Dracula is a rich Count living in Transylvania. John Harker, a young lawyer, is charged with going to visit the Count in order to arrange the purchase of some property in England. He immediately finds the Count to be a curious and somewhat menacing character but can't possibly imagine how dramatically this strange relationship will affect his friends, colleagues and loved ones following him to England and back to Transylvania again.
Maybe I wanted to enjoy a good story after my disappointment of reading 'The Moonstone' by Wilkie Collins last month but I found Dracula gripping and exciting. I usually read a book slowly over a month, I devoured this one in just 10 days. I have said before that a book really has to grab my attention and this was defintely the case here. It contains all the characteristics of and deterrents for vampires that have now become nearly clichés. This is something that Dracula has in common with 'The Moonstone' which was one of the first novels to put together the essential elements for a mystery or detective story. I probably just find the horror or vampire genre more appealing than detective stories. In fact I have just bought two volumes including collections of horror and vampire novels by Beckford, Stevenson, Hodgson, and Munn among others. .I found it really exciting to be able to recognize that Dracula was a vampire before the contemporary readers. Early on in the novel, Harker is intrigued when Dracula appears to have no reflection in his mirror. Later on, John notices that his fiancée Mina is looking pale. As John hadn't seen Mina's friend Lucy in this state he is unaware of the significance of this fact and you want to shout out at him.
The first really terrifying moment is when Dracula leaves his castle by a window and climbs down its walls like a lizard. This scene reminds me that imagination is more powerful than anything you may see in a film. It always amazes me where these ideas come from. I read that Bram Stoker was sick as a child and spent long periods of time in bed, just like Robert Louis Stevenson. There must be something in that. My version of Dracula, Penguin Classics, includes a story told to Bram by his mother Charlotte about a cholera outbreak in Sligo, Ireland. If that is the kind of story she told her son, it's no wonder his imagination ran wild!
I enjoyed the side story of Renfield, a patient in Dr Seward's aslyum. Under the influence of Dracula, who has promised him immortality, he swallows insects and small animals hoping to consume their life force. He does have a moment of clarity when the doctor and other men are surprised to hear him speaking coherently and reasonably. I find the question of the definition of madness fascinating. The truth behind Rochester's wife's 'madness' was one of the most interesting questions of 'Jane Eyre' by Charlotte Bronte.
I found the last part of the novel, when the friends follow Dracula to Transylvania, a little slow but the aspect of the novel that I enjoyed least was how women are portrayed. First the two main female characters, Lucy and Mina, seem to be idolised and all the men are in love with them as if there were no other women in the world. Mina is kept from many details of the men's vampire hunt, because she is a woman and can't handle it. I suppose that these ideas are of their time but they did grate with me a little.
Dracula is a good novel for speakers of other languages because the language is quite modern. The style in which it is written, using diary extracts and letters, makes it easy to read the book in small parts - if you can put it down! Van Helsing is Dutch and makes mistakes in his English so if you are looking for language to copy and rely on for better grammar, choose one the other characters.
An awesome book to read at Halloween or at any time of the year!
Every month, I publish a review of the book I ahve read that month.