What got me into Gothic novellas – Review of Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu

Carmilla (the novella) was first published in 1872, shockingly, twenty-five years before Dracula! That’s right, Carmilla is a female vampire novel.  First of all, I think it’s so refreshing to have a female perspective for this era, but that’s certainly not the only reason why you should read Carmilla.

I have to admit, I watched the web series before I read the novella but I think this is an acceptable order because the two have similar fundamental aspects but other than that, are very different. I think that this is beneficial because in a way, the web series kind of adds to the charm of the novella and further brings it to life. You can put a face to the characters and perhaps better understand them after seeing them in the familiar (albeit with supernatural aspects) modern world.

Although I had a little trouble with some of the language, I found it fairly accessible compared to other Gothic works such as Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (which had more specific terms that I needed to check to fully understand the story). I am also enjoying the latter so far, and will review that all in good time.

Laura is just nineteen at the time the incident took place and she is also the narrator; eight years later, she recounts the grim events which have left such an awful impression.

I feel Carmilla has all the markers of a Gothic novella. It is set at castle – typical – located somewhere in Styria, Austria. There’s a ‘damsel in distress’, and presumably countless others who are not mentioned, that were plagued by Carmilla/Millarca over the years. (These are simply anagrams of her original name, Mircalla – aka Countess Karnstein.) And I suppose if there is a ‘hero’, it would be the person who puts an end to the curse which is intrinsic to Carmilla’s existence. There’s even a touch of romance amongst the horror. I think there’s definitely suspense, not so much mystery as other stories but nevertheless enjoyable.

In addition, Carmilla gives an insight into what life was like for a young woman living in a remote location in the late nineteenth century. Carmilla has made me want to read more stories from this time period because it’s just so different and exciting to me. Not to mention the fact people used to describe furniture as “rude”. I find that amusing.

On the back of the copy I have (pictured below), there are three words that I could not agree more with, which describe this story: “menacing, sensual and spellbinding”.

Now let’s talk about Carmilla, the Canadian web series! Laura Hollis (Elise Bauman) is attending Silas University and  there are strange goings-on which she is determined to investigate; Laura’s roommate (Betty) inexplicably goes missing and it seems she’s not the first one. Guess who Laura’s new roommate is.

Yep, Carmilla (Natasha Negovanlis).

Not only is the show great for LGBTQ+ representation, it also normalises LGBTQ+ people, as uncovering the secrets and dealing with the dramas at Silas remains the focus. As well as this, the cast has amazing chemistry and the majority are (kick-ass) women which is pretty nice for a change, right? This makes Carmilla an awesome show to watch. In fact, I love it so much that I have one of Valentine M. Smith’s spectacular artworks of Karnstein herself as my phone lockscreen.

So far, Season 1, Season 2 and Season 0 are available on KindaTV’s channel on YouTube. Season 3 should be coming soon, and sadly it will be the last one, but I can’t wait to see how everything pans out. You have plenty of time to catch up because each episode is usually only 2-5 minutes long and that means you’re in the lucky position where you can binge-watch Carmilla…

Notes: illustration by D. H. Friston. Also this review may contain spoilers as I hint at things. Wrote this in advance as I’m in London all day today for my A-level English coursework! (But I got about 3 hours sleep…)

Song pick naturally had to be Love Will Have Its Sacrifices by Soles (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SrOTSFx6p6w) – it is after all, the official theme song of the web series Carmilla which is based on the novella.

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8 thoughts on “What got me into Gothic novellas – Review of Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu

      1. By the way, I thought you were a friend from college when I saw your username, I panicked for a second :’) thanks for the like and follow

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