The House of Ulloa by Emilia Pardo Bazán

I wrote this for Deweys 24 hours readathon. There will be mistakes.

ulloaFather Julián Alvarez is sent to be chaplain for the marquis of Ulloa. He comes to a place that is falling apart, mostly de to the marquis being under the boot of Primitivo. By the marquis own confession he knows things aren’t good, but that he can’t do anything that goes against Primitivo. Including kicking out his daughter who is working for the marquis as a servant. Alvarez convinces the marquis to get married when he is in town visiting his cousin.

This book is a Gothic story, but the scary elements aren’t in the supernatural. The House of Ulloa is in a rural area and a huge theme of the book is understanding some of the weaknesses of a rural community, especially when you’re an outsider.

The scary elements come from the people themselves, how they are and how they can be used. It’s also about how a certain kind of people can influence other kinds of people, with disastrous effect. Don’t get me wrong, Alvarez is so good he makes everyone a sinner. Yet, the book is clear on the fact that Alvarez isn’t a good example. One of the reasons he struggles in the book is because he is too weak, by being too pious, to stand up to the harsher forces that are some of the other characters. If he had been stronger, things would have been easier. The book is clear that you can’t just be a good character by example. Either extreme isn’t right.

“If it was just a question of praying!” cried the unworldly Julián, “I’ve been praying to him since yesterday,” – chapter XVII


I like this book, because I think natural elements are scarier than supernatural. At the same time this is a book that needs you to have time, to allow you to build atmosphere. I would highly recommend this for someone who wants a different kind of scary story.


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