Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Review: Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice

Title: Interview with the Vampire

Author: Anne Rice

Year: 1976

Rating: 4.5/5

Plot: One night, a boy sits down with a stranger to hear the story of his life.

What makes this stranger's life story so interesting, however, is that for over 200 years he has been living as a creature of the night - a vampire.

And so the stranger begins a tale of hurt and betrayal, love and passion, good and evil.

Review: It took me a good three months to read this book from start to finish. I first read Interview with the Vampire while I was in my teens after seeing the film, and I'd forgotten how heavy Anne Rice was as a writer.

In some ways she reminds me of John Steinbeck. Not in theme, but in style. Her pages are filled with description that, at times, aren't broken down for a long while. Perhaps it's my lifestyle that makes me tired the majority of the time, but I find books like this quite long-winded if I just want a quick read while on the train to work or while waiting at a doctor's office. As a result, I'll feel my eyelids start to droop quite quickly if the paragraphs aren't broken down enough. As I said, I'm tired a lot of the time because of my lifestyle but Rice's writing didn't help matters.

Nevertheless, I took a small break from it over Christmas, and was eager to come back to it. This time around I finished it no problem. Maybe I needed that time away from it to breathe.

Interview with the Vampire has quickly become a classic in vampire literature. It's not hard to see why. Rather than the sparkly, friends-and-lovers-of-people creatures we read about in today's novels, the vampires in this book are as they should be: scary, dangerous monsters.

Louis, the title character, is a wonderfully complex character. His struggle to come to terms with the change between human and immortal, and the terrible guilt he feels towards his desire to kill, is fascinating. It is Louis' journey to find a proper peace of mind and discover where he lies in the balance of things that we follow with equal wonder and excitement.

Louis' problem is that he was never really given a choice. As a human he suffered from terrible grief over the death of his brother, and wished for death to come to him too. A vampire heard his pleas and came to his aid. As a result Louis now has questions that he can't find the answers for.

If vampires are Satan's children, as he belives them to be, how can he achieve a confident state of mind and enjoy an eternal life as those immortals around him can?

His vampire creator, Lestat, is one of my favourite characters in literature. Lestat has such mystery to him. We don't know where this creature has come from. We know nothing of his history and why he keeps Louis in the dark about the secret to his 'curse.' Is Lestat merely disappointed by the answers or is he, himself, also a confused wanderer, struggling to find companions to shield the pain? If so, why? Again, where has he come from?

It is Rice's ability to create characters with such unbelievable depth and mystery that make her a mistress of her craft. While Louis' narration keeps us intrigued to find the answers he's been searching for, it also provides a one-sided view of many spectacular characters (Lestat, Claudia, Armand) that we long to hear more about. Louis' description of the glances and feelings he gets from these characters don't do them justice: We want to get inside their heads too.

I really can not wait to read the second book of The Vampire Chronicles. The Vampire Lestat should hopefully bring to light a lot of Lestat's backstory. I guess that's also why I'm slightly apprehensive to read it too. Do I really want to get rid of all this mystery that surrounds him? At the moment I'm deeply sympathetic towards him because I have an idea in my head of a poor lost soul, struggling to make sense of the immortal world himself, but hiding it better than Louis. The Vampire Lestat might shatter that image.

Moving on, though, in spite of the initial trouble I had with getting into Anne Rice's reading, once I picked up the book again, I whizzed through the rest and discovered I really enjoyed it. I love the characters, I love the story. I love that it spans over 200 years so effortlessly; Louis doesn't mention how much time has passed between each incident but you get the idea when he makes occasional brief references to what's happening around him.

The fact that his story begins in the eighteenth century, and the vampires' ways of travelling the world in coffins in carriages, is reminiscent of the old and original classic vamp tales like Joseph Le Fanu's Carmilla or Bram Stoker's Dracula. A real history is built there and the old image of vampires being terrifying creatures of the night who leer outside your window is restored.

In a world where vampires go back to high school to fall in love with the quirky outsider or head cheerleader, it's refreshing to revisit a story like Interview with the Vampire where traditional vamp rules apply. Sunlight kills them. They kill people. It's rare to find that kind of scary vamp novel that I love nowadays. (Though Let the Right One In seemed to be the recent exception.)

Overall, an excellent read. It lost half a mark in the rating just because it took me so long to get used to Rice's fierce writing style. If you haven't yet read it and are a fan of vampire novels, get on it. So much depth and such brilliantly fleshed out characters. A real classic.

About the Author: Anne Rice is a best-selling American author of gothic and later religious themed books. Best known for her Vampire Chronicles, her prevailing thematical focus is on love, death, immortality, existentialism, and the human condition. Her books have sold nearly 100 million copies, making her one of the most widely read authors in modern history. - Taken from Anne Rice's Fantastic Fiction page.  


Melody said...

Great review, Ceri! I have yet to read this one (as well as Dracula) but they are sure onto my to-be-read list.

Amanda said...

I personally have never been much interested in vampires and thus have never read this. My sister, however, got really into this series about two years before the movie was announced. She'd just finished reading the fourth book when the movie came out public and people were suddenly all over it and it annoyed her to death. I know she bought the 5th book as soon as it came out, but I don't know beyond that as I was off to college by then. I'm not sure what she thinks of them now but I know for years she read each one of them in order every year.

Sandy said...

Anne Rice's writing style is pretty intense. I read Violin a long time ago and I remember it being so...HEAVY. Like, I had to really focus on what I was reading but once I got into it, I couldn't get out-her writing really sucks you in!

Anyways. Awesome review! You explained really well what makes Anne Rice so unique. Her characters are layers upon layers of complexity.

William Malmborg said...

Great review. I enjoyed this book as well and read the second one while my wife was in the hospital in pretty much one or two sittings, my mind really enjoying the story of Lestat and never wanting to stop. Since then, however, I haven't been able to get into any of her other books. I don't know why. Maybe my own illness and the problems it was causing made them tough to read because of the 'heavy' factor. I think I will try again this year.

serendipity_viv said...

I didn't realise it was so old. I thought it had come out during the late 80's.

I haven't read any of Anne Rice's books yet, but I think that is because I am put off by the size of them. I hope to start reading her witch books later this month.

Eva said...

I remember reading this after I saw the movie, and thinking the movie was better. lol But I loved The Witching Hour!

Ryan said...

I loved this book, not the movie so much, but I haven't read it in years. I may have to give it a reread sometime soon. Thanks for reminding me of it.

Violet said...

I have this book in my TBR pile, but the length just puts me off, but I might just give it a try after your review.

The Bookworm said...

Great review Ceri, youre making me want to re-read this one. This is one of my favorite novels. And you have to read The Vampire Lestat, you do get to know much more about him in that one! Believe me, you want to know!
Anne Rice is an amazing storyteller. I found Claudia to be terrifying. And I can't make up my mind which I like more, Lestat or Louis.
I thought the film version was great also, but I fell in love with this book from the start.

Sarah Pannenberg said...

Anne Rice has been on by TBR list for ages! I should definitely try to pick up one of her books this year. If you have already read all of her books and are looking for more vampire literature, I suggest you check out this post on books that are similar to Anne Rice!