Friday, April 22, 2011

Thoughts: Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu

I first heard about Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla when Mel over at The Reading Life mentioned it. Two things mainly caught my eye. Sheridan Le Fanu was actually Bram Stroker’s contemporary, and Mel mentioned something about lesbian vampires. These two things combined really fascinated me. I couldn’t wrap my mind around the thought of lesbian vampires during the prudish Victorian era.

Laura lives with her father, a nanny, a governess, and a host of servants at a remote castle in Styria. Their closest neighbors live miles away, so Laura lives a life of isolation. Through an accident, a visitor named Carmilla arrives in their midst. Unbeknownst to Laura and her family, Carmilla is a bringer of sinister tidings.

I thought Carmilla was very predictable. It didn’t have me on the edge of my seat, like I first thought. I predicted how it would end, and didn’t feel gratified that I was right. I did consider, though, that today’s pop culture has desensitized me in a way. I’ve seen so many horror movies and read so many thrillers that nothing feels original anymore. I’m pretty sure that Carmilla must have shocked readers when it was first published, and I tried to keep that in mind while reading.

I did like Le Fanu’s portrayal of a “lesbian” relationships—a little peek into a Victorian’s views on same sex relationships. Sure, the whole “relationship” was justified by the fact that vampires tend to attach themselves emotionally to their prey, but the attachment between Laura and Carmilla was very believable.

Overall, Carmilla was a fun, little novella that completely entertained me. You can download a free copy from Project Gutenberg if you have the time.

Rating: 3/5

6 comments:

mel u said...

Thanks for the mention-I agree Carmilla is entertaining-I liked to for the atmosphere it created-I think maybe it seems predictable to us it set the pattern for 1000s of others to follow-in its day it was new-you might like his short story "The Child Who Was Stolen by Fairies"

Tiny Library said...

Yeah, it's hard when we read things now to be as shocked or thrilled as people were when they first came out. I'm reading Justine by the Marquis de Sade at the moment and it's not as shocking/controversial as I had heard it would be.

Zibilee said...

I know what you mean about being desensitized. I have read a few classic that just didn't hit me the way that I know they were intended to, and I can only believe it is because I am somewhat jaded by all that I have read and seen by this point in my life.

simplerpastimes said...

I think it definitely is harder to appreciate horror stories from centuries past as horror stories, and not just because of all the horror stories we are surrounded by today: so many of the old stories have entered our conscious that we know what is going to happen. I loved Dracula but as I read it, I thought how much more effective the reading would be if I didn't already know what Count Dracula was.

I have Carmilla on my list, for pretty much the same reasons you do. I just can't imagine lesbian portrayals in Victorian fiction... At least I know not to expect it to keep me up at night!

Trisha said...

I think I read a short version of this - or is it the complete version - in LeFanu's In a Glass Darkly. I will have to check that out....

Nevey ♦ Berry said...

I liked it but never liked lesbian vampires part.

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