Review: Dracula by Bram Stoker

So apparently the ‘done thing’ is to set up a challenge, get really excited about it, comment on a lot of other posts… and then not actually read any of the damn books yourself. Or that’s what you do if you’re me, at any rate. But now that time is past! Look people – I can finally cross one book off my League of Extraordinary Gentlemen challenge!

Collected inside this book are diary entries, letters and newspaper clippings that piece together the depraved story of the ultimate predator. A young lawyer on an assignment finds himself imprisoned in a Transylvanian castle by his mysterious host. Back at home his fiancรฉe and friends are menaced by a malevolent force which seems intent on imposing suffering and destruction. Can the devil really have arrived on England’s shores? And what is it that he hungers for so desperately? 
Last Autumn, when I scowled viciously at my current, awful book and swore off vampires for the foreseeable future, prohibiting classic Dracula wasn’t quite what I had in mind. The vampires of today sparkle, or have promiscuous sex for no apparent reason or all attend the same over-the-top gothic school. This book, however, couldn’t be further from that. It may have been what originally sparked the popular myth eventually popularised by Stephanie Meyer, but this is definitely, definitely not fluffy YA.

I think most people are aware that the story concerns Jonathan and Mina Harker, and The Vampiriest Vampire of Them All, although I do admit that my sole knowledge came from The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Hence the challenge, obviously. It surprised me how little the story actually revolves around them though – the first half is mostly about Mina’s friend Lucy, and the second focuses more on Van Helsing and his doctor friend.
The LoEG’s take on Mina.

That said, I did like Mina Harker. She acted as you would expect from an upper class Victorian lady – fainting, worrying, not taking any part in the action, etc – but still managed to make herself useful at the same time. In fact, the collection of letters, diary entries and newspaper entries that comprises the book was theoretically compiled by Mina Harker. I do wish that the men of the story would stop idolising her quite so much for no apparent reason though. They refer to her as ‘that dear Madam Mina’ more times than they use her damn name!

Never did I see such baffled malice on a face, and never, I trust, shall such ever be seen again by mortal eyes. The beautiful colour became livid, the eyes seemed to throw out sparks of hell fire, the brows were wrinkled as though the folds of flesh were the coils of Medusa’s snakes, and the lovely, blood-stained mouth grew to an open square, as in the passion masks of the Greeks and Japanese. If ever a face meant death, if looks could kill, we saw it at that moment.

I also liked Van Helsing, although his long lectures on morality, sin and everything inbetween got a little annoying and hard to follow (or even summon interest for). He also had a strange way of speaking as he’s Dutch and so occasionally struggles with his English. I understand the purpose of having a foreign vampire expert present, but it does grow old fast.

The story itself does take a good few chapters to get going. The beginning is painfully slow but is necessary to set the scene of gloom and despair. After that, I couldn’t put it down. The narrative is told primarily through the characters diary entires, but with a few telegrams, letters and newspaper clippings to provide a little diversity. It kept the story fresh, seeing it from different perspectives and through different mediums.

It’s not an action-packed book, nor a scary one. Instead it creates an atmosphere of darkness and despair that follows you even after you shut the book. Every time I put it down, I felt like I was in a little Dracula bubble that lasted for a long time after. The outside world just couldn’t seem to permeate through, almost like Dracula himself had put me in a trance!

I really did enjoy Dracula, although it was a lot more formal and quieter than I expected. Still, I imagine it was more than a little shocking for 1897. It was interesting to see how all those vampiric traditions came about though – like the garlic and the Christian symbols. You have to be prepared to work at this novel, but it definitely does pay off.

As an off-note, did you know that Bram Stoker’s wife was first courted by Oscar Wilde, but she chose Stoker over him? God bless Wikipedia.

Read the whole of Dracula, free and legally, here.

Comments

  1. Laura says:

    I read Dracula last year and I really really liked it apart from the whole 'oh Mina, you're so wonderful, don't do anything taxing!' thing because MAN that was annoying! But still, so creepy and disturbing and still sort of chilling, even now!

    Also, GO YOU with the challenge doing! I am doing equally as non-well, tbh. Never mind, we can make it up in November or something, right?!

    1. Hanna says:

      That's just it! And also the 'Let's tell Mina. No wait, let's NOT tell Mina. Okay, well tell Mina. Or we should NOT tell Mina!' THAT got annoying.

      I'm doing okay with everyone else's challenges, apparently I just fail at my own! Figures.

  2. Dracula is one of my all-time favourite books, I love the slower pace to it, you can really get lost in the story. I'm glad you enjoyed it too ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Kayleigh says:

    Great review! How nice is it to read vampires the way they should be?!

  4. I'm glad you liked it! I started it a while back, but never actually finished it sadly, but that's changing now when we're reading it in school! I'm glad I'm actually 'forced' to finish it though, because I've heard more say it pays off. Great review!

  5. I plan on reading this book this year. I wan tot read at least one classic and I've been itching to read this one. I'm kind of embarrassed that I've never read it.

  6. I think my favourite character was Renfield – he is one seriously creepy asylum patient and I actually thought that he was more unnerving than Dracula in a lot of ways!

    I moaned on enough about it while I was reading it myself but it genuinely wasn't as scary as I thought it was going to be. More atmospheric, like you say. Although it was a bit scary when I was reading it and then went to pick up Boyfriend at midnight and it was all dark and windy…that's right, I'm that much of a wimp! ๐Ÿ™‚

    And I did NOT know that Stoker's wife had originally been proposed to by Oscar Wilde, despite hitting Wikipedia hard when I was writing my review of Dracula! Top fact.

    1. Hanna says:

      Don't worry, I honest-to-God informed EVERYONE I knew about that little fact… if you hadn't read it here, I'd have forced it on you at some point ๐Ÿ™‚

      I know what you mean about Renfield. What's it called, a zoomorph or something? You know, when you eat animals?

    2. Zoomorph works for me – I'd try and Google it to make sure but I'm not sure that my browser really wants me searching for things about eating animals alive! But yeh, that. That was disturbing. And yet horrendously memorable!

      I love it when you share a fact so regularly that you start forgetting who you've told and who you haven't to the point that you find people rolling their eyes at you when you start with, "Did you know…?". I really do.

  7. Ellie Warren says:

    I do think you have to put yourself in the mind of a late 19th century reader – at the time it was rather scandalous and vampires were symbols of something to be scared of unlike now.

  8. Raimy-rawr says:

    im so glad you enjoyed this one, its one of my favourite books of all time! I loved vampires because of this book but then I read Twilight and my love diminished very qwuickly. Dracula is how Vampires should be done! Great Review!

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