May 29, 2011

Dracula by Bram Stoker

The story:

For those who don't know the story, Jonathan Harker is asked by his employer to go to Transylvania to assist Count Dracula with some legal papers and purchasing of property in England. While he is there he notices many unusual things about the country, the Count and his strange lady friends. Johnathan becomes a prisoner in the Count's castle and manages to escape, but disappears.
Meanwhile, Johnathon's intended Mina is noticing some very odd things happening with her best friend Lucy. Their friends are so worried they call the famous Dr Van Helsing to help investigate.
Basically this group of friends, along with Johnathan (once he is rescued) unravel the mystery surrounding the Count.

My review:

The language is of a different age, but really quite beautiful. I rather enjoyed the politeness of the characters and the lovely way they had of describing things. However, the accented writing for the speech of Van Helsing and some minor Cockney characters was at times difficult to read.
The men are such gentlemen in this novel and I love how they talk of people as "good fellows" and how they assert their love, friendship and admiration for each other so warmly.
The print in my copy was quite small, which meant this book was quite a bit longer than I anticipated, but well worth the patience to read it. I stopped and read something lighter about half way through, but was glad I went back and completed the book.
Stoker's descriptions are so well done, that you find the eeriness slowly creeping up on you, and at times it was a surprised to find I was actually on a train or at home, rather than at the Count's castle.

A couple of things I noted, about the mythology. Some people have said that the Count was really rather ugly and that Hollywood made him handsome. However, it is true he is old and ugly at first, but later the group are surprised to find that he is young and handsome, almost as though he robbed people of their youth as well as their blood.
The Count could move around in the daylight rather like Joss Whedon's characters, but chose to mainly stay out at night and sleep in the day. I think this had more to do with the belief at the time about sinister goings on at night.
Van Helsing used holy water and garlic, but also the host/wafer. I haven't really seen many versions of vampires where this is used, so once again it may have been an historical thing.
Lastly, just to set things straight - the Count turned to dust when he was staked and beheaded. But, Lucy didn't and was re-interred. I think Joss Whedon's staking of Vampires, is fairly accurate. However, Stephanie Meyer's was right about the beheading, and Charlaine Harris was right about the idea of turning to sludge. My understanding of the lore is that the vampire returns to the state of decomposition they should be in if they had died naturally. So an old Vampire will turn to dust, a new vampire will just be a corpse, and a vampire that is not too old will be decomposed. What do you think? I love hearing vampire lore theories, so please do comment.

Compared to the film:

I watched the 1992 version of Dracula. I rather enjoyed it, but I had a few bones to pick. (I saw the 60's version when I was a teenager, and it was still very much in the back of my mind.) I didn't like the way Lucy was portrayed in this film. Her character was supposed to be sweet and pure, which is why everyone loved her so much. But she was portrayed in the film as flirtatious, silly and a game player. I was glad when they cut off her head - rather than mourn the loss of an innocent soul.
Otherwise, I was quite happy with the character portrayals. But I didn't like the way that it was changed so that Mina was a version of the Count's original wife. I'm not sure where that idea came from. Unless I missed something in the book - which is possible.

A new movie is currently being made about the last days of the ship Demeter which is the ship that pulled into harbour with no crew and only a "wild dog" on board, that ran away as soon as it ported. This could be an interesting story. In the book it has some logs but there would be quite a bit of leeway for a good writer to make a very intriguing story. I really hope it's handled well.

I am doing the Gothic Reading Challenge 2011 hosted by Susan B. Evans.


  1. I remember reading the novel when I was in my teens, and you're spot on about the feel of the original story.

    I'll have to try to find an unabridged copy and read it again, but libraries are pretty good about that, at least the one I go to on weekdays.

    As an aside, I've noticed that the historical Dracula is considered a national hero in Romania, particularly in the area formerly known as Wallachia, or any nearby region with a historical enmity with the Turks.

    I mention this, because at least one mainstream comic book version of him brings together the historical Prince of Wallachia and the Stoker character, blending them into a composite of both and neither at the same time.

    Have you ever seen the silent original of "Nosferatu?"

    I've seen it once on late-night television, and I suspect that the whole "Vampires turn to dust, or disappear, or whatever, in sunlight..." in movies started with that film, and was continued ever since in some circles as a convention of the genre.

    Good post, Kat. You've kindled my interest in this story, and it's spinoffs, once again.

  2. I really enjoyed your review of Bram Stoker's Dracula. I've often thought of reading it (after seeing so many films over the years!) but never got around to it. Now I think I will. Thanks for your thorough and thoughtful review.


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