I am a long-time fan of supernatural fiction – having read modern vampire series such as Sookie Stackhouse and Twilight (yes, I was a big fan of these series in another life) and many other modern vampire tales.
Allow me to admit, though shamefully, I have never read Dracula nor any of Anne Rice’s vampire series for fear that they would be heavy reads and that the writing style might be too serious for my taste. After watching the movie versions, I also found it unnecessary to pick up the book format.
I was very much attracted to the Pushkin Press cover version, which is really beautiful. What pulled me in further was the statement “the cult classic that inspired Dracula” printed on the cover.
I did find it odd that Le Fanu’s Carmilla inspired famously recognized vampire stories such as Bram Stroker’s Dracula and Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles. Yet, only a few people seem to know about this short gothic vampire story.
Carmilla was published 25 years before Dracula and presented vampires and lesbian literature, making me wonder how Carmilla was received when it was published in 1872.
Set in a gothic atmosphere surrounding an isolated castle deep in the Austrian forest, Laura leads a solitary life with her father for company.
Laura is the main narrator and tells the story of a young lady, Carmilla, whose horse-drawn carriage crashes near Laura’s home and becomes an unexpected guest of her household. Laura thus begins a close relationship with the mysterious and entrancing Carmilla.
“Sometimes after an hour of apathy, my strange and beautiful companion would take my hand and hold it with a fond pressure, renewed again and again; blushing softly, gazing in my face with languid and burning eyes, and breathing so fast that her dress rose and fell with the tumultuous respiration. It was like the ardor of a lover; it embarrassed me; it was hateful and yet over-powering; and with gloating eyes she drew me to her, and her hot lips traveled along my cheek in kisses; and she would whisper, almost in sobs, “You are mine, you shall be mine, you and I are one for ever.” Then she had thrown herself back in her chair, with her small hands over her eyes, leaving me trembling.”
It was clear that their relationship went beyond friendship and that there was an attraction between the two, and it’s this kind of writing that makes me wonder how readers reacted to Le Fanu’s writing in the 1800s.
Le Fanu’s Carmilla was only 150 pages long and made it a perfect weekend read. The short chapters were a breeze to read through, and also the language used felt that it could have been written in modern times.
Having pre-existing knowledge that Carmilla was a vampire made it less mysterious, but it remained engaging. Overall, I found Carmilla to be fascinating and should be read by anyone interested in vampire fiction.
Favourite quotes from the book:
- “But dreams come through stone walls, light up dark rooms, or darken light ones, and their persons make their exits and their entrances as they please, and laugh at locksmiths.”
- But into what quackeries will not people rush for the last chance, where all accustomed means have failed, and the life of a beloved object is at stake?
- “Nevertheless, life and death are mysterious states, and we know little of the resources of either.”