Published in 1976, Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire revitalized vampires in the American conscious. Prior, we had Nosferatu and Dracula, but for the first time, a vampire was no longer a lurking creature but the focus of the story. Set in contemporary New Orleans, the novel opens on a nondescript room. In it are “the boy” (a reporter) and Louis (a vampire). The boy, who never gets a name and is likely a young man instead of a child, is collecting interesting stories on his tape recorder. Instead of finding Louis, the vampire seeks out the boy to tell his story, as it’s an opportunity he wants.
1791 is when Louis’s story starts. He was a twenty-five year-old plantation owner in New Orleans, had slaves from Africa, and was the head a household including his mother, sister, and religiously fanatic younger brother. When his brother pleaded for Louis to sell the plantation and give him the money — something God told him to do — Louis laughed. He had thought building his fervently religious sibling a conservatory would calm his spiritual hysteria, but it had not. After Louis laughed at his brother, the young man stood at the top of the stairs and then was at the bottom. Did he commit suicide? Did the devil push him? Louis was wracked by guilt because he was a devout Catholic and would have believed anyone else who told him God spoke to them personally.
This is how the vampire Lestat finds Louis. Not wanting to live and too afraid to die, Louis allows himself to be taken by Lestat, who ultimately wants access to Louis’s plantation and wealth. Shortly after meeting, Lestat turns Louis into a vampire, too, but is disappointed by his new protegee. Vampires develop companions, almost like a long-term marriage, which is why they stay together. The problem is Louis feels too much. Despite being “born to darkness,” he is too human. For years, he only feeds on animals. Watching Lestat play with humans before killing them sickens Louis, and Louis’s questions about God and the devil, morality and love, frustrate Lestat — possibly because Lestat has no old wisdom to impart, no mysteries about vampires that he can teach. I mean, Lestat is a vampire that wants the comfort of wealthy humans, so he’s shallow. Louis wants to leave Lestat.
During one night of total desperation, Louis decides to feed on a human — a child, about five years old, who is crying over her mother’s dead body. Lestat catches Louis in the act and is utterly cheered by the sight of his protegee, after four years of drinking the blood of animals, sucking on a human. But the little girl, Claudia, does not die. And in an effort to keep Louis with him, Lestat makes Claudia into a vampire. An ersatz child. A distraction. An innocent to protect from Lestat’s vicious hubris and disregard for human life.
If you’ve seen the movie, you know the plot (albeit with minor changes) because Anne Rice helped write the script. It’s a wonderfully emotional story that makes readers question what one would do with immortality. Rice suggests vampires only find meaning in pairing off with the right partner. Some vampires find companions for decades. Others wait until the right companion comes along, longing for that other creature to show them the meaning of existence so it seems worth it to live, to not walk out in to the sun and die. I find the story compelling, wondering what will happen to all of the characters, primary and secondary, while the story masticates themes of love, evil, and what is a life worth living.
“I am evil with infinite gradations and without guilt.” — Armand
Simon Vance’s felt like the right voice narrator for the audio book at first, drawing out the sentences slowly in a way that invokes a person who has all the time in the world (as immortals do). However, since Rice creates mainly male characters, I found Vance’s voices would blend a bit. I never felt he captured Claudia properly, but how would a grown man sound convincingly like an eighty-year-old woman trapped in a five-year-old girl’s body? Plus, if you’ve seen Kirstin Dunce in the film, you know no one can out do her rendition of Claudia.
Claudia’s tiny character is one most enticing, as she never got to live as an adult human. She asks Louis what it’s like to have sex, to walk around unaided. She believes she has been damned in a useless form for eternity, and other vampires see her as an abomination. How problematic it is, indeed, to create a vampire that cannot care for itself, but Louis doesn’t want to reveal Lestat as their inept creator and in front of these carefully chosen vampires. Besides, Claudia and Louis have a secret. . .
A wonderful novel that uses an interview as a way to discuss a life lived for over 200 years. Will the reporter shock the world with what he’s heard? Will he take away the right lesson? Will we?
Ooh, I’m definitely intrigued by this one! It’s certainly a good sign that you felt invested in the fate of all the characters; both primary and secondary.
Have you not read Anne Rice? Her early works are great, but her newer stuff is….questionable. She became a born-again Christian and really changed her world view, which was reflected in what she wrote. Here’s something interesting: she just came out with a NEW book about Lestat, and it’s about the lost world of Atlantis. I can’t bring myself to look into it, lol.
One thing I didn’t write about in the review is that vampires are not sexual, but they are incredible erotic and sensual. They feel almost genderless.
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I haven’t, but I’ll know to stick to her early works if and when I do!
I like when books explore gender and sexuality from an interesting angle, so that’s intriguing too.
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Great review! I actually did try to pick this one up at one point and I read through most of the events you talk about here- Claudia was the only element I hadn’t already read. But I like the way you say Rice looks at morality and meaning in immortal lives, as that’s essentially why I find vampires so intriguing. I really must give this another go at some point!
The voice narrator reads really slowly. If I had had more time, I would have read the paperback version, as I think the audio book does not add much. When I read thrillers, I always go for the audio book because I think the tension in the actor’s voice can change the way I perceive the story. This is not the case with Interview with the Vampire. I’m ALMOST done with The Vampire Lestat now (I should have finished a couple of days ago, ugh) and it’s a wonderful companion to Louis’s story. You get this history of where vampires come from and why Lestat thinks the human world should know about vampires. It’s a great contrast to the vampires who think they should remain frozen in time, never connecting with humans. I’ll talk about that in my review of The Vampire Lestat, which, *FINGERS TRIPLY CROSSED* I will have up Tuesday.
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Good to know! Reading in physical hard copy print is my preferred method, so I’ll be glad to pick it up in that version. And it sounds like I should definitely make time to read both of those first two Rice novels together when I pick them up! I don’t know why I couldn’t get into Interview with the Vampire on my first try, they do sound like stories I’d be interested in.
Just yesterday I recommended a patron read The Vampire Lestat, though she hadn’t read Interview with the Vampire. I think you can read them separately, but I think they are much richer together. Each one is presented as an autobiography, written by the vampires (well, Louis’s via the reporter), so it’s clear they are both biased and make assumptions about what the other characters are feeling. I love that part. It makes them so……human!
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[…] my review of the erotic, breathtaking novel that started the vampire chronicles back in 1976: Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice. It was so good to revisit this novel that I read and loved in high […]
[…] That’s a problem, though. Vampires are never supposed to tell mortals of their existence for all their safety, namely that they cannot defend themselves while the sun is up. But Lestat’s decision to become world famous is rooted in his life-long drive to challenge rules and please an audience. Plus, Louis already broke the rules when he gave an interview to a reporter, who typed out Louis’s story, creating the novel Interview with the Vampire. […]
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