This modern day gothic vampire lark, set in an (imagined) English university town, is brilliant. All the tropes play out, and yet it comes across without any sense of cliche. A genuinely satisfying read.
The prose particularly appealed to me. I love the classics, and Earl has developed a really strong style, at the same time both formal in the gothic way and also pacey and up to date. The writing really reflected the plot as Julian, a centuries-old vampire, comes back into action today. He is partly out of time but mostly just aloof, wrestling with his inner demons: the conflict between the vampire’s insatiable blood lust, and his desire to avoid damaging the girl he falls for.
For her part, Sophia suffers a parallel struggle. And it is the struggle we all face in life: the attraction of excitement, risk, fun, the full life, as compared with the success imbued by stability, family, marriage, work: explained as ‘settling for clams’ in John Irving’s ‘Widow for One Year’. We all hanker for the former, but few go all the way, daring to risk the Icarusian descent.
So, the story is a standard, reflected here in the Victorian gloom Earl manages to bring to Barchester in winter. The town’s name was the only element of this book that truly rankled with me. One has to assume that it is intended to be Trollope’s Barsetshire town, which didn’t really chime with me, or, if not, then as an invented name it’s, um, ‘naff’ I think is the best word. Everything else was absolutely spot on the mark as a homage to the gothic vampire genre, so I did not let Barchester get on my nerves too much!