Monday, June 3, 2013
Review:Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu
This is an old book,a classic. Published around 1872 and about 25 years before Bram Stoker's Dracula. This is a must read for all vampire lovers.
I would consider this to be quite mild compared to many of today's versions of the Genre but there are many elements that still come through to today.
One of these that shows up markedly in Camilla is the lustful sexual nature of vampirism. In this instance it is of particular note in that there are undertones of lesbianism within the writing. Although it is circumspect enough, understandable for the time it was written, that it could be construed as a relationship of very close friends. It could even be considered as a cautionary tale about such friendships leading to no good.
This also chronicles the nature of the vampire stalking its prey with a persistence and a predatory nature that borders on both excessive compulsion to strange desire. It plays into the hypnotic nature of the vampire to the intended victim and the almost helplessness of that victim to recognize the danger they are in.
We also see that little bit about poking fun at itself in that there is an added explanation that when the vampires are among society they look normal and health as opposed to pale cyanic.
In their casket and grave they are still somewhat lifelike faint breathing but are surrounded by a pool of blood.
To be killed, they are staked and beheaded.
The story takes place in Styria a state in Austria. Laura and her father live in a remote castle whose nearest neighbor is an abandoned village where the family of Karnstein once lived.
Laura begins her story by recounting a nightmare she had as a child where a strange but beautiful woman comes to her bed. It starts out as a delightful comforting experience until she feels two needles poke her near her breast.
Fast forward to a young adult and she shows us how isolated and lonely her home is. She is hopeful for a visit from their friend, General Spielsdorf's, niece, Bertha Rheinfeldt. Much to her horror and dismay a letter is received explaining Bertha's untimely death. All of this figures into the story.
As fortune might have it one day while enjoying the evening air and the moonlight. This scene sounds like its straight out of those old black and white movies we loved so much and stayed up late watching on tv. A mist like smoke over the low ground like a transparent veil. Only in the story Laura makes it sound beautiful instead of foreboding. A carriage, almost out of nowhere, arrives in a seeming hurry that causes it to have a near catastrophe.
From the carriage come a stately lady and her, purported, daughter. The lady has some immense secret emergency and she fears taking her injured and sickly daughter too far. This seems to play on Laura's father's sense of chivalry and he offers to take the girl into his home to have Laura's governess take care of her and to afford companionship for Laura.
It is not until later inside the castle home that Laura discovers the face of this woman matches the face in her dream. Despite the horror it gives her Laura is inexplicably drawn to this woman. They become fast friends though many times the liberty that Carmilla takes with that friendship cause Laura uneasy feelings.
Camilla seems to be afflicted with some sort of illness and always seems weak. She is paranoid and has to lock herself in her bedroom at night, alone. She doesn't rise until around noon. She often lapses into moods where she expresses a very deep affection for Laura.
When reports start coming in of some malady killing women in a nearby village and Laura begins to have dreams similar to the one she had so long ago. Laura begins to feel tired and desperate, thinking she may be suffering from the unexplained illness that is going around.
It is not until the General comes back to the area to visit that things begin to unfold and make sense. But, Laura is conflicted by here feelings for Carmilla when she hears what must be the truth.
There is an interesting, perhaps signature aspect in this story. The vampire seems to go by names that are anagrams of her original name. Millarca, Mircalla, and Carmilla.
Any aficionado of Vampires should read this book to delve into the root of the earliest published tales of this type of fiction.
If I have one disappointment from this; it's that there seem to be a group of people aiding this creature in getting ingratiated with their victims who are mentioned and noted in two different instances but we never know what their true role is in all of this.