* CONTAINS SPOILERS
Call me crazy, but Dracula could be my favourite book of the year. It was a true page turner and had everything I was looking for in a good read: likeable characters, mysterious villain, intriguing plot, action and adventure, exotic locations, satisfying ending … I would have finished it sooner if a new personal project hadn’t cut into my reading time.
Dracula is an 1897 Gothic horror novel by Irish author Bram Stoker. Famous for introducing the character of the vampire Count Dracula, the novel tells the story of Dracula’s attempt to move from Transylvania to England, and the battle between Dracula and a small group of men and women led by Professor Abraham Van Helsing.
The above description was taken from Wikipedia, although it should say “and one woman” instead of “women”. Wikipedia is also where I learned that the diaries, letters and memos that tell the story is called an epistolary novel. A 19th century Storify, if you will. A format I really liked as each character described the events of the story from their point of view, including feelings of fear or confusion about the strange things happening. Being in a character’s head and reading about their intuitive sense something wasn’t right heightened my desire for them to find out the truth. It kept me reading and reading, and regretting when I had to stop. Luckily, Mr. Stoker is no tease and he usually revealed information quickly in the story as opposed to dragging it out like a soap opera.
All of the characters are very likeable in Dracula, mostly because they have exactly the same “good guy” personality (I was okay with this since it kept things simple). The five male characters, including Professor Van Helsing, are honourable men willing to fight evil to the death. However, my favourite character in the book was Mina Harker. I don’t know why she is never placed in top ten lists of classic book heroines because she’s a great female character: intellectually and emotionally intelligent, hard-working, calm, brave, sweet and loving. Time and time again in the book, she proves her own with the male heroes, often finding clues where they have hit dead ends. I have nothing but high praise for Mina!
As for Count Dracula, we get our biggest look at his character at the beginning of the story and through the eyes of straight-laced lawyer, Jonathan Harker. Here we learn a little bit of his backstory and discover he is capable of kind hospitality, that he is intelligent and craves knowledge as much as he craves companionship. But his gentle disposition quickly turns into menace as he reveals he is keeping Jonathan a prisoner in his castle while he finalizes his dastardly plan (insert diabolical laugh here). Jonathan has to sweat it out waiting for Dracula to decide his fate and it’s his time at the castle that Mr. Stoker uses to paint a picture of how terrible these vampire creatures are to the reader: forming into mist, turning into bats, climbing walls, kidnapping children, being sexually aggressive.
We lose the Dracula we meet in Transylvania once he moves to England as he noticeably ceases to be a character and becomes more of a shadowy, mysterious enemy the book’s heroes try to stop. I had mixed feelings about this since the character is supposed to be a big deal, but as has been analyzed for years, perhaps Mr. Stoker only intended for Dracula to represent something deeper and darker about ourselves. A bogeyman that forces people to step up and face their fears.
In conclusion, I liked everything about Dracula by Bram Stoker. It may not be considered a “blood-curdling” read in our day and age, but definitely an enjoyable edge-of-your-seat gothic adventure. I find it incredibly fascinating how Dracula has evolved over centuries to become such a monstrous (ha!) literary icon yet moving further and further away from Mr. Stoker’s original vision, taking every possible shape and form our imaginations can bring to life. As what scares us gets crazier, I suspect Dracula will haunt our dreams less and less, but he will surely continue to spark our imaginations for centuries to come.
I can also safely say I loved the book even more than the 1992 movie that has been stuck in my head for all this time. To quote Keanu Reeves … whoa.