A sensuous, seductive and tragic tale of love, life and death
Interview with the Vampire is an important and significant book when it comes to vampire mythology. A far cry from the evil and viciously seductive Dracula, Anna Rice’s novel instead introduces the idea of a “vampire with a soul”, coming in the form of its titular character, Louis de Pointe du Lac. After the AMC series changed a lot of the story, and the 1994 movie echoes as a distant memory for many people, reading Interview with the Vampire in 2022 serves as a reminder of how far vampire stories have come.
This is the book that paved way for many of the behemoth books in this category, including Twilight and Vampire Diaries, and even inspiring characters like Angel in the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
On paper, the story is actually rather simplistic and doesn’t have much in the way of exciting action or big twists. Instead, Anna Rice relies heavily on the strength of her characters, and in particular the dysfunctional and tormented trio at the heart of this – Lestat, Louis and Claudia.
The latter is, by far, the best part of this whole book and as soon as she’s introduced to the story, Interview with the Vampire steps it up a notch. Claudia’s journey is absolutely mesmerising and tragic, with the horrifying and imaginative idea of a vampire child unable to grow up physically but mentally ending up with wisdom beyond many elderly humans a brand new kind of twisted horror.
For those who have never read Interview with the Vampire, the story takes place across two timelines. The first occurs during the “present”, with Louis talking to a journalist about his endeavours as a vampire and what led him to this apartment to tell his story. The second is where the bulk of this tale takes place, beginning with Louis’ backstory and how he became a vampire at the hands of the sinister and chaotic Lestat.
Consumed by anger, hatred and lust for his creator, Louis plots a way to leave Lestat, but when the latter turns a 5 year old child into a vampire, Louis is forced into becoming the child’s guardian and reluctantly stick around for her. What follows is a story that sees the three thrust into numerous years of torment as they try to make sense of their immortality and existence.
Around the midway point of the story, the setting does change to include a more European flavour to proceedings, but I won’t spoil more than that.
Stylistically, Interview with the Vampire is not like many other books out there. There are no standard chapters or cliffhangers, instead the story plays out as one continuous interview, with brief respites to the present as Louis collects his thoughts or his human journalist companion contemplates certain parts of Louis’ tale. It works reasonably well, although at times it can bog down the narrative and make this feel much more long-winded than it actually is.
The book is helped somewhat by the fact the tale is split into four parts across the 308 pages, signifying a significant plot or setting change, but beyond that this plays out much more as one continuous stream of thought. There’s nothing wrong with that of course, and the fascination with this novel comes from the way its deeply flawed characters navigate through life.
Louis in particular is such a tormented soul and goes through a kaleidoscope of emotion across the story. He’s also a pretty unreliable narrator, which only makes things all the more interesting. However, Claudia’s character is where the real beauty and horror of this tale comes from, and without her this wouldn’t be anywhere near as gripping and enigmatic as it becomes.
The other part of Interview with the Vampire that really stands out comes in the form of its discussions around morality. There are some fascinating debates in this about what constitutes as outright good and evil, as well as religion’s part to play in the world. These debates can go on for several pages at a time and the balanced perspective is surprisingly refreshing, especially as these themes still resonate to this day.
Interview with the Vampire isn’t perfect, and its slow pacing may hold some back from picking this up. It’s certainly a product of its time but given this was the archetype for many of the “vampire with a soul” stories that followed, Anna Rice’s novel is a classic for a reason. This is a sensuous, seductive and tragic tale of love, life and death – and an absolute must-read.
Verdict - 8/10