Isabelle Holland Joseph J. Feeney - Essay

Joseph J. Feeney

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

A pleasant entertainment though not a significant novel, Moncrieff offers the strange combination of a realistic domestic novel and a Gothic thriller. (p. 306)

This linking of the realistic and Gothic traditions is generally successful. As a Gothic novel Moncrieff offers chills and suspense, especially since it focuses much of the mystery on the old house of Antonia and her twelve-year-old son. It is carefully plotted, too, as a suspense novel requires. As a domestic novel Moncrieff tells about her failed marriage, about bringing up a bright son without his father, and about the motives of Antonia, her former husband, and the novelist. There are some problems, though, in combining the two sub-genres. The Gothic thriller suffers from needing the factual explanations demanded by realism; the realism suffers from overplotting and from having Dauntry, Antonia's former husband, act the Gothic villain from motives of pure self-interest and near-malignity.

Moncrieff is almost unfailingly interesting. Its exposition is smooth and natural; its first-person viewpoint, though sometimes bringing heavy-handed humor, adds immediacy both to the realism and to the fear. The style is sometimes awkward, but the novel reads smoothly. In a way it details a quest for father, son, husband, father, and love; in a way it is merely a mystery story. The fact that mystery and plot are the most striking aspects shows why Moncrieff stands as pleasant entertainment but not lasting fiction. (pp. 306-07)

Joseph J. Feeney, "'Moncrieff'," in Best Sellers (copyright © 1976 Helen Dwight Reid Educational Foundation), Vol. 35, No. 10, January, 1976, pp. 306-07.