Thursday, 19 February 2015

The Haunted Hotel: A Mystery of Modern Venice by Wilkie Collins

First published in 1876, The Haunted Hotel by Wilkie Collins was a supernatural novel. Despite the title, most of the events in the book did not exactly happened at the hotel. Instead, it chronicled the journey of Montbarry's relatives as they finally went to the hotel and uncovered a terrible secret.

I'll start by talking about the less than tasteful aspect of the novel. Agnes Lockwood, the jilted lover, was everything that was expected of a gentlewoman of that time ("...but I am only a woman, and you must not expect too much from me."); she honestly bored me to death and I did not even care for her. I also did not understand her devotion for the scoundrel who jilted her. Agnes was definitely suffering from a case misplaced affection. She was even angry at anyone who dared to badmouth (spoke the truth about) Lord Montbarry. That was laughable after what Montbary had done to her. 

Since the events set in Victorian era, a woman didn't have much future prospect especially one of middle class like Agnes. Her future was mentioned as destroyed after jilted by Montbarry, unless she managed to find a husband, which was considered as almost unlikely because of her age (late twenties). Another example can be taken from the case of Mrs. Ferrari, who was Agnes' former maid. She was abused by her husband, whom, through Agnes' help, managed to land a job with Montbarry. Despite the abuses inflicted to her, she always justified his actions and actually thought him a saint after his death. This made me bristle with indignation.

Anyhow, I still enjoy the mystery even though the author kinda spoiled everything to us readers by his constant foreshadowing and mention of destiny and upcoming. The Countess who was supposed to be the wicked villain with no redeeming quality came off as the most interesting character of the whole. In fact, she was the saving grace of this short novel, in my opinion. Her guilty conscience and the circumstances that led to her ruin were well developed. She probably would have had a different fate if she was not attached to her brother as well as married to someone horrible like Lord Montbarry.

I used to like The Haunted Hotel a lot more when I first read it. I found that the story was fascinating and the unexplained supernatural occurrences to be justified as not everything has answer to it. Upon rereading however, my feeling changed for reasons stated above. The book rating went from 4 stars into mere 2 stars, cause you know, even if it's bad, it's still Collins!

Have you read The Haunted Hotel or any novel by Wilkie Collins?


  1. I like Wilkie Collins, I've read The Woman in White and The Moonstone. Some of his female characters are just like you describe, but I loved Marian in WoW, so I'm willing to ignore it a bit.

    1. I had read The Dead Secret by Wilkie Collins and like the female characters in there. I plan to read The Woman in White for one of reading challenges this year. You make me more excited about it!