Book Review: Anne Rice’s ‘Interview With The Vampire’

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This is the book that started it all. Nearly 50 years ago Anne Rice penned the tragic tale of Louis, Lestat, and Claudia and rekindled our love for vampires that is still going strong today. Anne Rice’s Interview With The Vampire was so loved by fans that it kicked off a 15-book series chronicling Louis, Lestat, and their fellow vampires. It also spawned two movies based on those books. And now an AMC+ streaming series is set to air beginning on October 2nd based on these beloved characters. And those are just the projects from Anne Rice, every Vampire Diaries and Twilight fan owes Interview With The Vampire some thanks.

[Warning: My review of Anne Rice’s Interview With The Vampire contains some spoilers!]

In Interview With The Vampire, a long relationship begins

As a kid (no kidding, I was only about eleven when I read Interview With The Vampire for the first time) these books made a big impression on me. I reread them over and over. The story of Louis, a southern land owner who lived outside of New Orleans back when New Orleans still belonged to France was captivating to me. The story begins in 1791 when Louis’ brother passes away and Louis has a very hard time dealing with it. He wishes to die but is too cowardly to do it himself. Enter Lestat, a beautiful man who makes extraordinary claims to Louis.

Lestat claims he is a vampire and that he can make Louis a vampire too. He then goes to work selling him hard on the vampire life. Lestat is physically dazzling with his vampire beauty and grace. Furthermore, he promises Louis that the world will be theirs and all his problems will disappear. All he asks in return is for Louis to simply provides a place for Lestat’s aging mortal father to live on his plantation. In Louis’s fragile mental state he is easy to manipulate so Lestat moves his father into the Pointe du Lac plantation and turned Louis into a vampire.  

To say that Lestat failed as a mentor is an understatement and Louis quickly realizes that not only did he not like Lestat but he actively disliked, even despised him. He stays with Lestat for years because he believes that Lestat holds the knowledge about vampirism that he needs. Eventually, Louis concludes that Lestat knows nothing of value and decides to leave. In a desperate bid to keep Louis, Lestat turns a little girl, Claudia, and declares them a family. Louis feels compelled to stay and they pass nearly 70 years in the glory of New Orleans’ nightlife.

Eventually the relationship sours

But all good things come to an end, and devilish things too. You see Claudia’s body died the night she was turned into a vampire but her mind stayed alive and active. Eventually, she was a full-grown woman who had passed an entire lifetime as a five-year-old. This was obviously hard on her and she grew to hate the confines of her world. She also was able to clearly see the horrible way Lestat treated her and Louis and she wanted to leave. Convinced that he would never allow them to go willingly, she concluded that he had to die and devised a plan to accomplish just that.

Anne Rices's Interview with the Vampire
Lestat (Tom Cruise) and Louis (Brad Pitt) in 1994s adaptation of Interview With the Vampire. (Warner Brothers).

Claudia put her plan in motion and after he seems dead she convinces Louis, whom she loves and doesn’t blame for anything, to help her dispose of Lestat’s body in the swamp. Claudia and Louis make plans to leave America (as New Orleans has become part of America by now) to search for vampires in Europe. But vampires are called immortal for a reason and Lestat comes back before they can depart. There is a second fight that culminates in their townhouse catching fire and they are pretty positive Lestat is dead this time. However, they leave America that night just to be sure.

Claudia and Louis travel Eastern Europe for years searching for vampires. Claudia is sure that they will find them there because most Vampire folklore is centered there. But all they find can best be described as zombie vampires. Nowhere do they find vampires like themselves and they begin to despair. 

Just when you stop looking

Finally, they decide to give up the search and head to Paris. And just when they stop looking the vampires find them. Louis is followed by some of the vampires one night and they invite him and Claudia to a performance at the Théâtre des Vampires and some socializing after the show. At first, he and Claudia are overjoyed to have finally found vampires like them and are eager for any answers they may have. It quickly becomes apparent though that they do not have answers. What’s more, they are shallow and narcissistic. Louis and Claudia searched the world for vampires and when they finally find some they are disappointed, to say the least.

What’s worse, it quickly becomes apparent that they are in danger from these new vampires. Some of them suspect Louis and Claudia of killing their maker, the only crime a vampire can commit. And one, Armand, wants Louis to himself at any cost.

Another death in Interview With The Vampire

Things come to a head when Lestat reappears and accuses Claudia of attempted vampiricide. The Théâtre vampires haul her and Louis in to be punished. Louis is locked in a lead coffin and bricked in a wall Edgar Allen Poe style. Armand comes to “save” Louis the next night but he claims it was too late for him to help Claudia. She was burned alive by the sunlight that morning.

Anne Rice's Interview With The Vampire Claudia
Claudia (Kirsten Dunst) in 1994s adaptation of Interview With the Vampire. (Warner Brothers).

After Claudia’s death, something in Louis snaps. He takes his revenge on the Théâtre vampires, burning down the whole theater with them trapped inside just before sunrise the next morning. Armand is the only one to escape, having been warned by Louis the previous night. Louis and Armand leave Paris together and travel the world together but Louis is never himself again and both are unhappy. 

