During a business visit to Count Dracula’s castle in Transylvania, a young English solicitor finds himself at the center of a series of horrifying incidents. Jonathan Harker is attacked by three phantom women, observes the Count’s transformation from human to bat form, and discovers puncture wounds on his own neck that seem to have been made by teeth. Harker returns home upon his escape from Dracula’s grim fortress, but a friend’s strange malady—involving sleepwalking, inexplicable blood loss, and mysterious throat wounds—initiates a frantic vampire hunt.
Back in April, I made a deal with myself to start reading one classic book per month. That plan didn’t quite work out. In the last six months, I’ve managed to read three classics, so I guess you could say I’ve been reading one every other month. Fortunately, this revised plan has still had its rewards—one of them being Dracula by Bram Stoker.
I’ve never really been able to say that a classic book was gripping. Between the lengthy sentences and flowery prose, classics for me are paced at about one or two chapters a day. Dracula, however, kept my attention for hours every time I picked it up. The beginning, taking place in Count Dracula’s castle, had major creep factor, which only grew as the narrative went on.
The story itself is mostly told through various characters’ letters or journal entries, and while I’ve never met a real-life person who recounts their days so thoroughly in a journal, I appreciated that we got a look into each character’s frame of mind through their own personal thoughts. This made the characters’ journeys from vampire denial to vampire hunting more believable, since most people don’t instantaneously accept vampirism as an answer for weird stuff going on.
I also loved how the main female character, Mina Harker, time and time again outsmarted all of the men in the group, and proved to be a real forward thinker. There was even a passage where Mina daydreamed about a time in the future when men and women could have more of a relationship before marriage, along with the possibility of women being the ones to propose to men. Since Dracula was written in 1897 by a dude, I admittedly had low expectations for the portrayal of women as whole.
While I loved that Mina was smart and astonishingly brave, I took issue with Dr. Van Helsing constantly saying that, because of these things, she had a “man’s brain.” I know, I know—this is a book from 1897. But I can’t say it didn’t irk me.
I was also completely exasperated with how Stoker went on and on about the bravery of men, and how all they wanted was to protect Mina so she could remain “pure” and “good”—so much so that they decide to keep her in ignorance of their plans, which ends up being a costly mistake. Not to mention, aside from Van Helsing and Mina’s husband, all of the men were in love with Mina’s best friend, Lucy. She was literally the only reason any of them were hunting Count Dracula in the first place.
There was also a bit too much repetition in the book. Toward the end, it seemed like every other sentence out of someone’s mouth was, “God save us!” Or, “We’re in God’s hands now!” Or something like that. I guess this was meant to play up the drama, but I can only read a phrase so many times before it loses its punch.
Keeping in mind that Dracula is a classic, and therefore will have some outdated language and ideas, it is a very spooky and thrilling tale. With all of the retellings and vampire re-imaginings these days, it was a joy to read an original, complete with garlic and beheadings. I honestly was not expecting to enjoy it as much as I did, and I bet it would make a great read in October!