Monday, 14 June 2021

The Vampyre - Tom Holland


 I know, I know.  What looks like a coincidence could also be an obsession.  But the fact of the matter is, I've had this novel on my shelves for about three years and was prompted to read it because I liked Wilson's play so much.

I also enjoyed the novel.  The subtitle, 'The Secret History of Lord Byron', tells us all we need to know.  It's hardly a secret that Byron is, to all intents and purposes, the model for the modern vampire - and why he so often has to be a nobleman.  Byron was the host at the Villa Deodati on Lake Geneva in the year without a summer (1816) when the group (Byron, Mr and Mrs Shelley and Dr Polidori) resolved to write Gothic horror stories.  Mary Shelley famously began Frankenstein.  Byron wrote a fragment about a vampire which, Polidori, after he was sacked and returned to England, developed and published as The Vampyre.  The unscrupulous publisher inferred Byron was the real author; both Byron and Polidori objected and the scandal became a bestseller.  Polidori, grieved to have fallen out with his hero, makes him very clearly the anti-hero of the novella.

Anyway, so Holland has taken the vampirisation of Byron and combined it with the huge bestseller (and successful movie of the time) Interview with a Vampire.  The result is not subtle: Byron is the vampire - and not for purposes of satire or sarcasm - and he is sort of interviewed.  The latter is not especially successful, his interviewer, Rebecca, doesn't ask any serious questions and the book is basically a long first person account from Byron.  Holland has done his research and the story of his life in exile - having left England because he abandoned his wife and child - is perfectly convincing.  The vampire side is not quite so well done but I was impressed that Holland has added to the vampire mythos - a new development in the concept of 'golden blood', the ultimate delight for vampires, the blood of their own children.

One reason the novel is slightly unsatisfactory is that it is meant to be continued (in Supping With Panthers).  I don't know whether I can be bothered but anyone who has read it is welcome to tell me about it and even post their comments here.


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