Great White Snark: "It finally answers the question, WHAAT???"

Monday, October 3, 2011

"It finally answers the question, WHAAT???"

I just finished this book, The Monk, and it would be criminal of me NOT to write about it. I've had the pic of the cover on my sidebar...the one of Satan dragging a monk through the sky by his skull? Yeah, that's the one. I don't really even know how I feel about I'll just summarize.

Okay, so this book is about a monk (WHOA, right?). And he's not just like some random monk. He is the HOLIEST guy in Madrid. Like, probably the holiest guy in the whole world save the Pope. Also, this book was written by Protestants who hated Catholics, and really, you can't have a gothic book with Protestants because they're too staunch and no fun. With Catholics you can have all kinds of fun with nuns and abbeys and saints and spirits and stuff.

Well, I'd gathered from the summary of the book and the intro that the story would be based around the Monk's decline from holiness into sin. So naturally I'm like,
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The Monk's best (and only) friend in the monastery is Rosario, a noviciate (monk-to-be). He's young and broody and tragic so the Monk feels bad for him. Well, one day, he comes across Rosario crying bitterly and he asks why and Rosario reveals that he is, in fact, A WOMAN! Named MATILDA!
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So she's all distressed because the Monk is the only friend she has in the world and she will DEFINITELY be banished for sneaking around the monastery dressed up as a woman. So she's tearing her hair and robes in distress, and the Monk sees her boob. So naturally, he has to sleep with her now because she had SUCH an awesome boob.

So a lot of crap happens and he sleeps with Matilda. But like, not just once. He becomes a raving sex maniac. And within like 3 days, he grows tired of Matilda and wants to see if other women are as awesome in the sack. Luckily for him, because he's the "holiest" guy in Madrid, all the single beautiful women (and their moms and aunts) go to him for confession. So he hears confession from this one girl, Antonia, and he falls desperately in lust with her. And he determines to sleep with her no matter what.

Matilda figures this out and she's like, "yeah, that's cool. I'll help you."

I don't even. But conveniently, it turns out that Matilda is not only a poser-monk and a sex goddess with amazing ta-ta's, but she's also a sorceress. Whee! So she drags the monk into the catacombs (because clearly this is where you need to be to do magic), and leaves him to go into a chamber to summon some demons. She comes back with a silver myrtle branch and tells him that if he breathes 3 times on the myrtle branch and says Antonia's name and then places it under her pillow, she'll fall into a death-like sleep and he'll be able to RAPE HER. AND HE AGREES THAT THIS IS A LEGIT PLAN.
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Oh, also, the branch can open any doors. So hooray for that.

So he goes to Antonia's house, breaks in with his magical satanic branch of lechery, and puts her to sleep. And he's just about to do the deed when KNOCK KNOCK, who's there? It's ANTONIA'S MOTHER. And she catches him about to rape her daughter and she's outraged and tries to get help and oust him to the whole city. And then he grabs Antonia's pillow and SMOTHERS THE MOM. To death. In her daughter's bedroom.
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Well, then there's some epic descriptions of her eyes bulging out of her head and her skin turning black, so I'm guessing that put him out of the mood. And he runs off leaving the corpse and the sleeping girl in the room.

He returns to Matilda and she's basically like "omg you pussy." And she shows him a magic mirror which reveals Antonia going to take a bath (it's the magical mirror of perversion). And he's overcome with lust again and determines to have Antonia NO MATTER WHAT. So then a bunch of stuff happens, I don't really remember, but eventually he ends up in the catacombs with Matilda again and she's drawing pentagrams and cutting herself and then Satan appears. And the Monk is all like, "This is so not a good idea." And Satan's like, "Nah, I'll help you sleep with Antonia." So then the Monk is like, "Jk, this is cool."

The entire plot of this book happens over the course of like 10 days, btw.

