Dracula

DraculaDracula by Bram Stoker
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A re-read. I first read DRACULA in my mid-20s and didn’t care for it. Now, nearly 30 years later, I thought it was time to revisit this classic novel and see if my feelings had changed. I’m so glad I did!

I liked it much better. The stiff, formal prose and epistolary style didn’t put me off as much now as it did then. It’s definitely not paced the same as a modern thriller, and there were times when Harker’s statement at the beginning that “all needless matters have been eliminated” struck me as less than accurate. Still, it was a compelling read, and I can see why the book has never been out of print, and why Dracula is the second most revisited character in popular culture after Sherlock Holmes.

My favorite part of the story remains the beginning, with Jonathan in Transylvania. I love the atmosphere and the sense of danger. For this reason, my second favorite part is when they return to Transylvania at the end for their final confrontation with the Count. In particular, I really like the scene where Van Helsing enters the castle alone to dispatch Dracula’s brides. I think my least favorite part is the hundred or so pages in which Lucy sickens and then gets better, sickens and then gets better, and on and on. Were this a modern novel, I think that section would have been shortened significantly. I wonder if that’s something they did in the 1901 abridged version.

It’s interesting to me as a horror fan to see how influential this novel was on pop culture’s ideas of vampires, and how our current vampire lore has extrapolated upon and evolved from this novel. In particular, I was fascinated to see that sunlight does not kill Dracula. He is far less powerful in the daylight and easier to kill, but the sun doesn’t burn him and crumble him to dust as it would in later vampire stories. (Sunlight is how Dracula, or Count Orlok if you prefer, is dispatched in Murnau’s 1922 film NOSFERATU, so it didn’t take long for that trope to become set in stone.) It’s also interesting to see how Dracula’s boxes of earth later became coffins.

I’m so glad I gave DRACULA a second chance! It is a truly remarkable novel, and one it only took me roughly 30 years to appreciate.

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