Happy Halloween! In honor of the hauntingly horrible holiday, I have a throwback review to share. Enjoy and have a bewitching evening.
by Bram Stoker
Themes: love, death, blood, sex, evil, gender roles, mental illness
Setting: Transylvania – duh!, and England, late 19th century
Is there anyone who doesn’t know something about the story of Dracula? I think it would be almost impossible to come into this book, knowing NOTHING about it, but I am sure there are lots of others who haven’t ever actually read the book. (Or seen the real movie, either, for that matter.) But I decided it was time to read this one and see what it’s all about.
It was harder to read at first than I thought. We start off with young solicitor Jonathan Harker, on his way to stay at Dracula’s Castle. WHAT! What are you thinking! Don’t go there! Then I had to remind myself – he’s not being an idiot. He’s never heard of the count. Nobody has. This is where it all begins. It came up again later, when I was exasperated at how slow these people are to recognize what was going on. Don’t they know a vampire when they see one? Well, no. They don’t. This was one of the very first vampire stories, and much of the myth begins right here.
Other than that, it was really very easy to read. It was exciting and well written. The story is told in first person, in journal form and a few letters, which makes it easy to know what the participants are thinking and feeling. It makes it even spookier to here Dr. Seward describe what he saw when they broke into the Harker’s bedroom to find – well, I won’t give it away, but it was VERY creepy.
It wasn’t perfect. There was a long, somewhat slow section when Lucy Westenra is being pursued by this PRESENCE, that comes in through her window at night. I couldn’t believe how long that took. That was when I reminded myself that no one was supposed to know about vampires, so they could hardly be expected to figure it out. But it still took too long. Lucy would be attacked, she would almost die, they would save her, they would relax their guard, and then she’d be attacked again. Hurry it up, already! But once that came to it’s dramatic conclusion, the story picked up pace again and didn’t slow down after that.
I really am not a vampire fan. I am absolutely in the ‘vampires are evil’ camp, Team Buffy for me. But I don’t read vampire books much. Still, this is a classic, and I think that anyone who likes a good scary story would like it. I really liked my edition, which had a couple of essays in it. (As always, don’t read them until you finish the book!) The one in the front covered the history of the vampire myth, and the significance of Dracula in creating many of the things we think of when we think of vampires. It also had a run down on some of the classic movies, including a version starring Christopher Lee as the count, which I would like to see, just for fun. But the essay in the back highlighted some of my basic reservations when it comes to bloodsucking fiends – the sexual perversion inherit in the story. He goes through the book’s most graphic scenes and explores the sexual subtext in each scene. Very well written, and very persuasive as well.
It’s not a total gorefest or anything, but I wouldn’t recommend this book to my 13 year old, for example. But if you haven’t read it, thinking it’s too old-fashioned, or too hard to read, or too over the top, you should reconsider and give this one a chance. 5 stars.