Bookclub Review, October: “Dracula” by Bram Stoker

This is long overdue, as you can tell by the title. I read Dracula (by Bram Stoker) for book club back in October (because, hello, Halloween) and was surprisingly into it. I sometimes forget that classical writers were able to spin epics of horror just as well as, say, Steven King can today.

Dracula is the story of a powerful and cunning vampire who travels to England from his home in Transylvania (with the unknowing help of Jonathan Harker, a sort of estate agent of property Dracula is interested in purchasing). His diabolical plan is to leave the old for the new–this is at a time when Great Britain is extremely powerful all over the world, so he wants to create a new civilization full of vampires, starting in England. However, he is thwarted all the time by Jonathan, his wife Mina, Professor Van Helsing (an expert on vampires), Dr. John Seward (a doctor who works in an insane asylum), Lord Godalming (or Arthur, the love of Lucy Westenra, a beautiful young woman who is turned into a vampire), and Quincy Morris (an American cowboy full of honor and gumption).

What I liked most about Dracula was the characters. I especially liked Mina (Murray) Harker and Dr. Seward. Now, if you’ve never read Dracula then you probably don’t know that it’s an epistolary novel–meaning, it’s written as a series of letters, newspaper clippings, journal entries, etc. So everything you’re reading is filtered through the lense of the speaker that is recording the information. I felt that the most reliable narrators were Mina and Dr. Seward, which is probably a small part of why they’re my favorites.

Mina appealed to me in the same way Jane Eyre does–she had an innocence alongside her intelligence that showed the world has not corrupted her. Even after Mina was somewhat tainted by Dracula, she worked tirelessly to get rid of the symptoms or use them to the group’s advantage as they hunted Dracula down. She is also uncommonly clever and resourceful for a woman of that time period (or, I should say she is depicted that way which is unusual for the time period).

Dr. Seward interested me because of his scientific mind. He looked at the world through the lense of a psychiatric doctor. He spent his days with lunatics and madmen. But he wasn’t an emotionless piece of stone. His love for Lucy (who unfortunately dies due to Dracula early on in the novel), even though she chose another man over him, shows that he’s not just a doctor. He’s a man, a human. Someone who believes in right and good, good and bad, darkness and light. And he makes every effort to help Professor Van Helsing, Mina, Jonathan, Lord Godalming, and Quincy Morris, often performing unsavory tasks like beheading sleeping vampires.

All in all, if you’re a classics fan you’ll probably like this book. And if you like the horror genre, you’ll probably like this book. So give it a try. I owned it for almost 7 years before I read it and I wish now that I’d done so a long time ago!

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