Review: ‘The Evil Seed’ by Joanne Harris

I picked up The Evil Seed because it’s by one of my FAVOURITE authors- the amazing Joanne Harris-and also because it’s about vampires. (Of course.) Written before Harris received worldwide acclaim for Chocolat, it still contains all the things I love about Harris’s work- sensual, evocative language, imagery heaped upon imagery, whimsical and original descriptions, and women of rare but strange beauty. It also contains various references to the Pre-Raphaelite movement, which I loved, as I love the work of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Burne-Jones et al, and mentioned them in my own novel, The Blood Witching. The novel opens with the character of Alice, an imaginative young artist still getting over her first real love. Whilst wandering through a Gothic Cambridge graveyard, she comes across a grave shaped like an open doorway, which leads her to wondering about its occupant. The novel spans time, from the modern day to the interwar period, and therefore we get to actually see the grave’s occupant- a seemingly enchanting, but ultimately dangerous girl named Rosemary Virginia Ashley, also known as Ginny.

As the novel unfurls, it becomes clear that Rosemary isn’t alive, isn’t dead, but is somewhere inbetween, inhabiting both the past, as Rosemary, and the present, as Ginny. Beneath her ethereal looks, lies a rotten, corrupt core. Harris says in her introduction that she originally wanted to call the novel Remember, and the novel is about just that- the characters’ inability to forget Rosemary (or Ginny), whose very name is tied up with not forgetting (rosemary signals remembrance in the language of flowers,) and the devastating  consequences that this has- for Alice, for Joe, her ex-lover; for Robert and his friend- the solitary scholar, Daniel-and for Rosemary’s band of exotic, mysterious followers, Rafe, Java and the vulnerable ‘stunner’ Elaine- a little reminiscent of the vampires in Poppy Z Brite’s Lost Souls– who drink in both blood and the dangerous allure that Rosemary herself exudes, losing themselves and the fragile remnants of their own humanity in the process. As the novel progresses, the violence ramps up and up, (though not enough to offend me) and although I felt as though the ending didn’t make much sense- for at times, Harris’s imagery felt almost too overpowering-I felt compelled to find out what exactly happened to Rosemary, and why she so desperately needs us all to remember. All in all, a haunting, Gothic and often gorgeous novel that I devoured (Rosemary-style) in just two short days.

Rating: 9.5 out of ten.

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