Carmilla Review

In October I always make a point to read something a bit spookier than normal. I especially like anything Gothic in tone. The dark an stormy atmosphere puts me in the right mood for Halloween. This year I chose Carmillia by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu as my scary book for October.

When I was in high school, I read Dracula by Bram Stoker for English class. The ~400 pages took me longer than a month to read, but I did enjoy it. Since then I have been meaning to find a time to read another vampire classic. Published as a serial in 1871, Carmilla is 26 years older than Dracula, and often credited as one of Stoker’s major influences. Plus, it is set in Upper Styria, Austria, so I had kind of visited the location during my time abroad.

Since it was a novella, Carmilla was a very quick read. My version was only about 80 pages. The writing style was distinctly old-fashioned, but the imagery and tone helped to set the scene. Word economy in this rather short story dictated that there be very little down time. The action picked up almost right away, and trotted right along after that. Character development, therefore, had to play second fiddle to plot. I honestly ended up wishing that it was longer. I wanted to know more about Carmilla and her backstory. And more suspense would have upped the creepy factor a lot. I wanted more, more, more. In a lot of ways, it read like the outline for a great story about a vampire, rather than the story itself. I appreciated that it was a quick, easy read for me to fit into my schedule, but in the end, the brevity of Carmilla was weakness. But all of the elements of what is now considered the classic vampire story were there.

For anyone looking for a short, seasonal read, Carmilla does fit the bill. There are also numerous adaptations in films, sequels, and even a YouTube series. This story’s place in literary history makes it worth the small investment of time.

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