Before Dracula, there was Carmilla, a femme fatale whose taste is seductive and inclined towards the female flesh.-Cynthia B.
Written in 1872, Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu is considered the original vampire story “steeped in the sexual tension between two young women and gothic romance.” (Puskin Press)
Let me begin by saying how disappointed I am that it took me so long to read this novel. I live for the gothic. I even took a course on it twice! Gothic literature is one of my favorite genres, and, to be frank, I don’t read enough of it.
I loved the storytelling. It begins as a third-person account of everything that happened between Laura and Carmilla, acknowledging that they do not know if their story is true.
Taking readers to the outskirts of Austria, to an isolated castle, the mist and cold weather suck the reader into the story. Le Fanu did an excellent job of creating the atmosphere here. It is the perfect place for a character to meet a vampire. And when Carmilla comes crashing into her life, the story is even more engaging.
There is an immediate attraction between the girls. Although Laura remarks upon her beauty on more than one occasion and Carmilla’s attention to her, the reservations she sometimes shows for being what she is highlights the mutuality of it.
There is also unease in the story—a mystery to be solved. Carmilla’s mother leaves her to feed and goes on ahead. She gives Laura a time and set of rules that Carmilla cannot speak of her past. The unease settles on the reader. Soon the oddities of Carmilla begin to add together to form that o of a dangerous hunter.
A short and quick novel, Carmilla is perfect for Dracula fans focusing on a deadly femme fatale.