Book Review: Dracula by Bram Stoker
Preview …Drrracula! We have all heard about this book, seen countless film adaptations and been exposed to multiple pop-culture takes on Bram Stoker’s vision. We know all about the vampire and his Transylvanian lair. But let me ask, have you ever actually taken the time to read the unabridged novel? I just read “Dracula” for the first time this past week. I decided it would be fun to have a Halloween-themed book discussion for Ann Arbor Classics Book Group. I wasn’t expecting to like the book, especially since I find many of the modern vampire stories to be grotesquely lacking in entertainment value (yes, I mean you, Stephenie Meyer and Anne Rice). It is safe to say, however, that “Dracula” now resides in my top 10 reads among other such great books as “Jane Eyre”, “100 Years of Solitude”, “1984” and “Lolita”. It is that good!
Rather than build up to the penetration of the vampire’s castle, we begin there. Terrified, as Jonathan Harker realizes what Dracula is, yet is unable to escape. At the same time, Mina, Jonathan’s intended, recounts life in jolly old London, telling of her great friendship with Lucy and wondering about Jonathan’s whereabouts. We are also joined in the story by Dr. Seward, Quincy Morris and Arthur Holmwood, the three of which are suitors to Lucy. Two more characters who help push the action of the story are the brilliant Dr. Van Helsing and irksome zoophagous mental patient, Renfield.
We watch Lucy’s progression into vampirella, as the other characters have no idea what is going on. Eventually, they come to understand what has happened and that they must destroy “Lucy’s” undead corpse to set free the soul of the woman they all loved. Realizing that the Count has relocated to London in the house immediately adjacent to Dr. Seward, our heroes form a crew intended to bring an end to Dracula at any cost. The rest of the story follows the team as they attempt to destroy the inherent evil that is Count Dracula.
There are so many layers to this novel, which makes for striking conversation. Some of the topics that can be broached are Dracula as the anti-Christ, the differing roles of men and women in the story, psychoanalytical theory, the sensuality of blood-sucking vampires, mythological folklore, the gothic novel, the variegated film adaptations and modern takes on the story. Heck, even the character of Renfield could spawn a long and interesting conversation. If you have no one to discuss it with, I recommend also reading Clive Leatherdale’s “Dracula: The Novel & the Legend” for even more in-depth coverage of these topics.
You may like this book if… you enjoy a story with many, many layers to it, you appreciate an author who reflects different dialects and varying levels of English proficiency in his character dialogue, you like the idea of a story told entirely from diary entries, letters and news clippings, you are a fan of modern vampire stories and would like to expose yourself to the book that single-handedly made the vampire a media darling, you are feeling festive this Halloween.
You may not like this book if… you want to know where Dracula came from, you don’t want to have to invent a back story, you get confused when a story has too many narrators, you are offended by the use of Catholic relics as talismans, you don’t think vampires could ever be sexy, you get bored by too much flowery dialogue as is characteristic of the era, you feel the story may have been ruined for you by too much exposure to film adaptations or other vampire-stories.