Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been reading Interview With The Vampire by Anne Rice. This was recommended to be put on my reading list for my master’s thesis project. I really enjoyed reading this book – it’s only the second vampire book I actually remember most of (I read Dracula a couple of years ago for a Victorian Literature class, and then I read the first book of the Vampire Academy series I think… in high school? Long enough ago that I don’t remember much). I didn’t read Twilight when it was at the height of its popularity and still haven’t, although I love the movies. My mom read Interview With The Vampire in the early 80s, and loved it so much, so she listened along on audiobook while I read this. I loved live-texting my reactions to her! This book was a package deal – a bonding experience and a great story! So, let’s get into it. (Spoilers ahead!)
My mom is a huge fan of Lestat, as she has read the novels that follow in The Vampire Chronicles. I didn’t love Lestat here, just because what we see of him is incredibly subjective, as Louis despises him. There were only a few times I liked him: right before Claudia killed him, when Louis described how Lestat would go out and enjoy operas and shows and would sing the songs they had just heard as they went back out on to the street; and when Louis reencountered him – we see how he had evolved from this bodacious, reckless creature, looking down on all other lifeforms, to one afraid to leave his home, terrified of the world that had grown around him and left him behind. Of course, we know that he doesn’t stay there, as there are many books starring him that follow this one.
I personally really loved the character of Claudia. The concept of a child vampire is terrifying – it makes you think about how a baby rattlesnake is deadlier and more dangerous than an adult, because they don’t know how to control their poison. The way she was depicted as she did get older was a bit strange, with Louis and herself referring to each other as lovers and paramours, kissing and caressing each other. Louis more than once referred to her as sensual, which was uncomfortable, especially when he would turn around and claim he loved her as a daughter. Pick a side, dude. Past that, she was a fierce, vicious little creature that knew exactly what she wanted and wouldn’t stop until she got it. I liked that she grew up to be a combination of her two father figures – she had the cruelty of Lestat in her hunting practices and his cold demeanor, but she had the appreciation of life and luxury that Louis instilled in her.
I was a bit disappointed when they finally were introduced to the other vampires. I know that, since Louis is telling the story, it’s all very subjective to his point of view. However, the whole experience of being in the basement of the theater was confusing and a bit boring, maybe because we had to be told after the fact what was happening. All the terrifying murals and being under Armand’s thrall, the philosophical conversation they had, it was all a bit boring. I guess Louis was literally telling us the story. However, I appreciated that Louis and Claudia didn’t easily assimilate into this new group. It was wise of the coven, with the exception of Armand, to be wary of Louis and Claudia, as they are strange by vampire standards. Claudia is the perfect vampire, with no mortal qualms from her past life, but she’s stuck in a child’s body. Louis would be the perfect vampire, but he is too hung up on his mortal life and the values he still holds a flame for, with his unwillingness to take human life without an ounce respect, like he saw Lestat do for years.
The ending was honestly my favorite part. It was such a sharp turn from the Louis we heard from in the first half of the book. After he decides that he wants to run away with Armand, things spiral out of his control. Throughout the story (besides when he’s trying to fight Lestat in the metaphorical Denny’s parking lot) Louis is very demure – see Exhibit A, when he simply stands aside, horrified, as Claudia murders Lestat and then helps her hide the body. But here, we see him putting up a fight to save Claudia, one of the two people in his vampiric existence he really loved. Once she’s killed, he becomes so cold, so without emotions, that he seeks his revenge by burning down the theater and all the vampires within it. We mustn’t forget the image of him using a scythe, of all weapons, to fight off the vampires. Incredible. The way Rice laid out his process of making this decision and then following through with it as very well written. And I loved that after losing Claudia, Louis never quite recovers. Putting aside the weird romantic tension with them as she got older, and only focusing on their father/daughter relationship, I think it shows a good portrait of how in his grief he slid into what he saw as his full vampire form, someone so detached from the world that time doesn’t matter much to him. Even Armand, the man he was sure he would love for centuries, eventually saw that he would not return to his old self and left him. Speaking of Armand, this book did such a good job depicting a gay relationship. The two loved each other almost right away (although, how much of that was because of Armand’s thrall that Louis, more than once, realized he was under?). Because vampires fulfill all their ‘sensual pleasures’ through killing, the relationship didn’t have any sex – it was all yearning and longing and soft hand touches, aka the perfect equation for a soft gay relationship, whatever their flaws.
Of course, we can’t forget that there was an incredible movie adaptation of this novel made in 1994, starring Brad Pitt as Louis, Tom Cruise as Lestat, Kirsten Dunst as Claudia, Christian Slater as Daniel Malloy (aka the interviewer), and Antonio Banderas as Armand. There are even small appearances by actresses Thandie Newton and Helen McCrory! The movie obviously took its liberties as they always do when adapting a book to the screen, but it was honestly an enjoyable time. Lestat’s character here was much more likeable and funny – Tom Cruise put more theatrics into his preying upon humans and his interactions with Louis. It was in that sweet spot where some CGI/green screen was used, but practical effects were the main course of action. Kirsten Dunst, only 12 when the movie came out, did such a wonderful job in her role. The whole ending was so well done, although they made one big change – Louis did not bite the interviewer here like he did in the book! Daniel Malloy got away but was attacked on the Golden Gate Bridge by none other than Lestat! What a twist! I really like this ending more than the one in the book, as it sets up more of a transition into the sequel, where Lestat is the main character. Honestly, I saw the changes that they were making and wondered why no one has turned this book into a miniseries on HBO or Netflix or some other streaming service yet. Maybe because it’s too old? I don’t know, but I think it would join the ranks of True Blood and Twilight if it was made well.
Before we leave off, we have to recognize the significance of this book. Before this, the seminal vampire novel was Dracula. We see the influence of this book in Interview, with all the same vampire traits of coffins, cold skin, and more, although Rice does take humor in Dracula’s repulsion to garlic, crucifixes, etc. We can even see the similarities in their unconventional formatting – Dracula is an epistolary novel, told in letters, diary entries, and audio transcriptions; Interview, while technically told in the third person, is largely in the first person as Louis recounts his life to the interviewer and, by extension, the reader.
Conclusion: Interview With The Vampire is an incredible novel and is a landmark for vampire fiction, especially in allowing for some sympathy and relatability for the vampires in question. The characters were complex, but because it was told from the subjective viewpoint of Louis, it was hard to feel anything besides what he was feeling for some of them (mainly Lestat). I give this book four stars – it lulled in a few places, but it was overall well written and hard to put down!
What did you think about this novel? Did you like the movie adaptation?