How I obtained The Vampire Lestat
I didn’t have to look very far for this book. My sister is an avid reader of Anne Rice and she loves the series. She has been telling me about it for years. While I’d read The Interview With The Vampire as part of a course at university, I’d never gravitated towards Anne Rice, for whatever reason. Now – since I’ve been leaning towards fantasy, Sci fi and related genres, when I asked her what I should read after The Testaments, she recommended Anne Rice.
I wish I’d started reading these books before.
Anne Rice’s writing is rich. Layered. Beautiful, sweet and heart wrenching.
I didn’t really skim over anything. The book is verbose but I really enjoyed the lengthy descriptions, the sensual innuendo and the overall richness of the text. I was also really fascinated by the way she creates layers of history and lore.
I wouldn’t classify it as a difficult read but it isn’t the easiest either. Especially if you’re not into lengthy descriptions and characters recounting their tales.
The novel starts with Lestat undertaking the rebellious act of rewriting The Interview with The Vampire, and exposing the world of vampires. The story follows the life of Lestat, from when he was a mortal (eighteenth century France) and many years of his life after he becomes a vampire. The reader gets glimpses of Lestat’s life in the late eighteenth century in New Orleans (Interview with The Vampire especially talks about this period of time) and California much later on (late twentieth century).
The Vampire Lestat sees Lestat begin his search for the meaning of life, the meaning of it all. He begins the quests through his lengthy discussions with his beloved Nicholas as a mortal and continues this quest as a vampire. Along the way he meets the melancholic, lonesome Armand and the sophisticated Marius, all whom help paint the rich history of vampires and the laws that bind them. He also meets the first vampires and learns how vampires came into existence.
The novel ends with Lestat’s escape from the angry mob of vampires seeking to destroy him because he is exposing their truth to the mortals. He is reunited with Gabrielle (his mother) and Louis, much to his delight, whom help to rescue him from the mob.
I enjoyed the majority of characters in this novel. They are all richly created. And somehow, they are all searching for the same thing. I know that I will learn more about these characters as I continue with the chronicles, so I will not discuss them all at once.
Here, I will touch upon Lestat and Nicholas. Similar to Hyde in The Curious Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and The Mask and The Nutty Professor, becoming a vampire results in more than a significant lowering of one’s inhibitions. And while all vampires must drink blood to survive, there are some mortals more suited to becoming vampires. Becoming a vampire sees the idiosyncrasies of an individual amplified and their desires no longer hindered by moral scruples.
Lestat and Nicholas are both searching for truth. Or, the ultimate truth. The reason that humans (and then vampires) exist at all. Their lengthy discussions shape the story and echo in Lestat’s mind throughout the novel. They come to different conclusions.
Nicolas is the pessimist – while he cannot totally shed the religious faith he grew up with, he seems to despise it. He believes that he is evil and will rot in hell. He believes that there is no goodness in the world. He is a tortured artist, scraping by in the dirty streets of Paris, latching onto whatever glimmer of entertainment he can. Lestat, on the other hand, is more optimistic. He is an atheist at heart and believes that goodness and beauty in the moment is enough of a reason to exist. The laughter shared between two loved ones, even though in a cruel and bleak world, is enough of a reason to be alive.
In my reading of the novel, I saw the two characters merely become more of themselves as vampires. Nicholas becomes more cynical, destitute, and riotous. Now that he must exist forever, his existential crisis becomes all the more urgent. For what should he exist forever?
Lestat, originally a lover of extremes in all things, becomes more impassioned with the arts and music and people. The beauty of immortals, their struggles and their dreams, become all the more enticing to him. Music, art and knowledge enthrall him even more than they did before. But so does his desire for truth. His conquest for truth becomes a compulsion, egging him on towards scenarios often with devastating results.
Underneath all of the excitement, allure and glamour of meandering through history as a gentleman, Lestat remains a melancholic, solitary cloaked in darkness. As a vampire, he must watch many of those he loves die. He must embody the lover of beauty while he inflicts death and all of its ugliness on his victims in order to survive. He must learn the laws of vampires and shun them just as he did those of mortals before he became a vampire. He must live with himself in eternity knowing he is the embodiment of everything he hates.
There are a lot of themes to discuss in conjunction with The Vampire Lestat. I believe I have touched upon these as well in my discussion of the characters.
I do want to spend a bit of time talking about laws and covens. The underlying question that Lestat – and Nicolas – have is around the meaning of life and the reason for it.
The vampire, in many ways, itself is everything a human is not. The vampire is the antithesis of compassion, order, obedience and trustworthiness. The vampire is a human freed of all convention. And this is, perhaps, embodied, by the character of Gabrielle.
Not only does she shun human company all together by venturing out into the wild, she shuns all convention. She engages in incestuous behaviors with Lestat. She wears men’s clothes (we need to remember the setting is in eighteenth century, France) and she sleeps in the wild. She is a ruthless hunter for blood and sheds her sense of motherhood as quickly as she sheds her women’s clothes. She exists outside of convention in every way. Unsurprisingly, she deserts Lestat. She deserts anything that may seem – predictable. And it shouldn’t be lost on readers that it is the female character who does this.
Lestat, on the other hand, is drawn to collectives. He hates to be alone. And in his quest, he discovers that vampires have, throughout their history, created a variety of covens and formulated laws to govern them. Perhaps, this is the greatest theme and irony of the novel. How paradoxical is it that these creatures that embody chaos and destruction have sought law and order to govern themselves.
That is the genius of Anne Rice. This is how she humanizes the monster. A murderous creature of the night becomes a victim, desperately searching for ways to survive and congregate in safety. She flips the switch and demons fused with humans become a persecuted race.
I could go on, but this post would never end. I’m sure I’ll revisit this as I’ll be carrying on with the Chronicles.
9.5/10 – a total pleasure to read!