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In a Glass Darkly
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1001 book reviews > In a Glass Darkly by Sheridan Le Fanu

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Daisey | 257 comments This collection of short stories was interesting to me, but I definitely enjoyed a couple of them more than the others.

"Green Tea" and "The Familiar" were interesting short stories, but I was not especially impressed. "Green Tea" was almost more amusing than creepy, and "The Familiar" seemed very similar. "Mr. Justice Harbottle" was creepier to me. I thought that the "The Room in the Dragon Volant" was actually the most suspenseful and my favorite. "Carmilla" was the only story I had heard of previously, and I really enjoyed reading this early vampire story. I had originally hoped to read or listen to this collection in October, and it would have been the perfect gothic read for that time of year.

Amanda Dawn | 1099 comments This really enjoyed this series of Gothic stories and gave it 4 stars. It reads kind of like a more sincere and less spoofy “Simpsons Treehouse of Horror” episode, which is great. Of the short stories, I liked “Green Tea” the most, as it was kind of an odd and novel concept I found amusing. The “The Room in the Dragon Volant” also worked really well in my opinion, and reflected this genre perfectly.

I feel a little dumb now, but I hadn’t realized Carmilla was a legitimate gothic novel until reading this: there’s a cult famous Canadian web-series and follow up movie of Carmilla that takes place as a modern college romance and I had no clue it was adapted from this. I’m not a big fan of YA type stuff, so dare I say, I like the original much better. I was also reading that this novella started the “lesbian vampire” trope… which, not gonna lie, I’m highly amused by. I can also clearly see where Dracula was inspired by this.

Diane  | 2042 comments Rating: 4

I enjoyed these tales of gothic horror. I coincidentally read one of the stories from the book, Carmilla, about a week before I began this one.

message 4: by Valerie (last edited Oct 09, 2020 11:45AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Valerie Brown | 606 comments read Oct 2020

This is a collection of gothic horror stories (with the exception of ‘The Room in the Dragon Volant’, which is more of a mystery). Three are short stories, two in the collection are novellas.

The short stories are: ‘Green Tea’, ‘The Familiar’, and ‘Mr Justice Harbottle’. Generally, I didn’t find the short stories that interesting. ‘The Familiar’ was the weakest. I didn’t think the main character’s reactions were true to his nature. ‘Mr Justice Harbottle’ was the best of the three. I think this portion of the collection barely rates a 3*, and most of that achievement is due to their role as progenitors.

The novella “The Room in the Dragon Volant’ was great. Here Le Fanu is in top form and having fun. For a contemporary reader the main character is awfully naïve, but I am sure at the time of publication his readers would have been on the edge of their seats. Well done. 5*

The final (shorter) novella is ‘Carmilla’. The famous one. I had read this as a stand alone about 4 years ago. This is what I said then:

‘This novella is one of the earliest vampire stories (according to Wikipedia!). It is well written and atmospheric – as only the Gothic writers could do. At times it my mind it bordered on ‘high gothic’, but because the book is short the story moves along.
It is interesting reading this book in 2016 (it was published in 1872) because, of course, the world has changed. So, I did find the narrator (who is the victim) to be rather credulous and the set up introducing Carmilla into the story frankly unbelievable. As well, the homoerotic overtones seemed quite blatant to me. However, it is possible to put all of that aside and accept this book for what it is – an enjoyable story to read!’

Surprisingly, I think I enjoyed Carmilla more this time. I expected to skim it and not really like it; however, I was drawn in by the narrator and quite liked it. Last time I rated it 3*. I think I would give it a 4* this time.

message 5: by Leni (new)

Leni Iversen (leniverse) | 459 comments This biblically named collection contains three short stories, a short novel, and a novella. They are linked by a narrator/curator presenting case files from a doctor who seems to have specialised in supernatural decease. The three short stories escalate, both in supernatural content and in type of victim. From "innocent victim - could easily have a scientific explanation" in Green Tea, via "sins come back to haunt you to your death" in The Familiar, to "deprived victim gets his just comeuppance in chilling hellscape" in Mr Justice Harbottle.

The short novel and the novella do not involve the doctor directly, but are presented as cases he took an interest in after the fact. The novel, The Room in the Dragon Volant, comes as a bit of a surprise after the three short stories. Both because of its length and because it is a genre bending mishmash of romantic adventure, gothic horror, ghost story, and locked room mystery, all with an overly romantic and hapless young Englishman who should never have been let abroad without a minder. Once the reader gets over the expectations set by the first three stories, this is an excellent yarn.

The final, and best known, story is the novella Carmilla, which I have previously (briefly) reviewed on its own. I don't think I was aware, when i read it the first time, that Carmilla predated and inspired Bram Stoker's Dracula. I think Dracula is the better book (and certainly longer), but Le Fanu's story is possibly more entertaining. It is highly atmospheric, has a female vampire of a clearly lesbian bent, and presents all the vampire tropes before they were fashionable (I guess he made them the fashion!) as well as subverting the tropes of gothic fiction: The castle is not at all gloomy, in fact it's homey and full of flowers. It was not a dark and stormy night, in fact it was quite nice out and the stars were very pretty. The maiden is not prone to swooning and flights of fancy, in fact she doesn't believe in the supernatural at all (more's the pity, since there actually is a vampire about).

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