This middle part gets kind of fuzzy because there's two other subplots going on. But eventually, the Monk poisons Antonia, kidnaps her, and takes her down into the catacombs and he does eventually rape her. It's a really horrible scene for a 1700's book. Then, it turns out there are riots in the streets because the Prioress of the adjoining convent tortured and killed a pregnant woman (this book is so insane), so the catacombs are being invaded by insurrectionists. Antonia starts screaming for help, and not wanting to get caught the Monk STABS HER. AFTER RAPING HER.

At this point I'm just like:
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So then Matilda comes into the catacombs and they're trapped by the rebels, and they get caught and sent to the Inquisition (another great Catholic thing that wouldn't be as effective if this story had taken place in a Protestant church). They're both put on trial and eventually Matilda confesses and she's sentenced to be burned at the stake. On the night before her execution she shows up in the Monk's cell and he's like, "How did you escape?" and she's like, "I sold my soul to Satan. It's totally awesome! Here's the big book of Satanism if you decide you want to do the same thing." He's like, "WHHHAAATTT??" and then she just disappears, because apparently you can do stuff like that if you have no soul. Or if Satan owns your soul, rather. So the Monk is in torment because he KNOWS he's going to hell anyway, but he doesn't want to abandon the hope of God's mercy entirely. Then the next day he's also sentenced to burn at the stake. And is absolutely terrified of this. So like, 2 seconds before they come to get him, he summons Satan with the book and agrees to sell over his soul in return for escape. Satan also promises him an awesome life full of luxury, but you probably shouldn't believe everything that SATAN tells you.

So after he signs over his soul with his own blood, Satan poofs him away to a cliff. And the Monk's like, "Hold on. Where's Matilda and all the luxury and awesomeness?" And Satan's like, "Lol, jk! Matilda was a demon in disguise and I sent her to be your downfall and lead you to me. And she totally did! Also, just FYI, that girl you raped? She was your sister. And you strangled your mom to death. So, sucks to be you!" I'm just like:
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SO THEN, Satan sinks his talons into the Monk's brain (Satan has claws, apparently) and flies him over this rocky cavern where he drops him. And the Monk literally hits every stone on the way down and lands in a bloody pulp at the bottom. And he's paralyzed. And then bugs come and start to eat him alive over the course of a week and an eagle plucks out his eyes. And then a river floods and drowns him.
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As I said before, there's a whole nice subplot with the decent man who's in love with Antonia, and his sister who turns out to be the pregnant woman tortured by the evil Prioress. But NONE of that is as shocking as the whole Monk and Matilda bit.

This book is a total HEAD TRIP. I don't even It was extremely well-written, and I think I enjoyed it just because I can imagine what ladies of sensibility did in 1796 upon reading it. It was banned for a while, and I am not surprised. AT ALL. Some of those scenes were really intense and gruesome, even by today's standards. Usually authors of old gloss over those bits but NO. Matthew Lewis (NOT the guy who played Neville Longbottom) goes all out and describes it all in grand and glorious detail.

I just think it's interesting, because really, we haven't changed at all. This was like the 1700's version of the Charlie Sheen meltdown. We still LOVE to read about people who are on top of the world have a MAJOR fall from grace. We love it when seemingly good people go shaved-headed, paparazzi-beating, seven-mistresses, tiger blood and Adonis DNA on us. This is the same thing. Minus a glossy cover and full color photographs.

Overall, I had two reactions:
1. In which my brain is the airplane and the shark is this book.
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Do I recommend it? Hmm. I mean, it was really well-written, and I absolutely couldn't put it down. Some parts of it were hysterical because it was just like, "Is this SERIOUSLY happening right now??" Overall, no, I don't think I would because it'd make me look like some kind of sicko. As Bethany put it, "If someone had written that today, they'd be arrested."


  1. So, I have read this book. I totes don't remember anything about it. And yet, your summary will stick with me forever.

  2. There are a lot of books, I think, that you kind of read and then absolutely forget (esp if you're a lit major).

    This is not one of them.

  3. Greatest summary ever. I had to take a bath after finishing the second ending. Golly, I wished I had put the book down after everyone who I liked lived happily ever after.