Louis recounts how he became a vampire at the hands of the radiant and sinister Lestat and how he became indoctrinated, unwillingly, into the vampire way of life. His story ebbs and flows through the streets of New Orleans, defining crucial moments such as his discovery of the exquisite lost young child Claudia, wanting not to hurt but to comfort her with the last breaths of humanity he has inside. Yet, he makes Claudia a vampire, trapping her womanly passion, will, and intelligence inside the body of a small child.
Louis and Claudia form a seemingly unbreakable alliance and even “settle down” for a while in the opulent French Quarter. Louis remembers Claudia’s struggle to understand herself and the hatred they both have for Lestat that sends them halfway across the world to seek others of their kind. Louis and Claudia are desperate to find somewhere they belong, to find others who understand, and someone who knows what and why they are.
Interview with the Vampire is one of those legendary books that changed the way we perceive vampires forever and paved the way for a whole load of copycats who just couldn’t live up to the legend. Having said that, my teenage obsession with the Vampire Chronicles didn’t begin with this book and that’s actually a good thing because I’m not sure if I would have continued reading the series.
Back then, most of my books were borrowed from the library and I’d spotted The Vampire Lestat a few times on the shelf but wasn’t sure if it was my cup of tea and ignored it. This particular day, I was struggling to find anything I wanted to read and there the book was again on the shelf, so I decided to take it home.
Once I started reading the book, I loved it so much I practically inhaled it and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the rest. It kickstarted a love affair with vampires that I still have to this day but no one has ever come close to capturing the heights of Anne Rice and Lestat has to be one of my favourite anti-heroes of all time.
Interview with the Vampire introduces us to Anne Rice’s vampire world when Louis de Pointe du Lac reveals his story to a young reporter, Daniel Molloy, breaking one of the biggest rules the vampire world has by exposing their existence. Needless to say, the entire tale of how Louis became a vampire is told from his point of view and his narrative is not to be trusted but the reader doesn’t know that yet. It’s very hard going back to review this book when you know the full story because all you want to do is pick apart everything Louis says.
Set in New Orleans, we travel back to the late 1800s where Louis is living on the Pointe du Lac plantation with his mother and siblings. Louis falls into a state of depression when his younger brother dies and his melancholic beauty attracts the attention of a vampire. Louis is turned against his will (or so he claims) but is immediately enchanted with how the world now appears with his heightened senses. Anne Rice likes her descriptive prose and she spares no detail here in an effort to help us experience the world as Louis now does, but it can grate after a while. The setting of New Orleans offers a perfect metaphor for the vampires as Rice describes the beautiful exterior and the dark decay within.
Before long, Louis and Lestat are living together on the plantation after the death of Louis’s mother and the marriage of his sister, but Louis grows ever more frustrated by Lestat’s lack of knowledge on how to be a vampire. As the years pass by, Louis has to maintain a careful existence so people don’t suspect anything but the slaves on the plantation are harder to fool and the number of dead bodies found in the area is increasing their suspicion. As the slaves turn on them, Louis and Lestat are forced to abandon the plantation and they set up a new home in New Orleans where Lestat continues to toy with his victims to Louis’ growing disgust.
Realising their relationship is on rocky ground, Lestat decides they need to bring someone new into the mix and when he spots Louis hesitating over taking the blood of a child plague victim, Lestat returns to her little house and converts her into a vampire. Louis falls in love with Claudia, dressing her and treating her like a pretty doll, but neither of them understand the full horror of what they have done until decades pass and they realise Claudia has developed an adult mind in the body of a child. In some ways, she becomes even more vicious than Lestat himself and she is the one who convinces Louis they need to leave New Orleans to find more of their kind.
Claudia’s creation as a vampire is truly horrifying and becomes even more poignant when you realise Rice herself lost a daughter to leukaemia at a young age, an event that inspired her to write this novel. While the thought of making a sick child immortal to keep her forever certainly would have some appeal, we clearly see the consequences of such a deed in Claudia as her mind matures while her body stays the same. We learn later on that it is forbidden to make a vampire of one so young, but Lestat and Louis are both ignorant of this and Claudia’s conversion will haunt them for eternity.
Claudia’s arrival injects much needed zest of life into the story though because as beautiful as Louis may be, he constantly complains about everything and this gets progressively dull. As I said before, Claudia is more like Lestat in that she completely embraces her new existence and she relishes making her kills. Louis, on the other hand, is tormented by his immortality and the fact he needs to take a life to sustain his own. When Claudia’s appeal to Lestat wanes, the enmity between the two of them increases to the point Claudia starts to plot ways to destroy him completely and she dupes him into drinking tainted blood. Weakened, Lestat is viciously attacked by Claudia while a shocked Louis merely watches from the sidelines.
Louis and Claudia then go on a journey to Europe where they search for other vampires who will finally be able to answer their questions but they settle in Paris where they come into contact with the enigmatic Armand. Armand, a vampire who was made during the Renaissance, tells them he is the oldest vampire in existence and makes no secret of the fact he wants Louis for himself. Armand is the leader of a coven of vampires who run the Theatre of Vampires, however he plots against Claudia while professing his innocence at the same time. The demise of Claudia is one of the most heart-wrenching parts of the entire book and it finally goads an apathetic Louis into taking action as he destroys the theatre.
In the closing scenes of the movie version, Lestat awakens from his long sleep to discover the tapes Louis has made of his interview with Daniel and accuses him of whining which basically sums it up perfectly. As I said, Louis is an unreliable narrator and if you want to discover Lestat’s story, then you need to read the second book.