Finished reading the first book of 2021 – Carmilla by J Sheridan Le Fanu, the vampire novella which came out almost three decades before Bram Stoker’s wildly popular Dracula.
First off – How is this lesbian vampire novella not more famous than Count Drac?! I mean, I didn’t even know it was a lesbian vampire novella until I began reading it and then told my husband who was sitting across me “I think I am reading a lesbian themed book!”. Just because I haven’t read many lesbian themed books.
When I read Dracula in 2002 as a school-girl, the novel was fascinating to say the least. Stephanie Meyer still hadn’t dreamt up the Twilight series. Bram Stoker seemed like the first master story-teller of the Vampire realm. But Sheridan’s Carmilla, though now too old for the imagination of readers saturated with blood-sucker stories, is still a gripping read.
Told from the perspective of a young girl who almost falls to her death at the hands of a lady vampire, Carmilla is a straightforward tale that has all the charms of a gothic classic. The narrator recalls meeting a stranger, who is left under the care of her father when their carriage meets with an accident. The stranger is called Carmilla and both the girls are immediately drawn to each other. What caught me by surprise was the LGBT theme in the novella, considering it came out in 1872, that’s more than 250 years ago!
It’s a strange gripping tale of friendship, love and the supernatural. Since it’s novella sized and written in a conversational manner, it gets over pretty quickly and there aren’t any dull pages in between. While reading it did make me wonder if Bram Stoker was inspired by it, there is no evidence to suggest that he did. Although some critics do believe that he may have read Carmilla before he wrote his epistolary novel. One thing I do know – Carmilla is an easier, breezier read!
Coolest bit I learnt from this – The main antagonist of the animated Netflix series Castlevania is based on this book – she is also called Carmilla and is from Styria, where Sheridan’s story unfolds.