Review: Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan le Fanu

I’ve been on a bit of a Victorian gothic kick lately – The Yellow Wallpaper, We Have Always Lived in the Castle and now Carmilla. Unfortunately I now seem to have run out of options and I’ll be relegated to The Fault in Our Stars or something equally ghastly. I’m joking of course – that’s dreary and depressing in a whole different way :/

Plot summary: A young woman living at
her father’s castle is the narrator of this novella. When a mysterious
and beautiful stranger is stranded at the castle in odd circumstances
and becomes a guest, the heroine quickly forms a close bond with her
–but she subsequently discovers that her “friend” has a dark and lethal

So. Apparently Carmilla was written twenty six whole years before Dracula, which surprised me because that’s where I thought the whole popular myth originated.   Well, it may be responsible for the prominence of the superstition today, but it certainly wasn’t the origin. The usual accoutrements of vampirism are present in Carmilla – pinprick marks on the neck, sexual attraction (admittedly very tamely – we are in 1872, after all), stakes and coffins. They even use the word ‘vampire,’ which indicates that the myth was at least somewhat well known at the time.

It’s a damn sight shorter than Dracula, only 98 pages or so, and it’s much more female-orientated. The blurb of my copy made it sound just short of some gothic lesbian fantasy (I can only imagine the Google hits I’m going to get now…), but it’s really not like that at all. 

Essentially, Laura is a bored nineteen year old girl who ends up with a beautiful, female houseguest. They quickly become close friends and occasionally exchange the occasional cheek stroke and mutterings of adoration. Girls Gone Wild XXX, it is not. I realise I sound quite disappointed about this, but I was surprised by just how much I liked this book. 

The plot itself is quite simple, but it’s suitably ominous and creepy. There’s even a Van Helsing-esque character who comes along to teach us all the secrets of the vampires. Which, admittedly, aren’t all that secret in 2015. But points for effort, ey?

There’s not a whole lot more I can say about Carmilla, considering it’s 98 pages long and we’re all familiar with the basic vampire tale. I liked this an awful lot more than I expected though – there are no frills and no padding. Just straight-up creepy vampire women 🙂

Read my review of Dracula here.  


  1. Cee Arr says:

    sounds creepy/awesome – and the genre has been around since at least 1819, when John Polidori wrote 'The Vampyre' at the same Swiss holiday that sparked Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. (Yay random trivia!)

  2. Ellie says:

    Why is it that I keep buying these things before you/at the same time as you/ACTUALLY WITH YOU and then you read them before I do?! Actually, don't answer that, we all know why. 😀

    Seriously though. I should read this already. 98 pages? DONE.

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