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review 2017-10-17 11:03
Carmilla (Valancourt Classics) - Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu,Jamieson Ridenhour

So this is a short book, today it would be a novelette and the publishers apparently decided that 85 pages of story needed a 37 page introduction and 72 pages of other matter. I should have skipped the other stuff. It turned the story into a school read and I was not well disposed to that.  The footnotes were also occasionally intrusive, the editor provided a dictionary (from the Oxford English Dictionary) definition of things like "languor" and "traces" so the reading experience felt like a school edition.

 

It's an early vampire novel, one set in Austria, and honestly my only previous experience of stories set in Austria are of The Chalet School stories.  From what I've read of Le Fanu's life he never went to Austria, but he did have experience of a sickly sister.  Maybe some of the ideas of there being some sort of cure was wish fulfilment of sorts, that the defeat of Carmilla would be like the defeat of the illness his sister suffered from? You know what, I could speculate (and the editor of this edition did, at length) but overall it was an interesting read of a root text, rather like reading Dracula a few years ago, to see where some of the ideas and tropes came from that have lingered into modern fiction.  It is also interesting in not being very judgemental about the lesbian overtones but mostly the story left me wanting more from it.  The illustrations were pretty overt as well with mostly bedroom scenes depicted (yes you can see Carmillas body through the nightgown on the cover), so the sexual overtones of the vampire legend are present, even in this ur-text.

 

Without the surrounding literary matter this would probably have been 3.5 stars but the matter got in the way of the story for me. It's the Bookclub read, and I'm glad I did but I wouldn't recommend this edition for the casual reader.  It falls into gothic, vampires, genre: horror, classic horror, and could be used for supernatural in all likelyhood, I'm using it for Classic Horror

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review 2017-10-15 16:32
Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu
Carmilla - Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu

 

After my re-read of this classic, I  give Carmilla 3.5 stars. I loved the atmosphere and the language, even if I thought it was a bit too flowery at times.

 

I know that it's wrong to judge a work of this age by today's standards, but man, everyone in this book seemed stupid and too naive to be believable. The whole time, I was thinking "My God, man, wake up!"

 

I'm glad I re-read this one but I think that shall be it for me with Carmilla.

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review 2017-10-15 15:08
“The Mrs. Bradley Mysteries” by Gladys Mitchel – BBC Full Cast Dramatisation
The Mrs Bradley Mysteries (Classic Radio Crime) - Mary Winbush,Gladys Mitchell,Leslie Phillips,Full Cast

Good reviews on BookLikes convinced me to try out Gladys Mitchell’s rather unique take on the female upper-class sleuth. I’m one of those folks who feels obliged to start such things from the beginning, so I went in search of an audiobook version of the first book “Speedy Death”.

 

I could only find a BBC dramatisation that  presents “Speedy Death” and “The Mystery of the Butcher’s Shop” in a condensed version that accords only ninety minutes to each.

 

“Speedy Death” is presented at pace worthy of the title. The overall feel is that of a pantomime intended for adult consumption. The cast is competent. The production standards are smooth but perhaps a bit too tongue-in-cheek. It seems to me that the dramatisation is cosy almost to the point of being self-mocking whereas the themes in the book : murder, extra-judicial execution, transgender living, lesbian attraction, abusive men and a self-possessed, manipulative older woman would have been quite shocking when the book was published in 1929.  Gladys Mitchell seems to be playing Quentin Tarrantino to Agatha Christie’s more conventional Cohen Brothers but the BBC have turned her efforts into something close to a farce.

 

“Speedy Death” is populated by damaged, privileged people who seem to have no understanding of just how broken they all are. Mrs Bradley, our heroine is a high-functioning sociopath, strong on insight and short on empathy, who stalks ruthlessly and gleefully through the pack of upper-class walking-wounded, mentally vivisecting them with accuracy and obvious, almost manic, pleasure.

 

I finished the dramatisation “Speedy Death” feeling thatI’d been shown the pop-up book version of what might well be a fascinating novel.

 

Things got worse when I reached “The Mystery Of A Butcher’s Shop”. The main murder committed here seems to be by the BBC who effectively killed this novel by slap-dash attempts at humour and a script so clumsy as to be negligent. They added insult to injury by inflicting “Them Bones, Them Bones, Them Dry Bones” as a chorus sung at random intervals.

 

I suspect that this novel never had a particular strong constitution as it leans too heavily on the sensational supported by the improbable but the BBC have managed completely to drain it of any life it once had.

 

I’m interested in reading Gladys Mitchell but I’ll stick to her text in future.

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review 2017-10-13 10:53
Carmilla
Carmilla - Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu

by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu

 

Carmilla pre-dates Bram Stoker's Dracula by 26 years, but has some similar themes. It is the story of a young woman, Laura, who comes under the influence of a female vampire, who first comes to her when she is a child, comforting her in her bed.

 

The narrative has the same sort of melancholy moodiness and intimacy that has become familiar to Dracula movie watchers, but I think better expressed in the prose of this story. The developing relationship between Carmilla and Laura crosses lines of intimacy at times and was probably ahead of its time, expressing a form of love that confuses Laura at times. Her friend Carmilla often drifts off into a sort of dreamy quality, sometimes worrying those who care for her because some sort of epidemic seems to be spreading, where young women weaken slowly and eventually die.

 

Blood often features in Laura's dreams about Carmilla and somehow she and her family don't question that their guest never comes down from her room until late in the afternoon.

 

I found it a very atmospheric read, though some points were a little difficult to suspend disbelief. Carmilla often deviates from normal behaviour for young women of her time, yet no one questions or demands anything of her.

 

As classic vampire fiction goes, I'm amazed that I never heard of the story before now. It's not the most action packed story I've ever read, but I think essential reading for fans of the genre.

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review 2017-10-12 16:03
Carmilla by J. Sheridan LeFanu
In a Glass Darkly - Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu

This novella was hard for me to rate - I am not really a fan of short works. Carmilla was good, but it could easily have been expanded into a full length novel. It makes more sense to me to put it in the context of the collection of which it was a part, which is why I've attached it to the full Oxford Classics edition of the collection.

 

The five stories in the collection are purported to be five studies from the casebook of Dr. Hesselius, an "occult detective." Shades of Dr. Van Helsing, perhaps? I can definitely see the influences that Carmilla had on Bram Stoker - there are a lot of analogs, from Laura (Lucy Westenra) to the location of story (the Austrian state of Styria, which has a very similar feel to the Carpathian mountains of Dracula). Both vampires have transformation abilities, with Dracula being capable of transformation into a large black dog, while Carmilla transforms into a large black cat.

 

The homoeroticism between Carmilla and Laura is overt, rather than subtle. It amuses me a little, honestly, to imagine how titillated and thrilling the repressed Victorians must've found the lesbian, erotic, languid relationship between Carmilla and her victims. Don't get me wrong, this is not a graphic by any stretch of the imagination, but the overtones are impossible to miss.

 

The weird name anagramming seemed really contrived to me and I didn't get it all. Carmilla. Millarca. Mircalla.

 

Anyway, I decided that I would go ahead & buy the full collection and read it before the end of Halloween bingo. At least, that's my plan!

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