Mini-Post by The Bookworm
Author: Bram Stoker
Summary: In the late nineteenth century, Jonathan Harker, a young English lawyer, is traveling to the Castle Dracula, in Transylvania, in order to finalize a transfer of real estate in England to Count Dracula. Harker becomes extremely nervous when all of the local peasants react in fear after they hear of his destination; nevertheless, he continues on to the castle until he meets an emissary of the Count in the Borgo Pass. The mysterious coach driver continues on to the castle, arriving in pitch darkness, to the accompaniment of howling wolves.
Even though his accommodations are comfortable, Harker finds Count Dracula to be a pale, gaunt, thin man, rather strange, and Harker is mortified when, after accidentally cutting himself shaving, the Count lunges at Harker’s throat in “demoniac fury.” Harker soon finds himself imprisoned within the castle. Harker discovers the Count’s secret — that is, the Count survives by drinking the blood of human beings — and, now, he is intent on killing Harker. The Count escapes Jonathan’s attempt to kill him, and he swiftly leaves the castle with fifty boxes of earth, bound for England
Bookworm Rating: A
Target Audience: Adult
*Minor Spoilers Below* – may include plot details such as: important names or events.
Story Notes: I really love this story and it’s pretty interesting to see how vampire lore has changed since this book was written. In modern times most of us see Count Dracula as a Halloween staple. However, most of the modern interpretations of him aren’t entirely accurate. We typically see him as a dark-haired, handsome man who goes around seducing people and drinking their blood. He really a pretty ugly old guy with hairy palms and “strangely sharp teeth”.
(Also, there are a ton of blood transfusions that take place in this book with no regard for blood type. Just remember that transfusion was a new thing when this book was written and they didn’t know better.)
The story begins with Jonathan Harker traveling to Transylvania to complete a real estate transaction for Count Dracula. After being pretty oblivious for a bit he finally realizes that something bad is going on but he’s trapped in the castle. To avoid spoilers I’m not going to tell you what happens to him. But lets just say there are three female vampires and climbing the castle walls.
We then go to England where we meet our other characters: Wilhelmina Harker (Mina), Lucy Westenra, Arthur Holmwood, John Seward, Quincey Morris, and Abraham Van Helsing.
After some romantic-ish shenanigans Lucy falls terribly ill. Nobody knows what to do which is where Van Helsing is called in. He’s a medical doctor friend of John Seward. (Not a werewolf, monster hunter dude; that’s another modern interpretation thing.) It doesn’t come out until later that he about vampires and how to deal with them.
Sadly they can’t save Lucy (because her mother is stupid) and then they begin hunting Dracula after Van Helsing convinces everyone that vampires exist. I’m going to keep the rest of the plot under wraps for the most part because the suspense is what makes this book great.
I’d just like to say that Mina Harker is super awesome and (aside from Van Helsing) is the only truly competent person in the book.
Writing Style: The real strength of this story is in the writing style. The book is written in epistolary form. This means that it’s a collection of journal entries, letters, news articles, and ships logo entries. This gives the story a sort of slow burn, tension building vibe, because at any given moment we only know what the characters know.
This is what makes the story very gripping and it’s really impossible to get this sort of vibe in any other format. (The movies that are made about this book are a source of terrible disappointment to me.)
I also really enjoy the vampire lore in this story. For example, if someone puts a wild rose on his coffin while he’s asleep he can’t get out of it. It’s a really fun story with a perfect building of gradual horror.
Weaknesses: One of the biggest weaknesses of this story is that fact that Bram Stoker clearly never talked to an American or a Dutchman in his life. Quincey Morris is an American in the story and he talks like every Texas stereotype you’ve ever heard. It gets pretty bad.
Van Helsing is Dutch and Stoker gave him the trait of not completely understanding the English language. So he can come off as a bit goofy at times. Luckily he’s got enough good characteristics to make up for this. (Quincy does not.)
Strengths: As I said above, the gradual horror that builds during the story is Dracula’s real strength. The epistolary format of the book is really the best way to tell this story. This format is where both the characters and plot get their interest from. I don’t think the story would be as effective in a different style.
Final Thoughts: This is a really fun story and I highly recommend checking it out. You really do get a lot out of reading the book that you cannot get in anything else that features Count Dracula