‘Loneliness will sit over our roofs with brooding wings.’
Once again this review will be defined by a mixture of my ignorance and my haplessness. First of all I mistakenly believed that Dracula author Bram Stoker invented the idea of vampires exclusively and they hadn’t existed at all prior to 1897. In reality, the vampire myth has its origin in at least the 1700’s. Stoker did however, invent the character of Dracula, who remains the most famous vampire, even in this dark, post Twilight world in which we currently find ourselves.
Secondly, my enjoyment of Dracula was tempered somewhat by the fact that I wrongly believed that Lord Godalming and Arthur Holmwood were different characters when they are in fact the same person. I had a similar problem with The Grapes of Wrath which suggests that I am barely able to read at all. Despite these shortcomings I pressed on and found Dracula to be an interesting if overly long read.
Stoker’s most famous work could easily shed 100 pages and be no worse off and the interchangeable characters become tiresome in the third act. The epistolary style helps to keep Dracula fresh, although this also inhibits the book during the more action packed chapters as everything is described retrospectively.
As much as the hysterical, subservient female characters are borderline offensive and the three men who dote on them are paper thin, Van Helsing, Renfield and the Count himself are all distinctive, memorable and fully drawn characters. This also explains why they have become pop culture staples while more prominent characters like Jonathan and Mina Harker have been forgotten.
This is made even more surprising by the fact that the best part of the book is the opening, which sees Jonathan Harker travel to Transylvania to stay with the Count. All the common Dracula tropes come from this section and it benefits from the deliciously evil Dracula having loads of dialogue. Harker’s regression from fearless explorer to lovelorn daffodil following his return to London is particularly galling following the excellent opening.
The first few chapters are equal to genre high points Frankenstein and Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde but the rest of the book takes too long to say too little. Frankenstein is the pinnacle of Gothic literature and whilst Dracula has its moments, it doesn’t compare to the heartbreaking prose of Mary Shelley.