Bram Stoker’s Summer Sublet – a review

We all know what it means to see life through ‘rose-coloured spectacles’ but no-one ever talks about the bruise-coloured glasses that cover our eyes when love goes wrong. I imagine that a simple ‘growing apart’ would result in purple specs but what kind of glasses would you wear if you discovered your fiance in bed with another woman… just two weeks before your wedding? Is there a filter deeper than black?

In ‘Bram Stoker’s Summer Sublet’, Willie is that woman betrayed but we don’t know that at the start. Her story begins in an unfamiliar bed with an unfamiliar the dog wanting to go for his morning walk. The apartment in which Willie wakes is not her own. The neighbourhood is not her own and Quincy the dog is not her own either. We learn that Willie is pet-sitting Quincy and Renfield [a talking parrot] for a month while their owner is away on holiday.

Everything seems very normal, even mundane until you begin to see that Willie is not just pet-sitting, she is in hiding from her own life because she can’t face what HE has done to her, HE being the fiance who cheated on her. She can’t face HIM and she can’t face the apartment they shared so she is literally homeless until her new apartment is refurbished. She could have taken her small suitcase and gone to stay with friends or her family but she can’t face them either. And she most certainly can’t face Facebook, not with her wall plastered with wedding news, so it’s just as well that she left her computer behind with everything and everyone else.

Willie believes that pet-sitting in a strange place where no-one knows her is the perfect way to retreat from the world while she licks her wounds but she is not aware of how isolation can distort the dark lens through which she already views the world. She begins to see significance in small things – a cab goes by showing an advertisement for a sexy new vampire movie and we learn that she is attracted to bad boys like her fiance. She says ‘HE wasn’t a vampire – although he certainly sucked the life out of me when I found him in bed with another woman…’ A little later she notices that the “coffin corner” on her floor is empty of decoration ‘as if it were ready for the undertakers.’ [In older buildings coffin corners were built into the bends of the stairwell to allow coffins to be carried down stairs.]

A little further in the story Willie catches the tail end of a news flash on tv, about the sudden increase in violent crimes… in her new temporary neighbourhood. Small things given special significance by a dark lens. I could go on but I think you can see the pattern unfolding.

When I read the Sublet just over a week ago I was too enthralled by the story to give much thought to how it was written but now I can appreciate the cunning way in which Candy Korman has woven these moment of special significance into the mundane world of dog poop, misery and day-time TV. It all feels so real and so normal yet with every page the influence of the dark lens becomes deeper and the impossible starts to feel… plausible.

Where is the dark lens leading Willie? That is the question that kept me turning page after page. By three quarters of the way through I could see where the story was headed yet I still did not want to believe because I’m a normal person and I know vampires aren’t real. Are they?

And that is all I am going to tell you, except perhaps to say that ‘Bram Stoker’s Summer Sublet’ is one of the best psychological thriller-cum-literary monster stories I have read in a very long time. The writing is superb, of course, but you won’t notice that until the end because you will be too busy wondering who the real monster truly is.

I knew that Candy Korman was a great indie writer when I read her first novella, ‘The Mary Shelley Game’, but now I know she is a great writer, full-stop because ‘Bram Stoker’s Summer Sublet’ is a great book. Great as in one of the classics. Great as in ‘will be remembered’. Great as in ‘would have been published in a bygone era when traditional publishers still cared about merit’.

This is a book you MUST read and I do not say that often. 5/5

[Note : Those of you who have followed my reviews from the beginning may have noticed that they have changed, becoming more and more positive as the months have rolled along. You may have wondered whether my reviews could be trusted. I just thought I’d take this opportunity to explain that I still read books that leave me dissatisfied but I no longer review them. This was a conscious decision on my part because I find negative, or even just so-so reviews very hard to do. They upset me. I put them off. I feel guilty. Then, when I finally force myself to write them I spend far too much time trying to be diplomatic, time I should be spending on my own writing. So I decided that I would only review books that made my greatness antennae go bzzzzzz. You may still disagree with me about what makes a given book great but I promise you that I’m not faking it!]

About acflory

I am the kind of person who always has to know why things are the way they are so my interests range from genetics and biology to politics and what makes people tick. For fun I play online mmorpgs, read, listen to a music, dance when I get the chance and landscape my rather large block. Work is writing. When a story I am working on is going well I'm on cloud nine. On bad days I go out and dig big holes... View all posts by acflory

14 responses to “Bram Stoker’s Summer Sublet – a review

  • Ilil Arbel

    I hope no one is offended. This is not the intent. I am sure not everyone likes my topics, either, and probably have plenty of mean things to say about them. But that is what makes the world go round. In the meantime, I am wearing garlic around my neck, tastefully strung on a crocheted chain. I am also going to read your e-mail, and answer a previous message. Life has been demanding lately…


  • Ilil Arbel

    Not a chance in hell that I would read it even if it’s Tolstoy with fangs and the blood is dripping from Natasha’s ball dress. If I even hear the word “vampire” I feel the hives are coming on. Also, I hear Bela Lugosi say “It rrrreminds me of my cccccastle in Trrrrransilvania” so I start laughing.

    Mind you, the author of this book should not for a moment assume I don’t respect her book — obviously it is very good and I do trust your judgement — but vampires bore me to tears. The number of books about this uninspiring subject is growing to a monumental quantity, and most of them are written by amateurs, wannabes, and narcissistic little fools. If I want trash, I will stick to my Jane Austen sequels. They make me smile.


  • Ilil Arbel

    Even though I completely believe you it is an excellent book, and indeed it sounds like it is extremely well written, I will not read this book. However, rest assured that is merely because I have become allergic to books about vampires. Even when they are totally awesome like this one, the sneezes, the red eyes, the boxes of tissues, the headaches, and the nausea won’t go away until I read at least two books on another subject, preferably some enchanting nonfiction such as Railroad Law in Wisconsin or Raising Sour Apples in Peoria, Illinois. Why am I writing then, you ask? Just to tell you that I approve of your decision to review only books that appeal to you. Bad reviews are not only damaging, but pointless, because what would you be trying to achieve, destroying an author? So you may be certain that I do trust your reviews. If you find me an antihistamine for the allergic reaction I have to the subject matter of vampires, I might even read this one. Maybe.


    • acflory

      lmao – thanks for the vote of confidence Ilil however on the subject of vampires I have to say I’m not a fan either. I’d like to say more, to tell you why you should read the Sublet but… I can’t! Not without giving too much away. God it’s killing me though! πŸ˜€


  • johnlmalone

    sounds like a great book: you’ve got me interested; you and I both know how hard it is to tell a well crafted, gripping story and sustain the reader’s interest to the end; very recently I have discovered how pitiful my recent excursions into short story writing have been — but for me it’s early days yet [ I began late in life only late last year ] and I’m applying myself to the craft

    yours is a good blog: it;s thoughtful and instructive. I learn from it


    • acflory

      -blush- Thanks John. The blog is still evolving but I’m glad it’s being useful. And yes, I know how hard the whole writing thing is. 😦

      I’ve only read snippets of your short stories but what I’ve read I’ve liked so don’t sell yourself short! Btw I’ve been writing [quietly] for almost 10 years now and I still feel as if I’m just starting to get a handle on how to do it properly. I don’t think we ever stop learning. πŸ˜€


  • metan

    You sold me! My ‘already groaning at the seams’ kindle is cursing you though πŸ˜‰


  • lorddavidprosser

    You make this sound like a must-read. So I must.


  • Candy

    I’m blushing!
    You got it β€” that’s exactly what the book is about…


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