Thursday, 15 July 2010

Book Review: The Moth Diaries by Rachel Klein.

Product details:
Publisher: Faber and Faber.
Paperback, 256 pages.
Release date: May 1st 2010 (first published 2002)
Ages: 14+
Rating: 3½ out of 5.
Source: Received from publisher for review.

Lucy and Ernessa have become inseparable. Ernessa’s taken her over. She’s consuming her. What I saw wasn’t real. And I know it wasn’t a dream.

Ernessa is a vampire.

At an exclusive girls’ boarding school, a sixteen-year-old girl records her most intimate thoughts in a diary. The object of her growing obsession is her roommate, Lucy Blake, and Lucy’s friendship with their new and disturbing classmate. Ernessa is an enigmatic, moody presence with pale skin and hypnotic eyes.

Around her swirl dark rumors, suspicions, and secrets as well as a series of ominous disasters. As fear spreads through the school and Lucy isn’t Lucy anymore, fantasy and reality mingle until what is true and what is dreamed bleed together into a waking nightmare that evokes with gothic menace the anxieties, lusts, and fears of adolescence. And at the center of the diary is the question that haunts all who read it: Is Ernessa really a vampire? Or has the narrator trapped herself in the fevered world of her own imagining?

When I first heard of The Moth Diaries I thought it sounded like my perfect book - It’s billed as a vampire story set in an exclusive boarding school and told through the diary entries of a troubled teenage girl.  It can be all that, if you want it to be, but I perceived the book to be very different from my usual vampire fare.  In the end, I considered that the book may not actually be vampire fiction at all, but instead a study of the psychological torment and mental disintegration of a teenage girl as she tries to come to terms with the suicide of her father.  If you like books where the ending is neatly wrapped up and everything is explained, then this one isn’t for you. If, on the other hand, you like books that will stay on your mind for days after you’ve finished them, let you draw your own conclusions to almost every plot point, and leave you with a lot of unanswered questions, then pick this one up.

We are introduced to our narrator as an adult, and from the first pages we know that she has suffered from borderline personality disorder, depression and psychosis.  From the prologue, we are then taken back thirty years previously, and to her diary entries where we can sense her isolation at her all-girls boarding school.  She seems unhappy and unpopular, but would have the reader think otherwise.   Her diary entries are inconsistent with how she seems to be perceived by the people around her, and so from the start, we mark her as an unreliable narrator.  She is somewhat obsessed with her roommate Lucy, and extremely jealous of the mysterious new girl at school, Ernessa, who becomes close to Lucy.

Our narrator tells us that almost all the girls in her group are suspicious of Ernessa - she is different to them, in both her appearance and  her behaviour.  Strange things start happening at the school, deaths occur, and Lucy falls prey to a serious illness, which seemingly nobody can diagnose, apart from our narrator who decides that Ernessa is a vampire, and is sucking the life out of Lucy.  Indeed, when Lucy is away from Ernessa she appears to recover.  When she is near Ernessa, her symptoms appear again.  But, how much of the story is true?  It’s up to you to draw your own conclusions.  It’s also hinted that Lucy may be anorexic, and an obsession with food is a constant theme throughout the book..  Is there any evidence that Ernessa is really a vampire? The lines between fantasy and reality are often blurred in the book - certain passages take place in nightmares and dreamscapes.  It’s difficult to know whether the narrator is telling you the truth.  At one point, I suspected that Ernessa might be entirely a figment of the narrator’s imagination.  In addition, the narrator’s suspicions are fuelled by drugs and by the fact that she, herself is reading vampire fiction.

While I found that a lot of the passages in the book dragged, and while I didn’t like the narrator, I must say that this one is a very interesting read.  It’s one that requires discussion, and maybe even a second reading.  It’s also spooky.  I don’t often get spooked by books, but this one is very gothic, chilling and haunting. If anyone else has read this book, I’d love to know your thoughts on it.

While reading the book, I found myself thinking that it would make a great movie, and then I discovered that there is actually a movie adaptation in the works, helmed by American Psycho director Mary Harron, and starring Sarah Bolger, Lily Cole and Scott Speedman.  It’s certainly a movie I’m looking forward to seeing!

I submitted this review to Radiant Reviews - a great new meme I'm taking part in every Thursday.






8 comments :

  1. Great review. I will certainly keep a lookout for both the film and the movie :D

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  2. This is the first time I hear of this and it sounds pretty good. I shall have to give it a try and see if I like it. Great review :)

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  3. Huh. I'm surprised I haven't heard anything about this one, but it sounds interesting. I like that the story idea kind of blends fantasy and reality. I'll have to check and see if the library has it. Thanks for the review! :)

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  4. Thanks for taking part in Radiant Reviews :)

    I haven't heard of this book before but it sounds like a very interesting read. Most of your description of it makes it sound like it would be a perfect book for me to read. The only thing that puts me off a bit is that I like my endings to be neatly wrapped up. I get a bit frustrated if this doesn't happen! This is a great review :)

    www.chrissiescorner.co.uk

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  5. Lovely cover and I like the sound of the story - and I've just discovered my library has it on order so will place it on hold. Thanks for the review.

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  6. Psychological torment and mental disintegration and vampires and spookiness all in one? I'm so in!

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  7. What an excellent review! I had heard about this one and to tell you the truth it didn't appeal to me so much...until i read this =) Now I'm thinking I need to read it!

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  8. I really, really loved reading your review. I thought it was thought-provoking, well-balanced and explain just what was right and what was wrong with it in such a way that it still makes me want to read the book anyway.

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