Finally, Louis and Armand return to New Orleans. Louis finds Lestat there and finds him a decrepit old man in vampire form. Lestat has been unable to adapt to the modern world and stays cloistered in a run-down old house being reluctantly tended to by a newborn vampire. Louis pities Lestat and if he doesn’t exactly forgive him for what happens in Paris, he at least lets go of it. After that, he leaves Armand and then decides to tell Daniel, the reporter he has been relating all this to, his story.

An odd trio in Anne Rice’s Interview With The Vampire

I can’t say I ever understood people’s obsession with Lestat, I always saw him as a selfish jerk and didn’t like him. Louis was a more interesting character. I initially felt so bad for him but over time and multiple rereads I began to find him whiny. He refuses to take responsibility for his own role in his unhappiness and that began to grate on me.

Hands down, my favorite character has always been Claudia. Of all the vampires she may have been the most vicious, but that’s because she was turned when she was only 4 or 5. She had no real memories of being a human and no real connections to humans to nurture her compassion. All she ever knew humans as food. Lestat provided a dismal example of how to behave and while Louis loved art and culture, there is no evidence that charity was ever thought of by him. 

A sad story for the vampire named Claudia

Still, that was not why I love Claudia so much. I love her the most because she is the most deserving of sympathy. She never asked to become a vampire and she had absolutely no say in it.

To make matters worse, she was trapped for the rest of her life by this one decision that someone else made for her. Her mind grew and expanded but because her body was incapable of change the rest of the world forever saw her as a child and treated her as such. But she never gives up. She fights to try and escape her plight and take back control of her life and that is what I really love about her. Because she could have rolled over and been this sad tragic doll but instead she becomes a powerful woman whom even the great Armand saw as a threat.

Anne Rice's Interview With the Vampire Claudia Sad
Claudia (Kirsten Dunst) in 1994s adaptation of Interview With the Vampire. (Warner Brothers).

Claudia is really the female existence boiled down to one tiny little story. A man liked her looks and used her how he wanted based on that and without her permission. Another man decided that because of the first man’s choice to make a second, permanent, choice about her body. And she had to spend the rest of her life trapped by the ramifications of those actions, which neither man had bothered to think through. Never able to change, move on, or better herself because everyone always judged her for something that was done to her and wasn’t her choice or fault.

Still, she fights on and does the best she can with the hand she was dealt. Claudia’s story hits especially hard in this post-Roe v. Wade world. I think a lot of people, especially women, can relate to Claudia and everything she suffers through in Interview With The Vampire.

A troubled relationship

As I said earlier, I first read Interview With The Vampire when I was eleven. Needless to say, I didn’t really have the emotional intelligence to understand everything that was going on. As I got older I began to see how messed up the relationship between Louis and Lestat was but I still didn’t really have words for it.

On this read-through, I realized that they have a rather abusive relationship and that’s probably why I grew to dislike the story over time. Lestat is a classic abuser. He met Louis when he was at a very low emotional point in his life and told Louis that only he could solve all his problems. He then used information to control Louis. Lestat constantly hinted that he knew things Louis could never learn without him. Further, he insisted that without this knowledge Louis would die.

When he sensed that Louis was pulling away he introduced a child into the relationship, another classic abuser move. And it worked and pulled Louis back in. Lestat is constantly belittling Louis. He makes fun of him for not being a good enough vampire but never tries to help him become more. He calls him names and tells him he cannot survive without him. Occasionally he even gets violent. After his outbursts, he comes back and is sweet and loving and the cycle begins again. 

It takes Louis a hundred years to escape this abusive relationship, and another hundred to completely release Lestat’s hold on him. I am very glad that he does finally escape this horrible relationship. This read-through was the first time I really recognized the dynamics of Louis’s and Lestat’s relationship. Interestingly, once I realized this I felt more kindly towards Louis and I didn’t find him so whiny. I think there’s a lesson there, at least for me, if you find out what’s really going on with people you can be more understanding.

An enjoyable read again

So as the story goes, you can never read the same story twice because you are never the same person twice. Originally I loved Anne Rice’s Interview With The Vampire. As I aged I began to dislike the book. Now I have more sympathy for the characters and I enjoyed it again.

I would definitely not recommend anyone read this when they’re eleven. You just need more emotional maturity to really understand and connect to the characters. Adults reading Interview With The Vampire should be able to see what’s happening with clearer eyes and enjoy a richer story for it. In short, this tale has stood the test of time.

Those who have already read Interview With The Vampire will be pleased by a reread and those who haven’t read it in the past will find a nuanced story to digest. And please, if you have seen the Interview With The Vampire movie, please read the book for an infinitely deeper story. I promise it’s worth it.

My rating for this book: 7/10 

Interview With The Vampire by Anne Rice is currently available at most booksellers.

The newest adaption of Interview With The Vampire begins October 2 on AMC and AMC+. Have you read Interview With The Vampire? What did you think of the novel? Let us know in the comments or over on Twitter! If you haven’t already, check out my review of The Devourer Below: An Arkham Horror Novel edited by Charlotte Llewelyn-Wells!

Book Review: The Devourer Below: An Arkham Horror Novel edited by Charlotte Llewelyn-Wells

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