Saturday, 22 January 2011

Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice

GENRE: vampire fiction/historical novel

In a darkened room a young man sits telling the macabre and eerie story of his life - the story of a vampire, gifted with eternal life, cursed with an exquisite craving for human blood.

Interview with the Vampire is the first novel in Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles series. The narrator is Louis de Pointe du Lac, a vampire who became immortal at the end of the 18th century in New Orleans. He feels the need to share his story with the world, so he recounts it in an interview with a young reporter, Daniel, admitting that at first, he chose Daniel as his next victim, but changed his mind once he felt that instead of killing Daniel, he should confess his long life to him.

Louis’s journey, spanning over two centuries, has been full of excitement, exploration and tragedies. When he was still human, he lost his brother and, driven by guilt, allowed himself to be lured into immortality by the vampire Lestat, his maker. Although the new life offered him excitement and power, Louis has never been able to accept his vampire nature that requires human blood – human life – to sustain itself. Lestat, on the other hand, lives the existence of a vampire to the fullest, therefore Louis’s decision to live differently creates angry tension between them. Lestat is impatient and Louis is melancholy and passive. One night, Louis was desperate and lost, which resulted in a child, Claudia, joining Louis and Lestat as a vampire, marking Louis’s conscience further. However, in Claudia he finally found a companion. Louis, desperate to find meaning in a vampire’s existence and eager to find others of his kind, embarks on a journey with Claudia that takes them across Europe. They uncover interesting and startling truths and finally come to Paris, where it seems they found their haven, but soon, tragedy strikes again and this time, it might cost Louis everything. For before Louis and Claudia left America, they did something that the vampire world sees as a great crime. Their mistake comes back to haunt them and the one who was wronged demands revenge and punishment.

The novel features amazing characters. Anne Rice’s vampires are extraordinary creatures, all of them very knowledgeable, civilised (as much as vampires can be) and learned. Louis, the most human one of all vampires, rejects his immortal nature and tries to be as human as possible. Consequently, he rarely resorts to using his powers, such as speed, strength and mind-reading. He is a deeply wounded creature, trying to find meaning in his existence. He already yearned for this when he was human, but once he became a vampire, this desire grew much stronger. Louis is the sort of vampire who would give anything to be human again, yet he does not merely mope around, but tries to make the best of his immortality by exploring and learning and giving it meaning in such a way. Lestat, Louis’s maker, is, in comparison to Louis, evil. Yet, he is merely a normal vampire, living his immortal existence like a king, not caring about anything. To him, blood is life and humans are the providers. He is impulsive, reckless and vengeful. Claudia is one of the most striking vampire characters I have read about. She is a child vampire, meaning that she is an immortal with the body of a small girl. She looks innocent and beautiful, but her soul is always hungry for blood and she is a skilled killer, which never fails to impress Lestat. She is frustrated and resentful because her soul has matured over the years, but her body has remained the same – the body of a child. This bitterness makes her do something that at first seems to free Louis and herself, but for which she must pay the price in Paris.

The novel uses elements of the traditional vampire lore, such as a vampire’s aversion to the sun and the necessity of sleeping in coffins, but Rice’s vampires are not afraid of religious objects and it seems that only sunlight, decapitation and fire can kill them. They can do many things and their powers come with age. I truly enjoyed Rice’s portrayal of vampires. At first, I thought they were too human, but that is only Louis, trying deliberately to be as human as possible.

Louis’s story is very interesting and, apart from occasional scenes of excitement, it offers a great, original insight into a vampire’s immortal existence. There is a lot of philosophical contemplation included, which gives the story a certain depth and which makes this vampire story quite unique, as it is definitely not only about blood and killing. This story takes the reader on a very psychological journey through a vampire’s mind and although things happens at a slightly slow pace, the story is still a very interesting and gripping read, rich with lovely historical details, elements of the vampire mythology and emotions.

My one complaint refers to how fast vampires are able to fall in love. These vampires love just about any interesting human or vampire that crosses their path. This is not a major complaint, merely an observation, perhaps, as I suppose that vampires, as a different species, in a manner of speaking, don’t feel the way humans do. Before I say the following, I must point out that I have absolutely nothing against homosexuals and bisexuals, but it seemed a bit far-fetched that all of the vampires featuring in this novel were bisexual, with stronger homosexual tendencies. I did not particularly appreciate this only because this gives the false impression that all vampires are gay. Vampires used to be human, so they’re all sorts of things, not just one thing. Again, it could be argued that perhaps, as a different species, vampires don’t care about genders, only about the intimate love connection, but still.

All in all, this was a unique and great read for me. I dare say that this novel is a must read for all vampire-fiction enthusiasts.



Jan von Harz said...

I read this book many years ago and never really enjoyed it. It seemed way too long and the paced dragged in way too many places. I did however, enjoy the lore, but never felt the need to read more of Rice's series. Great review.

Blodeuedd said...

Great review!
Will I ever read the, I saw the movie, lol

The Insouciant Sophisticate said...

Have you ever seen the movie? That was probably my first introduction to vampire lore; needless to say I didn't really like it. I have wavered on whether or not I should read the book because of course the book is always better but I just really don't like vampires.

Jo K said...

Thanks for such an in-depth review! I read the book years ago (back in high school), so it was nice to remember. I somehow don't remeber the bisexuality issue you mention from this book in particular. Either I missed it at the time or forgot it with the time.

Irena @ This Miss Loves to Read said...

@Bookworm: Yes, I saw the movie. I liked it very much. I like vampires in general, so I guess that's why it appealed to me.

Amy C said...

I read this whole series several years ago. Although I didn't start with Interview since I had watched the movie, when I did finally read Interview with the Vampire I was already well into the series and found there were some differences, but that's only becasue this book was written so many years before she began continuing the books.

I do hope you don't stop here and continue on with the next two books at least! You might find the first part of The Vampire Lestat rather slow, but it is well worth the read going into Queen of the Damned, which explains the nature of Anne Rice's Vampires!

Irena @ This Miss Loves to Read said...

@Amy: I have read the first five books in the series last year, I'm glad I did. I really liked them.