Dracula by Bram Stoker
Genre: Gothic, Classics
Publishing Info: 2011 by Penguin Classics, Hardback Clothbound (first published 1897)
Star Rating: 4/5
Back Cover Summary:
The vampire novel that started it all, Bram Stoker’s Dracula probes deeply into human identity, sanity, and the dark corners of Victorian sexuality and desire. When Jonathan Harker visits Transylvania to help Count Dracula purchase a London house, he makes horrifying discoveries about his client. Soon afterward, disturbing incidents unfold in England—an unmanned ship is wrecked at Whitby, strange puncture marks appear on a young woman’s neck, and a lunatic asylum inmate raves about the imminent arrival of his “Master”—culminating in a battle of wits between the sinister Count and a determined group of adversaries.
Dracula is a long book, and although my interest in it waned and revived at various points, my overall feeling after finishing it was that I had on the whole enjoyed it. Many a classic has told a lacklustre tale of Victorian families, but throw vampires into the mix and you get an altogether more captivating read. I have the Penguin Classics hardback clothbound edition, which is of lovely quality, with thick and smooth pages.
The novel is written in an epistolary form, using a mixture of diary entries, letters, telegrams and newspaper articles, told from a variety of viewpoints. This is something which not every reader will like. The book is constantly switching between narrators and between the different written pieces (letters, diaries etc.), something which I had expected to dislike. However, because it moved around a lot between different characters, and so different stories (until the various threads become intertwined later in the book), I think that prevented me from becoming bored with it. Often when narrators switch too often it feels disjointed, but this format works for this book, as the patchwork of letters and journal entries is itself an element of the plot.
All was going well, until the latter half of the book when the male characters began to emphasise ridiculously one of the female characters ‘femaleness’ and how they didn’t want her to witness the terrible, vampire-y things going on. This went on quite persistently in ridiculous volume for a couple of chapters. Now, obviously women were viewed by society in a particular way in the Victorian period, so this isn’t exactly surprising. It was how much it was emphasised through the repetitiveness with which the male characters discussed her sensitive disposition as a woman and other such phrases. It became very irritating and made me frustrated at the book, which up to that point I had been mildly enjoying. At least she proved herself to be intelligent and resourceful, despite their attitudes towards her.
The concluding section of the book when the chase of Dracula commences was exciting and kept my attention, making me want to read to the end to discover the fates of the characters. So despite some moments that dragged and my attention wavered, and the section where the woman was treated as weak, the rest of it was actually pretty good. My conclusion upon closing the cover was that I was glad to have read it. Vampires are such a prolific part of our culture, and there have been so many varied adaptations and interpretations of Dracula, that it was interesting to read the original story.
5 thoughts on “Book Review: Dracula by Bram Stoker”
Dracula is one of my favourite classics, although it’s been a while since I’ve read it! I’m keen on epistolary novels so I enjoyed the differents styles of narrative.
Great review! It made me want to re-read Dracula since I haven’t read it in years. I tend to overlook the female weakness emphasized in the book because my brain says, “Nineteenth century. Right.” If I came across a book written in the present day with those sentiments, I’d probably put it down and find another use for my time.
Yes I usually ignore it too in older books and I had done for most of the book, there were just these two chapters in particular where they were going on and on about it almost every paragraph. It was just having it commented on so repeatedly that was what made it annoying! I was able to overlook it in the rest of the book. Yes, it would be awful to read it in a book from present day!
It is unfortunate when antiquated attitudes distract us while reading literature from a different century, or sometimes even a different decade. I can understand how it is tolerable when spread out, but it becomes annoying when it is clustered together. Glad you enjoyed the overall experience, though! It’s definitely a classic and most (good) modern vampire literature draws from it in some respect. Lovely review!
It is a shame so I do try where possible to not let old attitudes get in the way of an an enjoyable reading experience!