I just finised reading Carmilla, a gothic tale about the first vampire story ever published.
Carmilla is a Gothic novella by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu. First published in 1871 as a serial narrative in The Dark Blue, it tells the story of a young woman’s susceptibility to the attentions of a female vampire named Carmilla. Carmilla predates Bram Stoker‘s Dracula by 26 years, and has been adapted many times for cinema. Although Carmilla is a lesser known and far shorter Gothic vampire story than the generally-considered master work of that genre, Dracula, the latter is heavily influenced by Le Fanu’s short story.
The character of Carmilla is listed as a fictional lesbian on the wiki entry as well. Now for the premise of the book.
Carmilla takes place from the point of view of the young woman, who is seduced by Carmilla. Everything takes place from what she sees and experiences. A quick synopsis of the book can be summed up in this Editorial Review from Publisher’s Weekly.
Generally acknowledged as a major influence on Bram Stoker’s Dracula, this novel, originally published in 1872, is the very first vampire thriller. Le Fanu, often compared to Poe, was a Victorian writer whose tales of the occult have inspired horror writers for more than a century. Seemingly by happenstance, the mysterious and beautiful Carmilla comes to stay with the young and virtuous Laura. Laura, who has been living a lonely existence with her father in an isolated castle, finds herself enchanted with her exotic visitor. As the two become close friends, however, Laura dreams of nocturnal visitations and begins to lose her physical strength. Through much investigation, the gruesome truth about Carmilla and her family is revealed. Though the basic premise of the story, that of evil targeting pure innocence, is familiar to anyone who is vampire savvy, this haunting tale is surprisingly fresh, avoids cliche and builds well to its climax. Particularly interesting are the sexual overtones that develop between the two women. Follows’s reading is flawless. In particular, her ability to capture Laura’s naivete so convincingly will have listeners feeling almost as shocked as Laura as the unwholesome truth unravels. (Sept.)
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The book itself was a very fast read, and contained a lot of the kind of prose found in novels and novellas published in the late 19th Century. The language is flowing and robust, but quite easy to read. Very good descriptions of the characters are given, and even the actions that each undertakes, although, all of that through the eyes of the young woman, Laura.
This book is an excellent addition to anyone who likes gothic tales, and in particular, vampire stories. As what is considered the very first vampire story, it’s also of interest to note that it contains heavy lesbian connections while leaving a lot to the imagination of the reader.
For those looking for a book which contains queer representation, plus a good gothic tale, this early (even first) vampire tale is one to look for.