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    Available in PDF Format | Carmilla.pdf | English
    Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu(Author)
Carmilla is a Gothic novella by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu. First published in 1871 as a serial narrative in The Dark Blue, it tells the story of a young woman's susceptibility to the attentions of a female vampire named Carmilla. Carmilla predates Bram Stoker's Dracula by 26 years, and has been adapted many times for cinema.
4.4 (6142)
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Book details

  • PDF | 56 pages
  • Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu(Author)
  • CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (20 Oct. 2014)
  • English
  • 6
  • Romance
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Review Text

  • By Infinite Zest on 24 December 2016

    Carmilla is considered to be the first time a vampire appeared in English Literature, a novella written by Le Fanu, an Irish man, writing years before Stoker wrote the mother of vampire books Dracula, Le Fanu explores female and lesbian sexuality as Carmilla on numerous occasions embraces and kisses Laura which simultaneously disturbs and excites Laura ‘I experienced a strange tumultuous excitement that was pleasurable, ever and anon, mingled with a vague sense of fear and disgust.’ This is a statement on female sexuality and female liberation, Le Fanu does not condemn or reverse the relationship between the two women, Le Fanu avoids heavy-handed moralizing, leaving the possibility that Laura’s and Carmilla’s vampiric relationship is sexually liberating and for them highly desirable. The ontological change in Laura between the beginning of the narrative and the end is never reversed, suggesting that her shifting desires are healthy and vital.This was such a profound theme to have in a novella written during a very sexually repressive time and yet Le Fanu manages to pull it off, many will say that the lesbian relationship was rejected at the end of the novel, The male led destruction of Carmilla’s body at the end of the novel is the typical violent destruction of the female body with phallic symbols, however, it does not have the definitive conclusion that Stoker gave to both the destruction of Lucy and Dracula himself, the story has revealed that once bitten the victim is destined to become a vampire and that the victim will be visited by the ghost of the vampire ‘that specter visits living people in their slumbers.’ This creates ambiguity over both Laura and Bertha Rheinfeldt who were both bitten.Laura has irreversibly changed, everything that Carmilla represented, sexual liberation, freedom from patriarchal structures and the power of feminine nature remain in place, and Le Fanu does not undo this, more importantly the female allegiance Carmilla represented is stronger than ever, she herself may be dead but she is replaced by two more in Bertha and Laura who at the end of Carmilla is waiting for Carmilla to return as she describes hearing ‘the light step of Carmilla at the drawing room door.’

  • By takerbobpooh on 13 November 2016

    Mysterious, haunting and beautifully creepy.

