by: Anne Rice
Anne Rice has always used her writing to explore and express her exploration of religion and faith through entertainment. Vittorio the Vampire is no exception. Memnoch the Devil and Christ the Lord: Out Of Egypt were also heavy handed with religious overtones. Other Rice books have had similar themes, but not so blatant as in these two novels and Vittorio. I struggled with Memnoch. It was a tough read. Even with my hero, Lestat the Brat Prince, but Vittorio is as clear as dew on morning blades of grass.
“I felt ravaged, and with both hands in a fantasy I reached out for her figure as we ran together through the meadow which belonged only to us and to which these others could never be admitted.”
The timeline and location are set in a Renaissance Italy. Specifically in the hills of the illustrious Tuscany, and a small bit in the streets of Florence. Visually, the tale is told with perfect elegance, always with the detail of an accountant and flourish of a poet. With Rice’s descriptive writing she brings vivid colors and a lost culture alive. You almost can feel and smell the Tuscany air. Vittorio, the young Lord of his lands that have been untouched by war or violence. Despite his affection, he leaves and has found a passion and love for art in his teachings in Florence. When he returns home the describing of Fra Filippo’s artwork is painted in such detail it’s impossible as a reader to not imagine it.
As in the Vampire Armand and his love for Botticelli, we see how Fra Filippo becomes an important set piece in pushing the plot forward. There is a strong contrast in his personal life and his life as an artist. Each side couldn’t be more opposing. He paints angels and light and beauty, while his personal life is riddled with disaster and evildoing. Vittorio’s journey becomes parallel to this. He is inherently good, wronged by evil, and condemned himself with revenge on creatures beyond his comprehension other than “demons”. His righteous attempts to redeem himself and his family fail miserably, especially after he falls in love with the vampire Ursula who represents all that is wrong with his world, and yet he still loves her adoringly.
“The sun shocked me, and made me sicken, yet how I wanted it, how I longed for it, and yet it rebuked me and seemed to scourge me as if it were a whip.”
This inner conflict continues throughout the tale and surprisingly Vittorio is not made Vampire till the final pages, but by then one realizes the story was not about him becoming a vampire at all. The symbolism the creature vampire carries in the story is all the relevance you need to understand the point, which is quite beautiful.
The final pages of the story end like a lovely sunset on the ocean. Beautiful, entrancing, and eternal.
“What am I? Do I live? Or am I walking always in death, forever in love with time?”
Vittorio wasn’t my favorite of Anne Rice’s novels, nor even a favorite of The Vampire Chronicles. Nonetheless, it had some of the most beautiful writing, visualization, and ideals of anything she has put in print that my eyes have laid upon to date. Get lost in Renaissance Italy, love, language, and the constant journey of self-discovery and finding our place in the world.
Rating: 3/5 Stars