Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Witching Hour by Anne Rice

From the publisher:

"On the veranda of a great New Orleans house, now faded, a mute and fragile woman sits rocking. And The Witching Hour begins......"

My thoughts:

Like J.K. Rowling and Diana Gabaldon, Anne Rice has that magic touch that just draws me into another world, another era, where, like a wizard, she mixes up an intoxicating brew of witchcraft lore, wicked tragedy, and gothic romance. We are introduced to the great dynasty of the Mayfair witches beginning in the seventeenth century Scottish Highlands, and follow four generations through Europe, the lavish Maye Faire plantation in Port-au-Prince, Saint-Domingue, to a decaying antebellum mansion in New Orleans and present-day San Francisco. Each generation is haunted and tormented by the powerful and seductive being, Lasher. Beginning with the beautiful Suzanne, the Queen of the May Fair in Scotland, and ending in the present-day with Dr. Rowan Mayfair, renowned nuerosurgeon and healer, will they be able to break the evil spell that binds them tragically to Lasher?

I first read The Witching Hour in 1990 when it was first published and absolutely loved it for its rich, historically accurate depiction of life in New Orleans. I often wonder if readers who were not born and raised here would notice the wealth of details Anne Rice includes in her writings, from architectural depictions, accents, street names, pronunciations, neighborhoods, schools and churches, cultural celebrations and traditions, social commentaries...things that are unique to our city but completely ordinary in our way of life. She is a master of seamlessly weaving historical detail and plot.

On this second reading, I noticed interesting details that are also part of the Outlander series that I so enjoy reading. The second part of the novel is devoted to the history of the Mayfair witches as documented in files by the secret Talamasca organization....their motto is, "We watch.....and we are always here." For example, in describing the origin of the Mayfair witches and their connection to Lasher, we learn that it all began in a circle of standing stones while celebrating an ancient pagan feast:

p. 293
"To which they explained that the people of Highland villages were most attached still to the old customs, and that on the eve of May 1 they built great bonfires in the open grass, these being lighted only from the needfire, and they danced all night about the bonfires, making merry."
p. 311
"Out into the field we went, feeling for the stones before us, and finding the very middle of the circle and standing stock-still in it to feel the wind...I heard the humming as she held my hand; then in a circle we danced together, making small circles round and round as we did. Louder she hummed and then the Latin words she spoke to call the demon, and then flinging out her arms she cried to him to come."

Her writing is enthralling, guaranteed to make you go deep into yourself and examine your own values and truths....highly recommended!

Title: The Witching Hour
Author: Anne Rice
genre: fiction
pages: 1038
publisher: Random House


Sheila (bookjourney) said...

I really want to read this. I have never read Ann Rice but I have always wanted to try. Your comparison here to J K Rowling (who I think is an amazing story teller!) peaks my interest.

Kim said...

I haven't read any of Ann Rice either and you had me hooked until I saw the 1000+ pages :) You can see how long it is taking me to get through my current chunkster. I do like a good gothic romance-mystery, tho.

Julie at Outlandish Dreaming said...

I read this book when it first came out and have re-read it once at least and I loved it! I was enthralled by the whole history of the family, and really liked Rowan and her guy (forget his name, now). I was also really interested in the Talamasca as well. Unf. the sequels aren't nearly as good, but still Lasher wasn't bad, the next one I could barely finish, but you might feel differently. This is one of my favorite reads!

Lezlie said...

I didn't much care for the other two that came after this, but I *loved* The Witching Hour!


Joanne said...

Hi, Sheila & Kim -- Perhaps you'll have another chunkster challenge; it is a tome, but the pace is thrilling so you fly through the pages like a witch on a broomstick! (ha!)

Hi, Julie & Lezlie -- I have to admit I have not read the sequels; The Witching Hour, so far for me, will be a stand alone. So glad I took the time to reread it -- more amazing than the first time around! Thanks for stopping by!

Anonymous said...

As a life-long fan of "The Vampire Chronicles" - and all of the subsequent novels that sprang from those first five books - it took me a long time to switch my loyalties to the Mayfair Witches. I agree that the first book was a great read, and I enjoyed Lasher simply because I HAD to know how that story ended! Taltos, however, I just couldn't get into. For those of you who haven't read these books yet, I highly recommend the 1st two. You won't be missing anything if you pass on the third...

Joanne said...

Hello, Ray, and thanks for stopping by. My blogging friends have convinced me to read the next book in the series and I'll skip the third.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Joanne. I think you'll enjoy "Lasher". It ties the Mayfair family history together as it relates to the title character, as well as explaining Lasher's origins. It bogs down a little in a few spots, but stick with it. You'll be glad you did...

Esme said...

Good book for Halloween.

Joanne said...

Hello, Esme! You're right -- perfect for a spooky Halloween read. Thanks for stopping by.

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A Light on the Veranda
The Queen's Vow: A Novel Of Isabella Of Castile
The Edwardians
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Howards End
Lady's Maid
Instruments Of Darkness
When Maidens Mourn
Where Shadows Dance
What Remains of Heaven
Where Serpents Sleep
Why Mermaids Sing
When Gods Die
Before Ever After
The Sugar Queen
Garden Spells
After the Night

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