Lesbian vampire novels from the 1800s is a genre I didn’t know I needed until now.
Laura is devastated when her summer companion dies before making it to her household. When the bewitching and beautiful Carmilla shows up shortly after, it seems like a stroke of good fortune. But with a strange illness sweeping through the town and increasingly odd events surrounding Carmilla, everything may not be as it seems.
So full disclosure, I haven’t read Dracula, but I know this book is supposedly its inspiration. And when I found out it was the sapphic inspiration, I was even more intrigued (although slightly disappointed when I found out it was written by a man, not a wlw, but I guess we can’t have everything).
My biggest fear/issue with the classics is the cumbersome language, so I was surprised to find that this book moved pretty fast. It wasn’t too much work to wade through, and felt more entertaining than analytical. The fact that it was only 160 pages probably helped. I know some other people wished it were longer, but honestly I thought the story worked pretty well with the small page number.
Carmilla was an interesting character, and I really wish we got to see more of her. I almost think the story would have been more interesting from her point of view, but at the same time the mystery surrounding who she was and where she came from was a big draw of the story. The romance was more subtle than in modern books, but definitely more explicit than I would expect from a book of this time period.
The plot seemed pretty standard, but I wasn’t really disappointed about its predictability. It felt like a familiar kind of story that I didn’t mind slipping into again. Almost like revisiting a comfort read. However, I will say that the ending, combined with the fact that it was written by a man, makes me question the message. I won’t spoil anything, but as another reviewer alluded to, it seems to paint sapphic relationships in quite a sinister light.
Overall I’d say this was a solid book. It wasn’t earth shattering for me, so I don’t think there’s actually too much more for me to say. But I can also appreciate how revolutionary it probably was for when it was written, despite the questionable message. If you’re a fan of sapphics, vampires, atmospheric writing, or classic literature you’ll probably enjoy this book.
Rating: 3.5/5 Pacing: medium Intended audience: adult Content warnings: death of a loved one, murder