Book Reviews

The Master of Rampling Gate * Anne Rice Review

Rampling Gate. It was so real to us in the old pictures, rising like a fairy-tale castle out of its own dark wood. A wilderness of gables and chimneys between those two immense towers, grey stone walls mantled in ivy, mullioned windows reflecting the drifting clouds.
But why had Father never taken us there? And why, on his deathbed, had he told my brother that Rampling Gate must be torn down, stone by stone? ” I should have done it, Richard,” he said. “But I was born in that house, as my father was, and his father before him. You must do it now, Richard. It has no claim on you. Tear it down.”

After having read Shirley Jackson – The Haunting Of Hill House  and The Turn of the Screw * Henry James, I decided to give another Gothic novel a go. And I do mean Gothic. It features central themes like isolation, fear of the unknown, a large manor with a dark secret, all while covered in dust and creaky stairs.

When we reached the massive front door Richard and I were spirited into the great hall by the tiny figure of the blind housekeeper Mrs Blessington, our footfalls echoing loudly on the marble tile, and our eyes dazzled by the dusty shafts of light that fell on the long oak table and its heavily carved chairs, on the sombre tapestries that stirred ever so slightly against the soaring walls.
It all comes to a interesting crescendo of events as Julie sees a spectral apparition which apparently knows her name. A man, young and handsome and very pale. He appears to her again later on that night, in her own bedroom, and seduces her:
“Only a little kiss,” said the voice of the one who was really here. I felt his lips against my neck. “I would never harm you. No harm ever for the children of this house. Just the little kiss, Julie, and the understanding that it imparts, that you cannot destroy Rampling Gate, Julie — that you can never, never drive me away.
The story, purely English, is typical of Anne Rice’s style. She mixes old times and new times. She mixes historical dramatic times (the plague, the Black Death) with modern times. She also gives her vampires a loving and lovable side which makes them indestructible at least for sane human beings who do not see any reason to destroy someone or something in the fact that he or it is slightly different, and even a lot different. Here the trick is that in modern times it is a woman who is mesmerized by the vampire into guaranteeing his own safety in exchange for eternal life, or eternal damnation. We are far from Mona, the willing and agreeing victim who kills the vampire in the end out of mercy.
The story then is in no way particularly outstanding.
2/5
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