Olalla by Robert Louis Stevenson
A gothic novella about love, torment and doomed aristocracy, set in the remote mountains of Spain.
I'm not sure whether there's anything more tantalising to me than a gothic novel. Daunting, old buildings that loom in the distance, a family with a mysterious past, a spooky portrait that looks incredibly like the inhabitants of the house, and strange, inexplicable events. More, more, more.
Stevenson gives us all of the above in this short story, one of love and mystery. The suspense he built in the initial stages of the story was wonderful, his descriptions nothing but decadent, and I was really gearing myself up for something incredible. Disappointingly, the plot falls entirely flat after the longed for event, and the finale does little to explain our journey.
I mostly detest the instantaneous love men feel for women in novels of this era. I do not buy the love at first sight thing at all, and it truly confirms the banality of men falling for women purely as a result of their looks. Of course the narrator falls for Olalla at first glance, and declares he cannot ever be without her, despite having only exchanged a few words.
The suggestion that Stevenson has written of vampires is an interesting one. There is little to confirm this other than a bit of bloodlust. Despite Stevenson rejecting the usual vampiric qualities, such as aversion to sunlight, which I did like, I much prefer the idea that something less supernatural, but far more sinister, was at work here.
This is a worthwhile read, but I expected much more from the man who wrote such a great gothic classic as Jekyll and Hyde.