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Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu

average rating is 4 out of 5

Horror, Vampires, Gothic, Supernatural, Classics

R. Alex Jenkins

One of the differences between modern and classic literature is the short, stunted prose of the former compared to the long and winding sentences of the latter. Modern literature is more direct but often suffers because of it.

Carmilla is meandering but so beautifully written, like a breath of fresh air, building up an eerie atmosphere without needing to shock or jump straight in, getting to the point when it chooses by creating a dialogue of tender and well-thought-out prose. It's a sum of parts rather than a cornucopia of gory details.

Vampires, siphoned blood and terror in the moonlight, our imagination does the work for us instead of thrusting us into the darkness. This is the mark of a patient and talented author who writes with heart, passion and feeling, instead of going straight for the jugular by trying to shock.

I enjoyed the luscious lesbian element between two beautiful young women portrayed with dreamlike vivacity, one pretty blue-eyed and blonde, the other exquisite dark-eyed and exotic, emanating a strange and inexplicable attraction to each other. It's the ultimate seduction, told from a female aggressor perspective.

And there's the vampiric core; young and delicious Carmilla as a possessed, innocent and complicit culprit, more than she seems but worse than we suspect, hardly girlish at all, but an active and selfish vampire hell bent on living forever at the expense of others.

Easygoing and accessible, rewarding instead of crusty or pretentious, it surprised me a lot. Batting away the misconceptions of books written hundreds of years ago as dull!

The inclusion of spooky images in my Kindle version is a nice touch and adds atmosphere, and one of my biggest regrets is the shortness of the book, which could have been longer and more detailed, plus the ending is a bit weak, but that's the sweetness and shortlived charm of Carmilla. Like a moth to the flame, interestingly historical, with wooden stakes to the heart and severed heads for good measure.

On a sidenote, I'm not going to attack Dracula for copycatting Carmilla 25 years later as it's a fantastic book and I wouldn't have read Carmilla without it. It's enough to be pleasantly surprised and weirdly enchanted.

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