Book Review: Dracula by Bram Stoker


Dracula by Bram Stoker

Genre: Gothic, Classics

Publishing Info: 2011 by Penguin Classics, Hardback Clothbound (first published 1897)

Pages: 454

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.

TV Review: Victoria

TV Review: Victoria

Aired: 28th August 2016 – 9th October 2016

Written by: Daisy Goodwin, Guy Andrews

Starring: Jenna Coleman, Tom Hughes, Rufus Sewell, Catherine Flemming, Daniela Holtz

Executive Producers: Daisy Goodwin, Dan McCulloch, Damien Timmer

Producers: Rebecca Eaton, Paul Frift

Directors: Tom Vaughan, Sandra Goldbacher, Olly Blackburn

Network: ITV

Genre: Period Drama

Episodes aired: 8/8

Rating: 4/5

This review is a follow-up to my mid-series review. The series definitely grew on me as the episodes went on and I looked forward to settling down to watch each new episode.

Mercifully, Jenna Coleman’s portrayal of Victoria became less whiny. However it just took her too long to settle into the character, whose personality seemed quite erratic. This was perhaps an attempt to show the difficulties of being a very young queen, but it just left me annoyed some of the time. Hopefully in the next series a more mature Victoria will be presented. In terms of other characters, I liked the development of Victoria’s relationship with her mother as the series went on.

The music, especially the titular music, I liked very much and found suitable for the time period. It was visually appealing and there were some beautifully designed costumes. There was a touch of humour throughout the series, just enough to provide lighter moments.

One thing that irritated me was that Lord Melbourne disappeared. Once Victoria married Albert I guess his role did run its course but I didn’t feel he got a proper exit to the series. One episode he was there and the next he wasn’t. There was no resolution to his characters role in the series. A small scene would have sufficed.

While unsurprisingly the show focuses on the interpersonal relationships of Victoria and how she deals with being a monarch, I found the neglect of societal Victorian issues a shame. In episode 7 there was a glimpse of the potential, as Albert is interested in the development of the railways. This was an important development of the era and I’m glad it had a place in the series, but other big issues of the time were lacking representation. Of course, this isn’t about the Victorian people, it’s about their monarch, but the major events and issues of the Victorian period would have influenced Queen Victoria, and vice versa. In one of the early episodes there was some issue of protests which was good, but it was hardly dwelled upon.

The series has proved to be popular, often garnering more viewers than BBC’s Poldark, which I found quite surprising. It’s no surprise then that there will be another series. I’ll be interested to find out in what direction they take series 2. I hope they do not overly focus on Victoria’s family and forget about the social and political issues, of which there were many, during her long reign.