It’s time for another Spellbook Saturday, and this one might be a bit controversial! I know a ★ ★ ☆ ☆ rating of Anne Rice’s The Witching Hour (1990) might earn me some derision in witchy circles, but my overall impression of the book was… meh. Rice’s world-building is impressive, and the writing is lush, often to the point of being verbose, but I found the novel marred by a few critical points, all of which require a serious content warning.
First and foremost, I was deeply put off by the problematic sexual themes of the novel. I consider myself very sex-positive, and could be described as vocally so amongst my friends and social circle. However, Rice’s hyper-sexualization of young girls, repeated incidents of incest and sexual assault, and lurid descriptions of rape fantasies were so frequent as to detract from the storytelling. Further, as a bisexual woman, I found the portrayal of bisexuality as a sort of sexual depravity to be troubling, an example of the misinformation and bigotry frequently faced by bisexual individuals.
Second, Rice’s depictions of people of color are intensely problematic. Her frequent distinctions between “educated” and disadvantaged POC are ignorant and uninformed at best… though frankly, I don’t feel so generous, given that her depictions of fair and kind enslavers read like fan-fiction for the antebellum south.
And finally, the anti-abortion rhetoric present throughout, while predictable from a writer known for her Catholicism, was both ill-informed and intensely off-putting.
So…what were the good parts? As I mentioned, Rice’s world-building is truly impressive. I greatly enjoyed the concept of a matrilineal dynasty of witches, and I frequently found myself thinking of my own family’s blend of history and lore. I also was enthralled with the very idea of the Talamasca, a secret society dedicated to observing and documenting the occult (what I wouldn’t give to visit their imagined libraries!). Further, Rice’s love for the city of New Orleans emanates from the page, particularly her descriptions of the Garden District. In fact, the Mayfair residence on First Street is so vividly rendered as to be an important character unto itself.
While I don’t regret the time spent reading this hefty tome, I can’t imagine that I will continue on to the sequels. However, I am a bit curious to see how the forthcoming TV adaptation will address some plot points, and do I have some opinions on the casting!
Have you read Rice’s Mayfair Trilogy? What was your impression? Share your thoughts in the comments!