Newest Review: ... the series in addition to LeStat in my opinion.) In the whole of the tale Pandora is placed in nothing but stereotypical roles as a wife a... more
Pandora - A Rose By Any Other Name
Pandora - Anne Rice
Member Name: dapperdolly
Pandora - Anne Rice
Date: 31/01/13, updated on 01/02/13 (142 review reads)
Advantages: Moving and beautiful with easy to visualise aesthetics
Disadvantages: Tiresome with an overdose of historic detail
Pandora was the first of a series of spinoff novels by Anne Rice from her famous or infamous Interview With The Vampire. The series featured other vampires and characters and would mention their interactions with the more well known vampires. My version of Pandora is the 1999 edition which is a standalone book of 419 pages but subsequent editions joined the story with others in the series to make volumes of up to 3 books back to back. The covers are also different per edition where mine features what I can only assume to be Pandora herself in a somewhat Mona Lisa-esque facial portrait with ancient Egyptian overtones.
General Plot Info and Thoughts:
Pandora is written in biographical style and tells a tale of a mysterious lady of intelligence, charm and endurance. I'm not a vampire fan though for some reason this book called to me, but unfortunately I have many gripes with the portrayal of this particular 'biography':
Firstly - The overall story is not based upon Pandora's life as a vampire at all but rather her human life as a Roman girl and woman. Most of the book is spent in great, articulate, period detail and resembles more of a history book than a work of fictional pleasure. However for the detail buffs out there, this could get an A* rating on the authenticity scale as Rice has outdone herself in this particular novel and perhaps even more so than in her other books that I subsequently read.
Secondly - When we finally get an insight into Pandora's vampiric life, we are only given a taster as practically the entire content is given over to her time with Marius, the begrudging and resentful lover who changed her into a vampire. (He is also the other major character of the series in addition to LeStat in my opinion.) In the whole of the tale Pandora is placed in nothing but stereotypical roles as a wife and daughter, she was known for nothing else other than which household or man she was attached to. The book might as well be titled 'The wife of Marius' as it seems she had no life other then at his side which I would hazard to guess was either lacking on the part of what was usually a forward thinking author or the author's way of showing us that not much was really known about Pandora.
Thirdly - Again actually, I can't emphasise enough the extreme lack of emphasis on Pandora herself; there is much graphic, atmospheric and historical detail but hardly any character revelations other than in her encounters with other characters. The tone with which she narrates is objective and unemotional or maybe that is representative of Pandora herself in that she is not to talk about her feelings and thoughts too deeply lest she be revealed and her security taken away from her. But it is a shame because there was such potential in her character; a beautiful, gifted, intelligent, fiery female with wit, daring and cunning. She was forced into marriage and home life but rebelled and strived for as much freedom as possible. Her character is just not done justice at all in this book. There is much suffering, conflict, sorrow and despair in Pandora's character but also rejuvenation, strength, adaptability and courage; there is something of a Hypatia of Egypt (historical figure) about her and she is simply irresistible yet suppressed and abandoned by everybody whom she ever loved. She is lonely and fragile and yet resourceful and stubborn - come what may she is a survivor and will stand the test of time no matter what guise or form she may take be it a seemingly empty shell of depression and woe or a reserved lady of wisdom and dignity. It is just unfortunate that in her own book even, she is hardly given the time of day.
Fourthly - The other main and loveable character Flavius (her 'butler') isn't developed to the heights of what potentially could have been yet another spin-off novel biography. His character is so very compatible and complimentary to Pandora's that I wonder would they have been lovers if he had not been gay and then where and how would Marius fit in?
It certainly is an interesting concept especially for those familiar with the series - the great Marius and the one that got away (Pandora) or more correctly, the one that he foolishly left and never returned to even though he claimed to love her dearly. Flavius' whole life with Marius and Pandora is glossed over in approximately one sentence which basically states that many a happy year passed by, until the last part of his storyline in the book which is quite shocking and cruel. How is it that Rice can more than surpass the standards for setting the scene and yet come up so surprisingly short in character detail and experience? It is a shame and a sad waste to not have continued his story at the time.
Finally - for those readers who have or even have not read 'Blood and Gold - The Story of the Vampire Marius' you will notice some inconsistencies in some of the encounters and events between the two, for example when they meet up again at a ball; the experience is very short lived in Pandora and expanded as well as softened in Marius' story. Another example being in Marius' story where Pandora saves him; in Marius' story he loves Pandora dearly but in 'The Queen of the Damned' he is practically on the verge of spitting venom at her. This just goes to show that either Rice underestimated the intelligence and sensitivity of her readers or forgot to check her own stories and wrote new ones thinking she could change them without anyone noticing.
Pandora as a character herself is a wonderful assortment of emotional humanity and bleak immortality but as the novel is rather monotonous at times long breaks are necessary in between chapters otherwise one might lose all motivation to keep reading. Pandora is a beautiful flower stuck in a barren desert of literary boredom; if you like her character as I did then the book is worth the read; but if not, just skip through the history lesson and read the interesting parts (namely her interaction with other characters). That's not to say historical detail is boring in general, I find it very helpful usually both for learning and imagining but this is a case where the background superimposed the foreground and I believe in a detrimental way or veil to the story.
It's also interesting to note that in the books belonging to other vampires Pandora is thought of in a conflicting and often negative way, but from what I read in this book it is probably because she would not conform. If you want to compare Pandora to other well known fictional and non-fiction characters I would suggest that she is up there with Cleopatra, The Queen of Sheba, Delilah and all of those other sumptuous and oft misunderstood heroines. Rice had a real treasure here but it was squandered, I cannot say why as from her interviews she sounded as though she was really pleased to be writing about a strong female character and liked Pandora personally but for whatever reason that enthusiasm wasn't transparent on the pages of the book.
Note - this is a review I posted under my old Ciao account: ladyofsorrow. I have re-organized and updated it. Many thanks for reading and regards.
Summary: First in the series of background character novels from Ann Rice