter and James Jenkins!
  • Prorahun
It started out really great. It began very mysterious and I wanted to know what was really going on. What was the secret of the abbey? Well, after she tries to escape-about mid way through- it loses it sense of mystery and becomes a simple novel about an innocent young girl attempting to reunite with her lover. The very end seemed pretty thrown together. I think that was because they ran out foreboding architecture and had to quickly clear up what was going on and what happened to the characters.
  • Adrierdin
Oakendale Abbey, in what may be deemed as "ancient" in it's literary composure, presents the reader with the genre's very intention: the mysteries of things unseen and the psychological bend these things have on its hero or heroine in their struggle toward balance. I have learned much from submersing myself in such dated manuscripts -- treasures to the Gothic literary gentry -- reappearing now in full form with comments by our most-enlightened interpreters of the gothic read (Herr). Forget about all those vampires and gorey tales for a moment and live the tale of mayhem as seen through the innocent eyes of a young maiden in her life's awakenings. Dig a little deeper and you, too, will recall the tension and turmoil, once known as true horror of the human psyche.
  • Mildorah
This book was just okay, had some exciting pieces but didn't have the wow factor, where you couldn't put the book down. I did put the book down a few times