I read this book because it was mentioned in both Northanger Abbey (which I read in October) and in Uncle Silas (which I just finished reading). My understanding is that it is one of the quintessential gothic novels and is the originator of what has become quite formulaic. There is much debate about whether Jane Austin (in Northanger Abbey) is mocking or emulating the novel and I was curious to form my own opinion. Certainly there is much to mock, but mostly from the repetitive content (more below) of which I find I am bored. However, this boredom comes mostly from the fact that so many other Victorian novels follow the same formulae (certainly Austin herself writes much in the same vein).
In this novel, we have the orphaned heroine (her father doesn't die unti the end of the first volume but we see it coming a long way off with his long illness); there are ghosts abundant (althought in the Scooby-Doo fashion they just turn out to be people in disguise); the orphan is entrusted to her aunt (uncle in Silas) who leaves her in the hands of the evil step-uncle; all women over the age of 20 (jaded women no doubt) are concerned only with their appearance and the affections of young men, while every woman under the age of 20 is innoncent and gentle. Everyone who meets our heroine is either in love with her (and if a villian seeks to destroy her purity) or so enamoured that they want to protect her.
Overall it has been a good read (I am 82% done..don't know the page number because my kindle version does not have pagination for this volume) and anticipate Valancourt will redeem himself; Emily will recover her stolen lands (from Montoni) and discover that the dead Marioness is her real mother (and the Chevalier who loved the marionness was in fact her real father); and live happily ever after in the castle with the count's family.
Okay, so I was wrong about her being the daughter of the Marionness, but really I think it would have been better if it went that way. The whole aunt thing was too unbelievable (especially since the father didn't investigate her property rights...leaving a daughter without much money would mean he might want her to claim the estate...right?). Overall I'm glad I read it but am also happy to be done with this kind of novel for a while.