Review: Dracula by Bram Stoker

HARDCOVER; 384 P.
ILLUSTRATIONS BY BECKY CLOONAN
HARPER DESIGN, 2012/1897
SOURCE: FROM THE LIBRARY

From Goodreads:

A true masterwork of storytelling, Dracula has transcended generation, language, and culture to become one of the most popular novels ever written. It is a quintessential tale of suspense and horror, boasting one of the most terrifying characters ever born in literature: Count Dracula, a tragic, night-dwelling specter who feeds upon the blood of the living, and whose diabolical passions prey upon the innocent, the helpless, and the beautiful. But Dracula also stands as a bleak allegorical saga of an eternally cursed being whose nocturnal atrocities reflect the dark underside of the supremely moralistic age in which it was originally written – and the corrupt desires that continue to plague the modern human condition.

Dracula is a Gothic horror novel that keeps readers on their toes. Bram Stoker’s creation has inspired several adaptions to both stage and screen as well as a ton of so called “vampire literature”. Although not an immediate bestseller after its publication, this classic tale of hunting down Count Dracula is probably known to everyone by now. However, surprisingly many have never actually read the book that gave birth to the character of Count Dracula.

The story of Dracula begins when a young attorney, Jonathan Harker, travels from England to Transylvania to assist a client named Count Dracula in his plans to purchase an estate in London. However, when he reaches the Count’s castle and settles down for what he thought to be only a few days, he begins to notice strange things about his host. The tendency to stay awake during the nights, the solitude of the castle, the absence of mirrors, the particular interest to English customs, never eating during dinners, etc. As his stay progresses, Mr Harker begins to fear for his life – and for his sanity. A few months later a shipment carrying the cargo of Count Dracula hits the shores of Dover – without any crew. Strange things are afoot and mystery brings together a group of strangers. Dracula is an epistolary novel story told through a series of journal entries, letters and newspaper clippings, slowly building the storyline.

Dracula is an exciting story that combines adventure, terror, love – and of course the supernatural. The writing flows easily, making this novel a real page-turner (not something that can be said about many 19th century novels!). Aside from writing, Bram Stoker was a business manager in a theater and you can definitely sense the theatrical influences in his text. The descriptions of scenery, the tension building and the dialogue bring the story to life and make it easily adaptable. The illustrated edition naturally supported the visuality of the narration, but although I liked the art style, I had few issues with the layout of the illustrations. Unlike with many classics, the story itself and some of its characters – mainly Count Dracula and Dr Van Helsing – were already familiar to me through popular culture. However, as a sensational novel Dracula has a lot of tension building, which in this edition often fell flat due to illustrations of scenes in the story that were laid out about a spread before the they happen in the text. As for the structure, I really enjoyed the epistolary form with which Dracula was constructed and the way it emphasised the emotions of the characters as well as the importance of how a story is told. The theme of science vs supersticion was also an interesting one, although for me it was overshadowed by the plot itself.

Dracula is definitely one of the most accessible classics of the Gothic period and a must read to all who enjoy a bit of supernatural in their reading. I’d highly recommend it also to younger readers and those who are trying to get into reading classics!

4/5

Do not fear ever to think. A half-thought has been buzzing often in my brain, but I fear to where that half-thought come from, and I find that he be no half-though at all; that be a whole thought, though so young that he is not yet strong to use his little wings. Nay, like the ‘Ugly Duck’ of my friend Hans Andersen, he be no duck-thought at all, but a big swan-thought that sail nobly on big wings, when the time come for him to try them.

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