Monday, 5 October 2015

Time to Review the Evidence (Classics Edition!) - Dracula by Bram Stoker

Title: Dracula (US Link)
Author: Bram Stoker
Genre: Classics, Horror, Paranormal, Vampire

A few starting notes:

I've read 'Dracula' several times now - it really is the godfather of vampire fiction. What Mr Stoker would have thought of Twilight et al is anybody's guess, but this was considered terrifying and risqué when it was first published.

Premise:

Jonathan Harker (one of the most under-appreciated characters in literary history, in my humble opinion,) a young solicitor's clerk, is engaged in work that takes him to Transylvania and one Count Dracula. He soon finds that things are not as they first appear.

Back home in Britain, Jonathan's fiancée, Mina Murray, is planning a break in Whitby with her friend, Lucy Westenra. Soon, Mina is worried about Lucy's health - what could be causing her illness?

Meanwhile, Lucy's jilted lover, Dr John Seward, continues his work at the lunatic asylum. His patient, Renfield, is acting very strangely...

Best bits:

This still has the power to draw you in to its atmospheric Gothicism and delectable prose. Perhaps we now consider it less frightening than our Victorian forebears did, but then, we have been de-sensitised by shocking films, books, TV shows, and video games. It's a wonder that anything frightens us, really.

The characters (with some notable exceptions) are vivid and intriguing. I personally favour Jonathan Harker - a man who fights his way through the darkest of situations.

The epistolary (look at me with my shiny literary terms - that means it's written in letters, diaries, etc.) form is used fantastically to highlight portions of plot with pin-prick precision, and to document the passing of time without getting in too much of an ever-loving muddle.

Not so great bits:

OK, don't yell at me, but I can't stand Lucy Westenra. She, to me, is the most awful stereotype. She is contradictorily pure and tainted at the same time - a symbol of Victorian sexual politics if ever there was one. She faffs about like a wet rag for most of her screen-time (I know there's no screen, but you know what I mean.)

The casual sexism is what bothers me the most about this book. The urge to scream at statements about thanking God for brave men is quite high. Unfortunately, I think this is largely a by-product of the time in which it was written.

Some may find it a very slow read - Victorian English, and not exactly short - but please don't let it put you off.

Verdict:

This is, and ever will remain, a classic. The book that popularised the vampire still has the power to entrance, absorb, and delight.

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