“The Witching Hour”
Author: Anne Rice
Back in the Old Days (those unmentionable awkward teenage years), I was one of the many lonely, plump around the middle, latently horny girls who got a serious kick out of the film adaptation of Anne Rice’s best seller “Interview With The Vampire”. After watching it for the first time, I begged my mother to get me Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles and I read them reverently. Lestat was my secret lover and I was waiting for him to claim me so I could spend an eternity with him. Thank GOD I grew out of that a few years later.
Although Rice’s most well-known series is well-written and beloved for a reason, I started to fall out with them after “The Queen of the Damned” (the book, not the movie) because I felt that was the last really good Vampire Chronicle. Rice’s subsequent efforts weren’t bad, but they just did not possess the spark the first three stories had, nor did they have as engaging characters and eyebrow-raising scenarios. As I started to extend my reach through Rice’s enormous bestiary of the supernatural and the erotic, I stumbled across the first novel of what would become the Lives of the Mayfair Witches continuity. I was fascinated by the prospect of Rice broaching the deeply entrenched and almost controversial subject of paganism so I cracked it open and gave it a go.
This became my favourite of Anne Rice’s sagas, “The Vampire Chronicles” was great, “Lives of the Mayfair Witches” is phenomenal.
It would be a sin if I were to speak about particular characters and circumstances in the book, so let me just share with you the back blurb of the paperback novel that I own (the cover of which you also see above);
“On the veranda of a great New Orleans house, now faded, a mute and fragile woman sits rocking. And the witching hour begins…
Demonstrating once again her gift for spellbinding storytelling and the creation of legend, Anne Rice makes real for us a great dynasty of witches – a family given to poetry and incest, to murder and philosophy, a family that over the ages is itself haunted by a powerful, dangerous, and seductive being.”.
Incredibly vague, but this is a book that truly must be read to be believed and to take full stock of. Rice, in her typical style adds a level of horrifying yet deeply penetrating eroticism that permeates on every page, each character is unique and fascinating while the perceptions of the reader are constantly challenged. Great authors possess the ability to fluently change the minds and bend the will of their readers and “The Witching Hour” provides a masterful if not highly respectable example of that. The story of the Mayfair family is deeply rooted in mystery, ambiguity, evil and yet it is so compelling, so full of luscious detail it’s impossible to look away from once you are within it’s grip. A friend of mine, who after having read the novel told me that to see the Mayfair family’s tragedies, triumphs and sins was like a train-wreck; it is so foul but you just cannot bring yourself to avert your eyes or close off your brain.
Yeah, kinda like this.
Make no mistake, you are going to be subjected to some very shocking, uproarious and morally disgusting material within this tale, but the way these sordid stories are told is artful separates it from being material that you are bound to read in a penny dreadful. Rice put the tempus, research, thought and passion into telling this epic story and it by golly gee it shows. She paints vivid pictures of the worlds her characters inhabit through time from Scotland in the 1500’s all the way up to the United States circa late 1980’s, every era of her tale is told and seen through the eyes of various souls who are connected to the Mayfair legacy, some fatally closer than others. Call me bias, curmudgeonly or old-fashioned, but I don’t think she’s ever done superior to the twisted, grotesque and hypnotizing web she has woven here.
This is not an easy-going Sunday afternoon read as it demands the reader’s concentration and imagination in order to make itself work. Without the compliance and curiosity of the reader, almost every intention and plot twist will go over one’s head which serves as a detriment to the text.
“The Witching Hour” is, pardon the lame as a horse pun, absolutely bewitching, spell-binding and savagely magical and it a spectacle in every sense of the word. If you ever get the opportunity to pick this one up, prepare yourself- it’s going to get gorgeously ugly.