Having only read one other Anne Rice novel (you guessed it, Interview With the Vampire), I learned some interesting things about her from reading her beefy 1990 tome, The Witching Hour. I learned that she can make a book interesting even if there are actually no vampires in it. I learned that New Orleans, in addition to being a magical place indeed, has some really beautiful flowers. And I learned that Anne Rice sure knows a lot of different ways to describe human genitalia.
So yes, the book is interesting and even engrossing in parts and starts off with real promise. In the bar of a New York hotel a doctor remembers a most disturbing assignment – administering tranquilizing drugs to a young, catatonic woman named Deirdre. But rather than living as a patient in a mental hospital, Deirdre sits, stupefied, in a rocking chair on the porch of her decaying antebellum home in New Orleans’ Garden District and is tended to by her elderly aunts.
Rice drops a lot of hints in these early pages that will take on greater significance later (the emerald Deirdre wears and the name Lasher for starters), but oddly enough the doctor is not one of them. He’s really more of a human MacGuffin than anything else. But here and throughout most of the book, Rice takes a long damn time to describe things and often does so multiple times with the same things. I could probably pass a college course in botany for all I read about the beauty and delicacy of New Orleans flora.
The rest of the first part introduces us to the main characters. First there’s Michael Curry, a contractor and home restoration expert living in San Francisco and suffering from the aftermath of a near drowning. That aftermath, namely, is his newfound ability to touch people or objects and receive a flood of images concerning their past. His new power is exciting at first but quickly becomes a curse, and so Curry locks himself away and takes up alcoholism in his spare time.
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