Saturday, June 30, 2007

Carmilla by J. Sheridan LeFanu (Audio Book)

Title: Carmilla
Author: J. Sheridan LeFanu

Narrator: Elizabeth Keltt

Publisher: Librivox

First Published: 1872

Running time: 3 hrs 17 min 35 sec

Format: Audio Book

Rating: 7/10

When an accident occurs on a road near their castle, Laura and her father take in the stranded survivor. Carmilla and Laura both appear young, beautiful, and innocent. But one is an ageless vampire; the other, an unsuspecting victim. True to vampire rituals involving blood, fear of dying, and obsessive eroticism, Carmilla herself falls victim to the "rapture of cruelty that is love."

The description throughout this is rich and almost exotic, depicting a secluded chateau where a visitor arriving causes a stir, even when the guest is a stranger. Homing in on the hopes and deepest, darkest fears of humanity (hope that there is life after death, but fear of the unknown hereafter), the narrative in a the form of a letter written some years after the fact, strums the nerves and gives a constant sense of foreboding and quiet danger of a most seductive kind.

Some of the plot devices used (I won’t reveal them, as it would spoil things for future readers) are dated and painfully obvious, but it does not detract from the mounting tension as the tale reaches its zenith, and although it is not overtly horrific, with very little in the way of graphic scenes of horror (focusing more on the sensuality of such beings as vampires), it is still more than enough to draw the reader into the narrative and involve them in all that transpires.

It's not quite as dark or chilling as Dracula, but it's easy to see where Bram Stoker took his cues (Carmilla was reputedly one of the greatest inspirations for Stoker’s own Gothic vampire novel). All the elements are there - a lonely, secluded castle; a mysteriously hypnotic stranger; a strange sickness taking hold of a beautiful young woman and causing the death of another; an eccentric "expert" and a tale of tragedy and darkness. It's an enthralling read and a must for fans of Gothic vampire fiction.


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