  • By Beverley on 10 November 2015

    Carmilla was first published in 1872 some twenty-six years before the publication of Dracula by Bram Stoker. If Dracula was a Victorian melodrama using blood and swooning to represent sex, and bodily fluids, in mainly heterosexual attractions – Carmilla is a Victorian Gothic lesbian tale.Gothic novels have various devices that mark them as such. These metaphoric devices were easily understood by the readership of the day. I had quite a bit of fun noting them for this review…but don’t worry I won’t turn it into a lecture.Carmilla is written in first person from the point of view of Laura, whose dead mother was Austrian and whose father is an English gentleman, comfortably off, but not royalty or super rich. They live in a castle (Shloss) in Austria. She tells the story from a point eight years hence, therefore reassuring the reader that the horror is in the past.Gothic relevance…The foreign setting (alien) because it is too horrible to think anything so unnatural would take place in England. However, the female heroine is the daughter of an English gentleman and therefore, English enough to be believed and empathised with. They live in a castle…isolated and surrounded by trees. Traditional Gothic setting, with the wood representing the unknown, the impenetrable. There are also local ruins, a deserted village, a tower… oh and the castle has a drawbridge. It also has a contingent of nameless servants and a major domo. There is also a Gothic chapel and a woodsman…..Laura has the correct companions a Swiss governess and a French ‘finishing’ governess. Although French or German would have been easier in this household, English is the language spoken everyday. She tells us she is lonely and isolated but kept within the bounds of propriety by these ‘gouvernantes’. They have fairly regular visitors, but these are the generally the same people. She has one blot on her idyllic childhood – a terrifying dream when she was six, where a women dressed in black, paces at the bottom of her bed at night, caresses her cheeks, and bites her ‘breast’. Although, this is explained to her as a dream, there are weird worrying looks from servants and governess enough that she grows up with someone sleeping in her room at night. The dream never returns.One evening close to their drawbridge there is a coach accident that the ‘family’ observe while out for a stroll. While the coach is being fixed, an older, wealthy aristocratic woman begs Laura’s father to take in her weak recuperating daughter for three months whilst she goes on some important business never to be revealed. On seeing the beautiful unconscious girl they agree. The girl is called Carmilla and appears to be of similar age to Laura. Laura now has a companion her own age and a beautiful one. Her grace and beauty is described very often.From this time on strange deaths start occurring in the local village, and their good friend’s beloved ward dies suddenly. There are also slightly worrying things about Carmilla who is always ‘languorous’ and doesn’t get up until late afternoon (tho this seems fine to me!) On top of this Carmilla is ’embarrassingly’ enchanted by and fond of Laura……my strange and beautiful companion would take my hand and hold it with a fond pressure, renewed again and again; blushing softly, gazing in my face with languid and burning eyes, and breathing so fast that her dress rose and fell with tumultuous respiration. It was like the ardor of a lover; it embarrassed me; it was hateful and yet over-powering; and with gloating eyes she drew me to her, and her hot lips traveled (sic) along my cheek in kisses…In order for the author to include several passionate scenes and passages he has to make one of the protagonists evil. Vampirism and sex have always been interlinked in Western culture and the vampire has been accused of everything from lesbianism, STIs, fainting in women, impotence in men, surprise pregnancies and adulterous affairs. If early western society had an ill, or something it could not accept, it was blamed on the unnatural, the ‘phantasmagoric’, the un-Christian – the vampire.Remembering this was over a quarter of a century before Dracula, Carmilla includes; transformation to mists or beasts, blood sucking from breast and throat, inability to cross running water without fainting, languor in victims, languor in vampires during the day, coffins, staking, and decapitation.Only beautiful young women are the victims of this vampire’s ‘seduction’ – don’t expect a feminist view or a modern day take on lesbianism. This is a sensual, Gothic Victorian novella. It is fun and perhaps is good to read to see how far we have come, while highlighting how far we still have to go, where equality for women is concerned.

  • By Char Louise on 21 April 2016

    I'm fascinated by vampire literature and legend, so I just had to read this classic vampire novella! It’s a little wordy and archaic in places, but most of the novel is actually very readable and it's short enough to read in one or two sittings. It’s different to a lot of other classic vampire stories in that it’s neither a seductive female vampire predating on an unwitting male, or a rakish male vampire predating on an innocent female: both vampire and victims are young women. There are definite erotic overtones and in some ways the fear of vampirism can be read as the fear of lesbian sexuality. It's very predictable as you know all along that Carmilla is a vampire, but definitely worth a read if you enjoy Gothic novels.

  • By Bri on 19 March 2016

    A predecessor of Dracula and the vampire genre. The main problem, nowadays, is that the story is too well known and has lost much of its power to scare that it undoubtedly had at the time of writing. Well worth a read, nonetheless, as a good example of Victorian Gothic horror.

  • By Jondc on 25 December 2016

    This is an excellent little novel which pre-dates Dracula and is about a young woman who is a vampire although in a much tamer sense than the namesake in Brahm Stokers tale. It's worth a read as a very early and eerie tale.

  • By KBa76 on 10 October 2016

    A slim novella, to which Stoker will have been indebted. This is a curious tale that seems highly exaggerated to a modern mind, but is a great example of Gothic literature. Classic psychological horror too.

  • By Anna Thew on 25 July 2016

    This is the dullest story ever. It isn't even bad, it's just uneventful and truly disengaging. Boring as anything could possibly be

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