For a book written in 10 weeks, Matthew Lewis’ The Monk had remarkable success. This gothic classic was written way back in the 18th century, but it has still not faded into oblivion. Upon its publication, the critics called it bloody disgusting and to their disgust, The Monk went on to be a bestseller.
This book explores the themes of diabolic temptations, violence, homicide, and incest. It delineates the story of Ambrosio, — a monk of Madrid — who is looked upon as a symbol of purity. But his life takes hell of a turn when a woman called Matilda seduces him and he falls for it. All kind of troubles follow.
This is a piece of Victorian literature, and it’s definitely a cult book. But it’s a surprisingly easy read. Lewis uses simple words to present a provocative melodrama involving evil nuns, witchcraft, sensuality, adventure, rape, and pact with the Devil. Dialogues are a bit silly though and characters are quite flat. All females are either “sexy virgins” or they are “beautiful, sexy devil-bitch”. But Lewis has a sense of purpose; throughout the entire book, he tries to shock the reader. And The Monk does shock you unlike its famous contemporaries such as Beckford’s “Vathek” and Radcliffe’s “The Italian”.
Overall, The Monk is a strange, twisted, and solid entertainer, particularly if you remember it was written by someone nineteen years old.