This is my first finished read for the Halloween Read-A-Thon being hosted by the lovely Lauren at Wonderless Reviews! You can see my complete list in my first post. I picked an older book because I wanted to see some of the beginnings of modern paranormal literature.
The Werewolf of Paris was first published in 1933. The writing style is definitely of the age, but it also shows marks of the beginnings of modern day novel writing. Apparently they liked their smut in the 1930s too, they just tended to be more embarrassed about it. 😛 The first few chapters in this book made me think that maybe this was going to be more of a bodice-ripping paranormal than I was anticipating, but after the initial set-up most of that dies off. There’s only a few particularly descriptive passages.
Bertrand Caillet is the main character, but his story is mostly told by others – a young American who finds a written account of his crimes, and his adoptive uncle (the writer of the account).
The first third of the book has an entirely different flavor than the later parts. It sets up the story of Bertrand’s parents, leads us up to the full onset of his condition, and generally paints him as a sympathetic character. There is a lot of action and a decent amount of dialogue. After Bertrand’s arrival in Paris as a young man, however, the narrative devolved horribly into a dry, boring history lesson on the Franco-Prussian War – I had SO MUCH trouble staying focused!
I really struggled with how Bertrand was portrayed. As I said, at first he seems like a truly sympathetic character – his werewolf nature is in his blood, it’s not something he asked or encouraged. His uncle keeps anything he learns about it from him. He is locked up as a teenager, a prisoner in his own house. He believes his rampages are dreams. So far, so empathizing. BUT. THEN. He begins to figure it out…and he doesn’t fight against it, at least not at first. He is only conscious of his need and desire…he feels shame and sadness when he comes to himself, but he doesn’t truly seek for a cure until later. His relationship with Sophie was truly sad…all the passion of young love (though, what HER mental issues were, I never quite figured out) with so much sickness and no help at all offered to them. No one took pity, no one tried to truly understand, they just tried to force them into acceptable societal roles. 😦
Overall, this book didn’t strike me as a horror novel, but more of a tragedy. Even reading it after dark didn’t help with that! I even took it to bed with me and read IN the dark with my backlight…yeah, not scary. I’m giving 3/5 stars. While of course there are some gruesome bits…I was mostly just overwhelmed by sadness for Bertrand, for Sophie, and for their families. Not the thriller/scary book I was hoping for.
That said, I can definitely see where this was an influential book for paranormal movies and novels in the modern world. Now I really want to delve into the history of the legends!