these are the abstracts of my time

Wilkie Collins goes to Venice

Cover of "The Haunted Hotel: A Mystery of...

The Haunted Hotel, by Wilkie Collins, is a bit of a Gothic horror story – not really a novel, but rather an extended short story. It has all the typical elements: mysterious European aristocrats, an old palace with a dungeon, a mad scientist, an innocent ingenue, missing persons, deaths from unexplained causes, etc.  It is pretty much like an Edgar Allen Poe story that has been somewhat enlarged, but the spookiness of it works in that same kind of way.

I found it an entertaining story that could probably be adapted for film or television drama, but there are a number of reasons why it is somewhat flawed. Firstly, there are too many characters who don’t have any real bearing on the essential plot; secondly, there are some loose ends that are never tied up; and thirdly, the way in which the puzzle is solved is implausible, even bearing in mind that I find all horror stories are implausible at some level.

Wilkie Collins.

I feel that this is a good example of the kind of Victorian popular literature that was produced to feed the appetite for melodrama.  Collins was often writing works that were designed for magazine serialisation and in this respect The Haunted Hotel was probably meant to be a quick piece of throw-away entertainment.  It is not such a good story as, for example, The Moonstone or The Woman in White and there is good reason why these two books have retained their popularity while The Haunted Hotel is not so well known.


2 comments on “Wilkie Collins goes to Venice

  1. Bellezza

    I agree with you that while this novella is similar to The Woman In White it doesn’t really compare. It’s not fully enough developed, for one thing, which I suppose it can’t be in only 140 pages. Still, he creates a very haunting atmosphere in both books. To me.

    I notice from your sidebar that you’re currently reading Across the River and Into The Trees. So far, that is my favorite book for the Venice in February challenge. Loved it, and I hope you do, too.

  2. Amy

    You make a very good point about why The Haunted Hotel isn’t as well known as Wilkie Collins 2 major books. The Haunted Hotel probably was writeen quickly for entertainmant purposes particularly since it has the creepy, haunting atmosphere Collins is so good at creating.

    I was considering reading The Haunted Hotel for the February in Venice Reading Challenge but I think if I read a short story I’ll go with Daphne Du Maurier’s instead. I appreciate your honest assessment of this story.

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