Adventures in Reading


Fiction: Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu, 1872

“The effect of the full moon in such a state of brilliancy was manifold. It acted on dreams, it acted on lunacy, it acted on nervous people, it had marvelous physical influence connected with life.”

J. Sheridan LeFanu’s Carmilla is a novella about vampires and a predecessor to Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Laura and her father inhabit a lonely schloss in “Styria;” after a carriage accident outside of their home, a strange and “invalid” girl is left with the family. Laura and the girl Carmilla recollect each other from a dream-like experience from their childhoods. The family’s experience with Carmilla is surreal and haunting; the neighboring villages are plagued with some sort of feverish, wasting disease, which kills a variety of female inhabitants. The emphasis in Carmilla, unlike in Dracula, is with female subjects as both predators and victims.

This year has turned into my year of vampires, I suppose, and my interest in Carmilla was peaked while reading the introduction to Dracula. Though LeFanu’s work is easily solved approximately half way through and there are some significant unanswered questions, Carmilla is bother a curious and interesting look at vampirism.

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5 Comments

I read this earlier in the year and enjoyed it, especially seeing what Stoker borrowed! I’ve got Uncle Silas by le Fanu in my TBR pile, and am looking forward to it.

Comment by Sarah

LeFanu has been someone I’ve never paid much attention to, mostly because I didn’t know he existed, but this sounds intriguing, especially the focus on women as both predator and victim. Something about the way you described Carmilla as being strange and “invalid” made me think of Octavia Butler’s Fledgling.

Have you read, and enjoyed, anything else by LeFanu?

Comment by Chris

Sarah: It was such an interesting read after all of the other vampire books I’ve read in 2008, and I’ll look forward to your review on Silas.

Chris: It’s such a short novella and I highly recommend that you pick it up. Thanks for the Butler recommend and I’ve read nothing else by LeFanu, but I’m looking forward to doing so in the future.

Comment by bookchronicle

[…] (1814-1873) was one of the most popular writers of Victorian times. A writer whose vampire story Carmilla is known to have influenced fellow-Dubliner Bram […]

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