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"Something inside me remembers and will not forget".
on 24 October 2008
Joanne Harris is perhaps better known for her novel, CHOCOLAT, than for this title, which is her debut. As explained in her author's note to THE EVIL SEED, it was largely due to pressure from her fans which saw to the book being reissued. Her brief discussion of the book is in itself quite interesting - to hear what an established author thinks about their first attempt at literature is nearly always to be fascinating, and this is no exception. With huge honesty, Harris herself acknowledges that the book was never a masterpiece as she had not found her own voice. But what it does do is suggest at the kind of writer she would later turn into.
THE EVIL SEED is a gothic novel about vampires, although this phrase is never used within the story itself. Alice, a young woman living in Cambridge, is devastated to discover that a man she once loved has now found someone else he loves. Alice cannot stand his new girlfriend, Ginny, but for the sake of Joe, she tries to make friends with her. But as she gets to know more and more about Ginny, Alice dislikes her even more as she seems to lie to Joe about everything.
Alice then discovers an old journal, written by a man called Daniel Holmes just after the Second World War. As she reads Daniel's journal, which describes how he and his friend Robert fell under the spell of a beautiful young woman called Rosemary, Alice fears that the past has resurfaced.
That is the basic plot. The story is told by alternating chapters going from the past to the present. The fact that this was a debut novel does show. Parts of the story are not really thought out very well, while other parts are dramatically over-written. As Harris explains at the beginning, the plot was an ambitious one - while it certainly offers some originality to the whole mythology of the vampire, it was perhaps too big for a beginning novelist.
Although this book is not a masterpiece, what it does offer the reader is a chance to see how an author began her career and then went on to develop afterwards. And it does give some hints at just how good she was to become.