Hello! It’s Thinking Thursday, and that means it’s time for a review 😀 Book Club Read #3. I was really curious going on how it would be because I find boarding schools really interesting environments, but [spoiler alert] I ended up disappointed.
Title || The Moth Diaries (GoodReads)
Author || Rachel Klein
Published || 2010 by Faber and Faber Limited (Reprint)
Form || Paperback
Genre || Horror? Thriller? Mystery?
Rating || 2/5
Yay || Carmilla “retelling”
Nay || The format/structure
Summary || Girl obsessed with her roommate grows obsessed with her roommate’s new friend, who she thinks is a vampire.
I’m not a huge fan, and my reasons honestly all relate back to the format/structure of the story, particularly in the notion of the diary.
I found the foreword/prologue to be jarring and unnecessary. The statement that she had clearly had a psychotic break during the book pulled me out of the book itself; it made me aware not only that I was reading fiction all the while, but also that the narrator wasn’t to be trusted at all, and I was thus left to wonder why I should care.
And I didn’t.
About anything really.
This disappointed me in great part because this could have been really good. The idea of retelling Carmilla in a boarding school in the 60s or 70s, except with an ambiguous supernatural element, could have been wonderful. The juxtaposition of sanity to insanity, and thus supernatural to natural, would have been beautiful if executed well. I do not feel that was done here, unfortunately.
I expected a sort of descent into madness, a blurring of reality and hallucination, but I never really got that. I was waiting for it–I was waiting to see things and wonder whether they were real–but the things I saw were blatantly one thing or the other only because I know that the narrator had this break with reality (and have no reason to think otherwise). Ernessa’s character had such potential to be interesting, but because we aren’t really shown much of her or the way that she makes the narrator feel, the “realization” that she’s a vampire is at once completely left-field (because evidence in the book is so scarce) and entirely too obvious (because of the references to the supernatural, vampires, and Carmilla, as well as the book’s marketing).
Worse, I had no emotional connection to the characters, in part because of the diary format. The narrator, in my opinion, writes with very little emotion. Her obsession with Lucy is clear (again helped along by marketing), but it’s never clear why they’re friends–an explanation inappropriate to the formatting, but important if the reader is to feel sympathy for the insipid “traitor.”
While it stays true to the nature of the journal, the diary leaves little out of day-to-day life. Maybe I’m blind to the usefulness of the scenes, but I found that a good portion of it was irrelevant fluff. I found myself wondering, over halfway through, when something interesting would happen. Anything interesting that did happen was glossed over–due to the diary format, the narrator’s emotionless recounting, or both. Even the end, which ought to have been, wasn’t exciting.
I’m interested in the movie because the removal of the diary format will, I think, make it more successful in my eyes despite the low ratings I’ve seen.
In the end, I’d suggest you read Carmilla (or reread it) rather than picking this up unless you’re interested by what I’ve said so far. It was a decent idea with poor execution. I didn’t think it was bad, but I had little to no emotional connection to the characters or the story–I was so bored for most of it, waiting for something to happen, than I can’t even say I dislike it.
Recommended for? Fans of the diary format, fans of Carmilla
Have you read The Moth Diaries? What did you think?
If you haven’t, do you now want to?