June 2024
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Review: The Vampire of Ropraz, Jacques Chessex

In a small town in eastern Europe called Ropraz, a beautiful, virginal young woman dies of a horrible illness.  With great ceremony and reverence, she is laid to rest in their churchyard.  The next morning, her remains are found spread across the graveyard, horribly mutilated and defiled.  Resorting to superstition in their fear, the villagers assume a vampire is on the loose.  When two more recently deceased girls are violated in the same way, panic spreads and blame, naturally, settles on a peasant male who is found violating farm animals and has been noted for staring at girls.  This little novel explores the psychological and superstitious reaction a small town on the edge of the 20th century has when faced with horrible brutality.

First of all, there are no actual vampires in this book.  That was a disappointment to me, who received this as a review copy knowing absolutely nothing about it, so don’t let it disappoint you!

If you like creepy, you might like this book.  The descriptions of the mutilated girls had me feeling ill and uncomfortable in my skin.  I’m jumping at shadows.  I don’t always like to be scared and I can’t say I’m liking it right now – I’m writing this review after midnight just to get this book out of my head.  Also, the concepts of bestiality and necrophilia are innately disgusting to me, and those parts really bothered me.  Honestly, I did not need to know the condition of the accused’s private organs.  Worse, it’s written in such a matter-of-fact way that it’s almost as though this shouldn’t bother me, since it’s just genetics.  It did.  I’m squicked out.

The psychological effect was interesting, though.  It almost reminded me of The Witch’s Trinity by Erika Mailman in the way that blame centers on one person and then it just grows and grows, people desperate to blame someone.  Mailman does it better, though.  This one captures a certain mass hysteria but doesn’t focus on anyone’s feelings in particular.  It’s really too short and could have done with some fleshing out.  At 104 pages of huge font with blank pages between chapters, we just get a straight narrative and not much else.  It feels almost as though my review could be longer than the book.

I don’t think I’d want more though.  This one creeped me out too much.  I can’t imagine how it could be better in its original French; the descriptions of the countryside might flow better, but I doubt the translator could escape the graphic descriptions of mutilation which have me shuddering an hour after completing the book.  I do have to say, clever ending.  This one’s based on a true story and I was definitely wondering just how true that conjecture might be.

I will stop talking now, put this book out of my head, and let you look for yourself: Amazon and Amazon UK.

Do you like it when books creep you out?


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