The Castle of Wolfenbach
By Eliza Parsons
I picked up The Castle of Wolfenbach after Chris at Chrisbookarama reviewed it. She described it as essentially being so bad it was good. I downloaded it to my Nook, and honestly, I had a good time with it. I’ve never read a book with so much fainting and weeping before and all of it amused me.
Matilda Weimer lives a quiet life at her uncle’s home in Germany. Both parents are dead and she relies on her uncle for everything. After overhearing a conversation between her uncle and the housekeeper that involves plans for her, she convinces another servant, Albert, to runaway with her. They end up seeking shelter at the Castle of Wolfenbach while trying to figure out what to do. The caretakers of the castle, Joseph and Berta, agree to put them up but warn that the castle is haunted. Matilda ignores their pleas, and the supposed haunting, and finds out the secret of the castle — the Countess of Wolfenbach is very much alive and confined to the upper halls by a secret pledge she cannot reveal. The Countess’s story is as sad as Matilda’s and the two scheme to send Matilda to the Countess’s sister in France. Once there, Matilda befriends the Countess’s sister, the Marchioness, and finds herself in a safe place until her uncle shows up and lays claim to her. This sets in motion a new series of events involving a nunnery, a chase across the sea, pirates, revealed secrets, unrequited love, and finally marriage.
There are so many twists and turns in this book at one point I started laughing out loud and wondered how much more I could take and then got right back to it realizing how much fun I was having thinking about the next crazy antic. Almost every woman in this story is aggrieved, heartbroken, or hiding. Poor Matilda among the worst of them too — she’s got an uncle who has sick plans for her, she has no family members alive (that she knows of), no love interest, views herself as sad and lonely, cries at the drop of a hat, and she’s on the run with no money. Every one she meets has sympathy for her and luckily for her they all want to help and have the money and or mean to offer help. It’s a ridiculous story though and here’s why (and no it’s not the addition of pirates although that contributed) — no one, and I mean no one, can have this amount of drama and luck at the same time without being in a gothic novel. How do you know when you’re reading a gothic novel? Characters faint then weep, and then faint some more and then someone comes to their rescue. And yes, that person can be a pirate who has seen the light and plans to leave the death and destruction of the waves behind.
OK, there’s a reason why Jane Austen pokes fun at these stories. This one along with The Mysteries of Udolpho are mentioned in Northanger Abbey and while two of the characters revere the books with a sense of awe, others deride them for even bothering to read them. Austen pans the books and rightly so but you can see how someone would get hooked on one. Yes, this one was laugh out loud funny at times and ridiculous at points but fun. I’ve had The Mysteries of Udolpho on my Nook for a while now and I feel like I need to get to it. I’ve heard better things about that one and now that a toe has been dipped in the Gothic novel pool, I may be willing to add a whole foot.