Author: Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu
Narrator: Megan Follows
Audiobook Length: 3 hours
Origins: Mine. All mine.
Release Date: 1872
“Pure innocence becomes the target of age-old evil. Virtuous Laura has grown up in a solitary castle and longs for a close friend. Her wish seems granted with the arrival of a beautiful and mysterious stranger named Carmilla. A friendship develops but the brooding mood and sexual overtones mar Laura’s happiness. Will she escape with her life and spirit?”
Thoughts on the Novel: It will come as no surprise to long-time readers that I loved Carmilla. I mean, it was a heavy influence for my beloved Dracula. What is surprising is that it took me this long to read it, or listen to it as the case may be. Suffice it to say, now that I have experienced Carmilla in all her Gothic glory, my heart is full.
One of the things I most enjoy about reading older novels is the use of language to express emotion as compared to today’s usage. What I find particularly interesting is that in an era in which friends “make love” with other friends as a way of showing affection, people remember Carmilla more for the sapphic relationship than for anything else. Victorian-era novels are always full of girls kissing other girls, sleeping together in the same bed, holding each other, etc., doing so as a way of showing their sisterly love for the other without any hidden meaning. Yet, in Carmilla we have two girls, one of who displays similar forms of affection for the other, and suddenly things are not as innocent as they seem. In fact, Laura declares her discomfort for Carmilla’s kissing and pronouncements of love. It is an intriguing shift in attitude, one that is obviously meant to indicate Carmilla’s dangerous nature, and quite indicative of the Victorian mindset about homosexuality in general.
It is obvious to see just how Carmilla influenced Bram Stoker; identifying such areas is half the fun of listening to it after all. Even some of the moral lessons are the same. One could almost make a checklist to compare the two. Still, total familiarity with one does not denote boredom with the other. In fact, I feel that knowing one makes it easier to enjoy the other because these two stories have had such a profound influence on the entire vampire sub-genre. Unlike Dracula though, Carmilla ‘s short story status means that it never drags and never has the chance to get corny or the characters annoying. It is a vampire story that gets to the point (hah!) and ends, making it a must-read for anyone interested in seeing the evolution of the vampire story through the ages.
Thoughts on the Audiobook: Megan Follows does an excellent job narrating this short but spooky Gothic story. Her German pronunciations are decent, as are her French. Her distinctions between characters subtle but effective. More importantly, she does a fantastic job of portraying Laura’s innocence without sounding childish, which should not be a surprise since Ms. Follows will forever be synonymous with Anne Shirley. The fact that Anne Shirley was telling me this spooky tale made it that much more enjoyable.