Author: Bram Stoker
Publisher: W.W. Norton & Company
Publish Date: May 12th 1986 (first published 1897)
Genres: Horror, Paranormal, Classics
I read this book for a book club I’m participating in on Tumblr. The theme last month was vampires, and I’m really glad this book was picked. It had been on my shelf for ages and I’d been planning to pick it up soon anyway, but this gave me the extra motivation I needed to finally read it (classics always tend to stay on my shelf for a bit longer, it’s bad, I know…).
First of all, yes, this is a horror novel, so I should probably have expected this to be spooky. However, I also love reading thriller and crime novels and I’m usually never really creeped out by them. Dracula though… it was really scary. Especially in the beginning, when the main character first meets the Count and lives in his ruin of a castle with him, I was scared to walk around the house in the dark, expecting Dracula to stare at me with his red eyes any second. That being said, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it to everyone who hasn’t read it yet!
The entire novel is told through the diary entries of several people, at first only of Jonathan Harker, but as the story progresses, more and more POVs are added. You also have the occasional letter or telegram one character is sending to another, or clippings from the local newspaper. While this was a very interesting and nice way to tell the story, making it very personal and hence even spookier, it’s also one of the only things I will criticize. Yes, I know that it was important for the characters to keep a very accurate and detailed record of what was happening to them, but seriously, no one writes a diary like that. Most of the time it was told exactly like a first person POV book and I simply refuse to believe that anyone would keep a diary this detailed and exact. But who knows, the Victorians were crazy anyway…
Speaking of Victorianism, even though this book was published in 1897 and therefore very near the end of the Victorian Era, Bram Stoker did a really good job portraying some of the key characteristics people possessed back then, mainly how they refused to believe anything out of the ordinary and that can’t be explained rationally. For contrast, Stoker introduces a Dutch character, Dr. van Helsing, who does not live in Victorian England and is a lot more open to the irrational. He tries over and over again to convince his British friends of something supernatural happening, showing that it’s the only logical conclusion to explain what is happening to them, but they refuse to believe him until they actually see what he claims with their own eyes.
Another thing that is portrayed accurately and made me shake my head a couple of times, was the role of women in the 19th century. The main female character, Mina Harker, at one point talks about how she wants to be “useful” to her husband, and similar comments are made throughout the book. Towards the end, however, Mina becomes a really important character, she is portrayed as an incredibly strong and intelligent woman and she contributes some things crucial to the hunt of Dracula and the development of the story, which I thought was great of Stoker to do and showed that he did not see women as unimportant and only there to serve their husbands. Kudos Stoker.
What also really stood out for me in this novel was Stoker’s writing style. He is incredibly talented at painting pictures and creating atmosphere with his words and at times he reminded me a lot of Dickens, with the way that he picked his vocabulary very carefully in order to instill a certain mood in the reader. Here’s a little taste from the beginning of the novel:
As my eyes opened involuntarily I saw a strong hand grasp the slender neck of the fair woman and with giant’s power draw it back, the blue eyes transformed with fury, the white teeth champing with rage, and the fair cheeks blazing red with passion. But the Count! Never did I imagine such wrath and fury, even in the demons of the pit.
Another thing I found a bit unbelievable was the way the Dutch man, van Helsing spoke. He had the vocabulary of a native speaker, but didn’t know basic rules of grammar and kept saying things like “he do” or “she go”. Now, I don’t know much about how well Dutch people spoke English 100 years ago, but I am under the impression that Stoker didn’t, either. Correct me if I’m wrong and that was actually a common thing.
Summing up, a great book with a few minor flaws and a couple of boring passages. I think I will definitely check out some of the other books Bram Stoker has written and hope that they can convince me equally.