Monday, October 22, 2012
Author: Bram Stoker
Genre: Horror, classic
Published: 1897, originally
Source: Personal copy
Read for: A Classics Challenge, The Classics Club, Back to the Classics Challenge, Mixing it Up Challenge, R.I.P. VII
Does this book really need a summary? Nevertheless, I'll give you a tiny one. Jonathan Harker, solicitor, travels to Transylvania to work with a foreign client. While in the client's castle, he begins to notice many creepy and odd behaviors -- and the fact that the client doesn't want him to leave. Upon returning to London, disturbed and frightened, the mysterious client continues to appear in the lives of Harker and his friends, and they determine that he must be stopped.
I can't believe that I waited until now to read Dracula. I remember in elementary school reading a simplified version of it, but until now I'd never picked up the real book. I found it well-written, spooky, and creatively put together, with the inclusion of diary entries, telegrams, and newspaper articles.
I am always impressed when something written more than a hundred years ago manages to creep me out just as thoroughly as whatever horror trend has just recently come out. Dracula is written with disturbing details that continued in my memory after I had put the book down. Honestly, I think some of the best scenes are at the very beginning, during Harker's stay in the castle -- the wolves slavering around his carriage, the will of the wisp leading the carriage onward, and the strange, dark isolation of the castle not only provide a scary atmosphere, they also leave a little suspense to the imagination. I also found the lunatic character Renfield to be absolutely eerie, with his desire to consume as many lives as possible in order to build up his own power, thus making him particularly susceptible to Dracula. The images in this story are definitely poignant and creepy.
I also loved the epistolary style of the book. At times reading things from many perspectives can be disorienting, but in the case of Dracula, it was more illuminating. I especially enjoyed seeing all the "evidence," as the characters more than once mention that they are gathering all the evidence they have about Dracula and putting it in chronological order. Every bit of evidence that they have is present in the book, so that the reader feels they are discovering Dracula's secrets along with the characters.
I really enjoyed the characters as well, although a few of the outdated sentiments about women were highly irritating (although it seems that Stoker was probably aware of this, as indulging in those sentiments led to some poor outcomes). There was a ridiculous part of the story where all the men were saying, "We cannot tell Mina anything of what is happening to protect her poor fragile woman-soul," when the truth was that she was probably more capable of handling the situation than they were. However, I did really enjoy the way they all respected her and (eventually) took advantage of her capabilities to fight Dracula.
Dracula is a well-written book, full of adventure and thrills, as well as an interesting cast of characters. It is an excellent read for a chilly October night, and I am glad it was one of my choices for R.I.P. this year.
Warnings: Violence, creepy images