Happy Halloween! I usually make a point of reading some classic gothic/mystery/horror fiction in October or November, but this year, my choice was a little more bizarre than usual. I read Vampire City, by Paul Féval, after acquiring it from my friend Stuart at his annual book-giveaway some months ago. I hadn't heard of Féval (a 19th-century French pulp novelist) or this book until Stuart brought it to my attention – and I'm always intrigued by books that complicate my understanding of French literature and the history of fiction in general.
So just in time for the spooky holiday, here's my Goodreads review of Vampire City by Paul Féval.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Vampire City is an obscure work of horror-comedy-metafiction written in France circa 1870, and if that description doesn't pique your interest, what are you doing on Goodreads?
Paul Féval imagines Ann Radcliffe, the English Gothic novelist, running away from home on the morning of her wedding day to rescue two of her childhood friends, who have gotten caught up in the schemes of a nefarious vampire. Féval's vampires glow green at nighttime, have their own civilization based in Vampire City, and can duplicate themselves. It's a far cry from the typical, Bram-Stoker-influenced vampire – although the section where Ann and her companions rely upon a vampire's victim to guide them to Vampire City is reminiscent of the end of Dracula, when Mina uses her telepathic connection with Dracula to guide the heroes to his castle.
The villain's scheme is a bit confusing and all of the characters are one-dimensional, but the tongue-in-cheek narration is full of gems like "Knowing themselves to be guilty of impropriety, Ned and Corny kept their intention [to elope] hidden from their friends. Please do not think me capable of excusing in any degree something which is not done, but I feel bound to point out that they had to contend with an unscrupulous fraudulent bankrupt, a female living in sin, and a vampire. It has to be admitted that their situation was difficult."
Not necessarily a must-read, but pretty entertaining, and an excellent reminder that the 19th century was far weirder and funnier than we usually imagine it to be.
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