Thursday, June 23, 2011
Release date: 2002
The Blurb: Ernessa is a vampire. She wants me, and only me, to see it. Her hand is guiding mine as I write these words
At an exclusive girls’ boarding school, a sixteen-year-old girl records her most intimate thoughts in a diary. The object of her obsession is her room-mate, Lucy Blake, and Lucy’s friendship with their new and disturbing classmate. Ernessa is a mysterious presence with pale skin and hypnotic eyes. Around her swirl dark secrets and a series of ominous disasters. As fear spreads through the school, fantasy and reality mingle in a waking nightmare of gothic menace, fuelled by the lusts and fears of adolescence.
And at the centre of the diary is the question that haunts all who read it: Is Ernessa really a vampire? Or is the narrator trapped in her own fevered imagination?
The review: This was a recommendation by Halek and, I have to say, it might have been easy to dismiss the novel – based on the blurb – as just another adolescent-school-vampire-drama. However that is doing the novel a grave misservice and I hope this review might place the novel on a few radars.
This is far from a teen novel. It might feature a nameless teen narrator and her friends, it might be set in a school, but it is a dark gothic traipse through a mind perhaps fractured by psychosis. It might be fair to suggest that this is the love child of Carmilla (which is actually cited within the book) and Some of your Blood (or at least a twist thereof).
From the preface, in which the narrator, as an adult, explains why she has re-read and released the journal she had kept during her sixteenth year – at the urging of the psychiatrist she used to see, we get a sense that the contents may not be real. He suggests that she had been "suffering from borderline personality disorder complicated by depression and psychosis". It is true her sixteen-year-old self had still been recovering from the suicide of her father two years before.
Her mother had shipped her off to boarding school but the world she had built around Lucy, her room-mate during that school year, fell apart as Lucy seemed to drift to the new girl Ernessa. The picture of the narrator is not a pretty one, she is clearly jealous and petty with a general superiority complex with regards some of the girls. However Klein builds a complex character and so we do develop a genuine sympathy for her as well.
By the end of the book you are left with possibilities. That she was obsessed and jealous of a friendship with an innocent (at least of vampirism) girl, that perhaps Ernessa – who looks a little like her, is Jewish as she is and has lost her father also – was never real and was a psychotic externalisation or that Ernessa was really a vampire. The book leaves you to make your own mind up. Was, for instance, the school as rife with anti-semetic feeling as the narrator sometimes maintains? Was Lucy predated upon by this new girl or did she simply become ill? Was the death of as student a result of a sinister act or simply a tragic accident? Did the narrator project the idea of vampirism onto her rival due to jealousy and latent lesbian attraction?
The book takes adolescent struggles and amplifies it through the narrator, it takes the bourgeoning sexuality of a teen and questions it through friendship, through the Electra complex and through the vampire. Well worth a read. 7.5 out of 10.