Dracula: Stoker original drips with Gothic dread

Dracula by Bram Stoker horror book reviewsDracula by Bram Stoker

It’s Gothic, intricate, romantic, tragic, fun and surprising. I haven’t read Bram Stoker‘s original Dracula in about 20 years and most of the details I’d either forgotten or had been smudged, smeared, and overwritten by a lifetime of modern vampire stories and myths.

Dracula is set in the late 19th century and is presented through a series of letters, memos and recordings between numerous characters who, through no fault of their own, become entangled in Dracula’s plot to move away from his rapidly dwindling (and more “vampire-aware”) food supply in Romania to the hip and crowded urban life of London.

Stoker’s mythology around vampires had a few surprises (to me, at least … apologies in advance if any of these are common knowledge to Stephanie Meyer lovers …). Vampires only lose their powers during the day. They don’t burn up or anything in the daylight, they just can’t morph into animals, use superhuman strength, etc. Vampires can’t turn into anything fancy when they’re over water: which was a convenient plot point forcing Stoker to move Dracula to and from London via boat. Also, Stoker describes Dracula as having a long thin moustache, so I can’t help imagining a fu manchu.

Professor Abraham Van Helsing leads a small group of men battling the evil blood-sucking plague from mainland Europe and comes across as a Victorian age vampire-fighting Yoda. Stoker may have been writing Van Helsing’s backward-talking soliloquies to be delivered with a Danish accent, but perhaps the Stoker estate should have a chat with Lucasfilms …

Jonathan Harker travels to Eastern Europe to tidy up the estate of Count Dracula in preparation for his move. Harker’s wife Mina is a central figure throughout the book — initially only as the target of Jonathan’s letters from Transylvania, and eventually as a key figure in the hunt for the Count. Her passion and love for hubby Jonathan is both melodramatic and touching. One can’t help but feel a very Victorian-England vibe in their relationship.

I thoroughly enjoyed the Stoker original. He does a masterful job connecting the plot dots through diaries and correspondence. Even by today’s standards, I find his approach very fresh. The first quarter of the story takes place in Romania and Dracula’s castle, and Stoker is at his best in his exposition of place and in setting the weighty and Gothic tone of Dracula in his environs. The image of the Count crawling down the outer walls of his castle, while Jonathan Harker watches from above, is burned into my mind.

Published in 1897. Irish author Bram Stoker introduced the character of Count Dracula and provided the basis of modern vampire fiction in his 1897 novel entitled Dracula. Written as a series of letters, newspaper clippings, diary entries, and ships’ logs, the story begins with lawyer Jonathan Harker journeying to meet Dracula at his remote castle to complete a real estate transaction. Harker soon discovers that he is being held prisoner, and that Dracula has a rather disquieting nocturnal life. Touching on themes such as Victorian culture, immigration, and colonialism, among others, this timeless classic is sure to keep readers on the edge of their seats! Now available as part of the Canterbury Classics singles series, Dracula is a must-have addition to the libraries of all classic literature lovers.

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JASON GOLOMB, on our staff from September 2015 to November 2018, graduated with a degree in Communications from Boston University in 1992, and an M.B.A. from Marymount University in 2005. His passion for ice hockey led to jobs in minor league hockey in Baltimore and Fort Worth, before he returned to his home in the D.C. metro area where he worked for America Online. His next step was National Geographic, which led to an obsession with all things Inca, Aztec and Ancient Rome. But his first loves remain SciFi and Horror, balanced with a healthy dose of Historical Fiction.

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2 comments

  1. I too still love this book, but I’m impatient now with the long travelogue that comprises the opening. I fully understand that this is emblematic of the style of the time and for very good reason, as Harker leaves England and “civilization;” and it sets the tone for the inexplicable things that come, but I always want to just flip pages until he gets to the castle. I don’t care what recipes he plans to bring home to Mina.

    • It’s boring now, to be sure, but imagine how surprised the first readers were–he didn’t bring home any recipes! It was absolutely not the pleasant trip he expected! :)

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