In Vampire Book Club for June, we read Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice, and I’m here to give you my opinion on it.
As we’ve discussed before, I have not yet read very deeply into the world of vampire fiction. My love for vampires has been primarily spurred by television and movies, and I won’t deny that I was an obsessed teen reader of the Twilight series when it came out.
But the point of my Vampire Book Club is to expand on my vampire fiction reading history and really get a feel for what’s out there. So we’re starting with what people are telling me are the best vampire books, and the ones that seem to me to be the most foundational reads of the vampire subgenre.
Interview with the Vampire is technically about a journalist known only as The Boy who is interviewing The Vampire to potentially write about The Vampire’s story in whatever publication The Boy is affiliated with. The actual narrative of the story however is made up in bulk of the protagonist Louis de Pointe du Lac’s side of the dialogue detailing his life from just before he became a vampire all the way to a time when he has finally achieved the emotional freedom he’s struggled to secure all along.
What I loved
Anne Rice’s story was full of immediate action and active descriptions, and while on occasion Louis would go off on a descriptive tangent or would repeat himself, I enjoyed the straightforward language and approach to writing. With most of the story in first-person POV, I enjoyed getting in Louis’s head and witnessing the struggle between his desires as a vampire and his religious guilt that weighed on him throughout the entire story. The story was atmospherically dark, and I liked the details about New Orleans and the attention to other small details that kept the story grounded in the time periods it intended to portray such as The Boy having to flip the tape in the tape recorder. There were such details that might have been insignificant if considered alone, but were done excellently and when considered as part of the overall experience, really help to round it out and make the story seem full.
I feel like this book was really talked up to me before I read it, and I don’t know if it gave me inflated ideas of what to expect, or if it simply did not cut it for me when it comes to story. I have a few problems with this story:
- While I appreciate the meta-story aspect of telling a story-within-a-story, and the format does ultimately lend to the story of the character of The Boy setting up the sequel, I found it distracting because I didn’t know the point. I don’t know that the boy’s interest at the end in finding Lestat is enough of a payoff for me to forgive the clunkiness of the device throughout the story. I like the premise in theory, but not its execution.
- The character Armand. Or what I should say, is not that I had a problem with his character, just that I don’t understand Louis’s “love” for him or his “love” for Louis. It is possible that I didn’t appropriately understand just how much time passed during the part of the story Louis and Claudia spent in Paris, but my experience was that it was a little out-of-left-field for me. It made the last major portion of the book disconnect from the rest of the story for me. Armand hadn’t really earned any special love from Louis, in my opinion, and I kept wondering what I must have missed.
- I was underwhelmed. It delivered what I expected a vampire story to deliver, so it didn’t necessarily fall into “bad” territory, but I think my expectations were of being wowed, and it never truly happened. I’m going to blame the hype for that one.
Love. The word “love” is tossed around a lot in this book, and I don’t know how to feel about it. I understand that love is pretty abstract, that there are different types of love, and that every person Louis “loves” is its own unique type of love. But Louis says that what humans experience as a desire for sex, for vampires, is the desire to feed on a human. So with this equivalency put into place, it shines an interesting light on the view that perhaps sexual desire or acting upon sexual desires is destructive. I then find it unsettling that Louis’s first real taste of human blood was a child, after repressing the urge for so long, and that he speaks of her later that she is like his wife or lover, but that it is also explicitly not a physical attraction to either Claudia or later Armand. I think this is a good time to point out that not only is this first-person narration, but it’s also told in dialogue, and that the likelihood that a vampire wracked with Catholic guilt is being 100% honest in his own self-assessment is not likely, and we should probably treat Louis as an unreliable narrator.
Despite this weird creepy vibe I’m not getting from Louis since I’ve started analyzing him, he really is the most complex and likable character in the story for me. I know that many people are fans of Lestat, but judging on the way Louis portrays Lestat throughout the story, I would wager I would have to read on to later books in the series in order to unbury the parts that actually make Lestat a character to fangirl about.
While I had some qualms with this book that ultimately kept it from being a favorite for me, I did still enjoy it, and I think I would enjoy a closer, more analytical reading of it if I read it again. Since it remains a favorite of vampire readers everywhere, I would recommend it to someone looking for a vampire book who has somehow managed to pass this up. Also, since I am curious to find out what everyone loves so much about Lestat, and I am intrigued to find out if he is what Louis said he is, I would read the next book.