Author: Bram Stoker
Publisher: Barnes & Noble (2011 ed.)
First Published: 1897
Genre: Fiction: Horror, Drama, Supernatural
I was amazed by this book, both because of the physical beauty of this edition (marbled paper inserts, thick black edged pages, Bram Stokers signature printed in the back… this is a beautiful book) but also the quality of the writing. This book has been on my hit list for a while, and even though I am not overly enthused about vampire stories in general I felt it was important to read the FIRST to truly understand the genre.
The book is written as though it was a collection of diary entries and notes carefully collected and put into chronographical order – a process which is documented as the book is read. I have never seen this device used as well as it has been here (In fact, the only other place I’ve seen books comprise completely of journal entries is in trashy teen novels which are particularly vomit worthy). There was one point where van Helsing was “delayed” and had to send a quick message, which felt a bit contrived as the author needed an easy fix without writing himself into a corner. However, on the whole it was magnificently done and I dare anyone else to do better.
The story was far more involved in personal relationships than I expected. Having seen the occasional modern vampire movie or tv series I had become accustomed to fast paced action sequences, but Dracula is instead based around the strategic plans of a tightly knitted group drawn together by their mutual affection and fear for the two major heroines.
Another major theme in the novel is of sanctity and salvation. Often they refer to the process of turning into a vampire as “a fate worse than death”, as they will not be permitted into heaven and be used as an instrument of evil. Mina, one of the two heroines, inspires much sympathy after she is bitten as her husband and friends fear for her fate. She is the only one, however, to address their hypocrisy and appeal to them to also pity Dracula himself, who shares her doomed fate. At the end of the novel (extreme spoiler alert) as they “kill” Dracula, a look of peace overcomes his features and he – I assume – is redeemed before turning to dust. This poetic ending is far from the fast paced violence in some of the modern adaptations (or those which find the genre their inspiration), and I found I really appreciated the moments in which characters were forced to pause and think upon their motives.
I highly recommend this book, as it is very high quality writing – but warn those who scare easy to leave it alone. The relationships and voices of the characters really makes you care for them, and it truly pulls at the heartstrings, which is a good thing until the nightmares set in 😛
I found with this book I felt I needed to break away and read something entirely different afterwards as it was so enthralling that I needed a rest. Frankenstein will have to wait.