⭐⭐⭐.5 stars out of 5
I always wonder how many young people do not realise that one of the most recognisable Gothic figures, Count Dracula, originated not in old movies but a novel by Bran Stocker.
In Dracula, a young lawyer, Jonathan Harper, was sent to visit a castle in Transylvania to finalise the purchase of a property near London. He met his client, a hospitable but eccentric Count Dracula, who does not seem to eat or drink or reflect in the mirror. Soon, Harper realised that he was a prisoner and the Count was not who he had pretended to be…
I have to say that the first third of the novel is brilliant. The plot might be a bit slow for a modern reader, but it can still excite and fascinate. I enjoyed exploring the Gothic castle and its horrors with Jonathan, learning more about the Count, encountering his creepy wives/daughters (heard both interpretations) and all the chaos Dracula’s arrival to England caused. I think it had to be a true sensation when it was first published— imagine the suspense when you don’t know that Dracula is a vampire!
I especially enjoyed the early part of Lucy’s story. Later on, it gets more complicated. The problem for me was that Stocker and his male characters seem very misogynistic. I understand that the novel was written in a different world, long before suffragettes. But it was also the time when the image of an ideal woman as understood by the Victorians (calm, humble, devoted and submissive) was changing drastically. Women demanded more extensive freedom and economic rights. Female sexuality was more openly discussed by scientists and writers. Many more traditional members of the society were enraged. The way Stocker writes about women seems to be an attempt to revert to the status quo. Mina Harker is portrayed as a wonderful woman, despite possessing “a man’s brain”, because she personifies more traditional virtues. On the other hand, the female vampires and Lucy in her Undead form are always scary and overly sexualised. Female desire is associated with disease, horror, lack of morality and other values. It is also expelled by a gruesome act of stacking that brings to mind sexual intercourse.
Another fault I found in the uneven pace of the plot. At times, it is full of action to suddenly slow down and drug horribly for a chapter or two. Many scenes do not bring anything into the plot, lengthy discussions of irrelevant details. There also seem to be elements of the subplot that get abandoned or forgotten, like who exactly is Quincey Morris? Why does he disappear from the room in crucial moments? We will never know.
Overall, I think this book is a must for fans of Gothic and vampires. Is it well written? I’m not sure. It definitely has many elements of a great read, but it also has boring chapters and many dated opinions. If you enjoy classics with their older narration style, you should give this book a chance. It might surprise you how much, apart from scary women, can be found within these pages.