Books Read in 2015 – 17. Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu

eclecticreader15 Genre: Horror, Classics, Vampires Narrative Style: First person. Introduced as if part of a doctor’s case-notes Rating 3/5carmilla-240 Published: 1871 Format: Kindle Reading challenges: Eclectic reader challenge 2015 – genre: A story written before I was born. Synopsis: Laura and her father live in a solitary castle in Austria. One night, they witness a terrible coach crash and are persuaded to look after the victims daughter as she is considered too ill to carry on. Strange night time occurrences and appearances begin to bother Laura although she doesn’t immediately associate them with their new guest.  This early vampire story – which pre-dates Dracula by some 26 years – seems quite old-fashioned now. It is a story that has seeped into popular culture. Unfortunately when you then read the original version, it is hard not to feel it is a little predictable. This only shows the extent of the influence of Le Fanu’s story. I particularly enjoyed the opening with its creepy descriptions of the surrounding area and the hints of empty villages and deserted castles. The scene was very effectively set for what was to come. When a friend of the family’s daughter dies in mysterious circumstances just as she was about to visit Laura and the equally mysterious Carmilla appears just days later, the reader knows that something is not quite right. Equally, I found the build up of tension between Laura and Carmilla convincing and interesting. Laura is both attracted and repulsed by her guest and cannot put her finger on why. Carmilla is prone to strange romantic longings with Laura as their focus. These episodes are unsettling to Laura and probably would have been to readers at the time. However, momentum does not quite hold up and the revealing of Carmilla’s vampire status is a bit of an anticlimax. The General – the friend whose daughter died – recounts his own experience with Carmilla in a nearby ruined village. When Carmilla appears, he attempts to attack her but she is too strong for him, thus proving that she is indeed a vampire. At just the right moment, a vampire expert and hunter appears who just happened to know where the hidden tomb of Carmilla is. This ending seems a little rushed and underdeveloped. It’s a shame because I had enjoyed it up until that point.

Books Read in 2014 – 47. Let the Right One in – John Ajvide Lindqvist

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Genre: Horror, Vampires

Narrative Style: Third person chronological

Rating 5/5 

Published: 2009

Format: Paperbackdownload (14)

Synopsis: Oskar a loner, bullied at school and friendless, is over the moon when he meets Eli, the girl who moves into his apartment block. She seems a little strange but then so is Oskar. However, all is not as it seems and with Eli’s arrival comes a series of strange deaths and uncanny events. Oskar knows she has a secret but could not have imagined the full extent of her story.

Reading challenges: TBR challenge

Time of Shelf: I bought this not long after I watched the film which I really enjoyed. But then I was worried it wouldn’t live up to the film (whenever I read a book of a film, I seem to like it less than the film) so I started to avoid reading it. 

I was a bit nervous starting to read this. Not because I thought I might be scared – I rather hoped I would be – but because I had loved the film so much. (The Swedish original not the American remake.) I had high expectations. What if the book couldn’t live up to them? Well, I needed have worried. This book is amazing in its own right and while I enjoyed it more than the film, the film didn’t lose anything as a result. I could still watch it.

It is almost difficult to know where to start. As with all good horror, this is more than a story about vampires. It’s about good and evil and the very basis of what it means to be human. Eli – or Elias as it is later revealed – has to kill in order to survive ( if survive is really the right word) but is less monstrous than the man who helps her by killing young boys and bleeding them. He is eventually caught out by his own desire for young flesh and when  he becomes un-dead, it is this perversion that drives him to almost destroy Eli in one of the most disturbing encounters in the novel. As a vampire, he represents all of society’s great fears about the potential danger of the paedophile.

By contrast, Eli and Oskar’s relationship is almost innocent. They are both on the cusp of adolescence and their relationship slides between childish and adult. Oskar is more disturbed to discover that Eli is actually a boy (although one that has been castrated) than to discover he is a vampire. She gives him the confidence to stand up to the bullies at school and he gives her a much needed friend. They are both outsiders – the details of their difference are less important than the fact of it.

Where this novel really succeeds is the sense of place that  the reader is given. Like in the best of Stephen King’s work, Lindqvist shows the reader the smallness of his characters’ lives. The small town is suffocating, killing its inhabitants as surely as if it was the monster. And for the ones that are left alive at the end, there is no escape. Only back to the grey, dead landscape of their everyday life.

Having said that, the end of this story is not depressing and you can’t help feeling hopeful for Oskar and Eli. They are the ones that get away and even though one of them is hundred of years old and lives of the blood of others, you hope that they will be happy.