Thoughts on “The Lady of the Shroud”

So, the second book in that three book set of Bram Stoker novels is “The Lady of the Shroud”.  Normally, I’d summarize the plot first and then get into criticizing it, but the main issue here is that the work doesn’t seem to know what plot it’s trying for, so instead I’ll just dive into the criticism.

The book returns to the style that works for Stoker, which is to use journal entries and letters instead of using a narrative style.  However, he starts by introducing a character that will not play a large role in the work and who only exists to talk about how bad a person the eventual protagonist is.  However, soon after that everyone else we see is effusive in their praise of him.  This could have been used to make a point about how different people see things differently, but from this point on everyone talks about how great he is and most of the book is from his perspective, which shows him as being a decent person.  Also, the person from the beginning shows up at his place later and acts like an ass, and so we know that he wasn’t a reliable narrator at the beginning.  Which is fine, but that character is an absolutely unnecessary character who does nothing for most of the book and isn’t even mentioned, so nothing is done with that at all.  So it’s completely extraneous.

The plot starts off as a supernatural one, with the protagonist being visited by a strange woman in a funeral shroud after he moves to a small European country due to an inheritance.  There’s also, at this point, a subplot about preparing the country to fight off attacks from the surrounding countries, Turkey in particular.  However, quite soon it is revealed that the woman is the daughter of the leader of the country who is pretending to be dead after falling into a coma that she recovered from, and the original subplot takes over as she and her father are abducted and have to be retrieved.  They then have to face down the Turks, which they do, and with radium mines and the like the country becomes prosperous, and he marries the woman and becomes the leader of the country.

So, what is the plot?  The supernatural one?  It’s resolved quite early and has a rather dull and uninteresting resolution, which is used more to further the Turk plot than anything else.  The Turk plot?  They’re a complication, not a plot.  The development of the country itself?  That the focus is mostly on the protagonist makes that a side plot for him to follow, not the main plot.  The development of the main protagonist from a more selfish and immature man into a proper and worthy man?  Aside from the introduction, there’s no indication that he wasn’t a proper and worthy man from the start, and he doesn’t seem to develop at all, so that can’t be it.  So what’s it about?  I still have no idea.

It’s also quite long, at over 300 pages, which makes the lack of any kind of real plot all the more annoying.

Ultimately, the book lacks a clear and coherent focus and is too long to lack something for us to focus on.  As such, I will not be reading this book again.

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One Response to “Thoughts on “The Lady of the Shroud””

  1. Thoughts on “The Lair of the White Worn” | The Verbose Stoic Says:

    […] novel itself seems a bit rushed, so Stoker might have a point here.  Then again, I remember “The Lady of the Shroud” and know that when Stoker adds length he doesn’t necessarily add clarity.  And while one […]

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