Pandora – Anne Rice

Having just finished reading American Gods by Neil Gaiman, I involuntarily reached for Pandora in an attempt to continue on the path of the gods/myths stories. I am not stranger to Anne Rice’s prose, having read a few of her books of which “The Mayfair Witches” was by far my favorite.

The story begins in a café in modern day Paris, where Pandora, an ancient vampire, is writing her life’s story. Like the famous woman who inspired her name, Pandora is about to open the box which contains the memories of a life that goes back to ancient Rome. Reluctant at first but then caught under the spell of remembering, she starts writing about her father, who was an important Senator during the reign of Augustus Cesar, her brothers and her life. It was a time of freedom and learning, of oratorical discourses and leisure which came to an abrupt halt when Pandora’s family was murdered and she was forced to go into hiding to the great city of Antioch. Tormented by blood dreams and followed by a mysterious creature rumored to be a blood drinker, Pandora seeks refuge into the temple of Isis where she learns about the ancient worship of the goddess which included feeding on blood. There she sees Marius again, a blond, blue-eyed “blood-god” whom she had met as a young girl in her homeland. Their love will keep them together for two hundred years in the city of Antioch where they would spend their days reading ancient texts and arguing, keeping vigil over the ancient Pair, the King and Queen whose death would cause the extinction of all blood drinkers.

This book was a tangle of stories, names, writings and old legends set on a background of vampire lore. It starts beautifully, with Pandora slowly trying to gather her ideas and bring back memories of childhood. There are beautiful passages imbued with sensuality:

“Naturally, David, you would leave me something elegant, an inviting page. This notebook bound in dark varnished leather, it is not, tooled with a design of rich roses, thornless, yet leafy, a design that means only Design in the final analysis but bespeaks an authority. What is written beneath this heavy and handsome book cover will count, sayeth the cover.”
“I am thinking about your request in writing. You see, you will get something from me. I find myself yielding to it, almost as one of our human victims yields to us, discovering perhaps as the rain continues to fall outside, as the café continues with its noisy chatter, to think that this might not be the agony I presumed – reaching back over the two thousand years – but almost a pleasure, like the act of drinking blood itself.”

Sadly, these are about the only paragraphs I really enjoyed from this book. I read the story fairly quickly because I just hoped it would get better and I do hate giving up on a book. As the narrative continued and I was thrust into the precipitating events, everything seemed just a blur of people, references to famous writers and texts. Ovid’s Amores and Metamorphoses, a quote from Shakespeare and references to her own books and characters like “Memnoch the Devil” (which I haven’t read), Lestat, “The Queen of the Damned” (I’ve seen the movie), bits of Egypt and Roman history, all contributed to make the story too intricate for my taste. Add to that a penchant for exclamation marks and fast dialogue and the picture is complete. What I can say is that I’m glad I got to read “The Mayfair Witches” first. Had I started with this book, it would have been difficult to give Anne Rice’s books another try.

*Read in November 2011

This entry was posted in The Book on The Nightstand. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Pandora – Anne Rice

  1. Vishy says:

    Sorry to know that you didn’t like this book much, Delia. It is always frustrating when a book doesn’t meet our expectations. I liked your observation about how the book has references to famous writers and texts. I find that a little bit of that is interesting, but too much of that is boring. Hope you enjoy your next Anne Rice book more.

    • Delia says:

      Maybe I should learn my lesson and have no expectations at all, just see how it goes, but having read other books by Anne Rice I did expect this one to be at least as good as the rest. The problem is I do love a vampire story set in ancient times – if you have any suggestions of such books I’d be more than happy to hear them.
      As for the references, they are great but too much of history can be overwhelming. I know the setting is important but I was more interested in the characters. Maybe that’s my problem, I love a book that makes me care about characters and even though this book was about Pandora it didn’t really made me care about her. It started so well, though….

      • Vishy says:

        I hope you enjoy your next vampire book better. I haven’t read a lot of vampire books – only the few obvious ones like ‘Dracula’ by Bram Stoker, ‘Interview with a Vampire’ by Anne Rice, a graphic novel version of the first volume of the ‘Twilight’ series and ‘I am Legend’ by Richard Matheson. However I have a book called ‘The Vampire Archives’ edited by Otto Penzler. It is a 1000+ page chunkster and it is a comprehensive collection of vampire tales, since they were first written during Mary Shelley’s time, till the modern day. It has a thick bibliography which has the names of nearly every vampire book ever published. I think you will love this book 🙂 However, if you would like to read about a different kind of creature, I would recommend ‘The Amulet of Samarkhand’ by Jonathan Stroud. It is the story of a Djinn who is awoken by a magician after many centuries. The story is told by the Djinn who is lazy, sarcastic, has an interesting sense of humour and tries to wrongfoot the magician at every turn. I loved this book.

        • Delia says:

          Thanks for the suggestions, Vishy. I have (and read) 2 vampire books edited by Otto Penzler and they were good, some tales better than the others. This one however seems to be more complete and I’ll keep an eye out for it.
          A naughty Djinn, I like that, it reminds me of The Arabian Nights. 🙂

  2. Jenners says:

    I haven’t read Anne Rice’s books since high school when I worked my way through a lot of her vampire books … before leaving them behind after Queen of the Damned. This review makes me think there is no need to revisit her!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *