Tuesday, July 26, 2016
Dracula by Bram Stoker (with notes by Brooke Allen)
Given that it was published in 1897, Dracula is definitely not your typical horror story. It includes elements of action, adventure, and even romance (don't worry, it isn't anywhere in the realm of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight).
The novel begins by following the events in the life of Jonathan Harker, an English solicitor who is given the role of estate agent to our beloved antagonist, Count Dracula, who wishes to move to England. After finding a home that he believes will suit the Count's needs, Harker takes a train to
Transylvania to discuss matters with him. Upon their meeting, Harker is instantly creeped out and thinks there's something off about Dracula, but like any horror story protagonist would do, he ignores his suspicions and becomes trapped inside Dracula's Transylvanian castle for weeks. After escaping, he has a breakdown and tries to tell his fiancée about his experiences with the Count, but she believes he is simply delusional due to his high fever. However, Van Helsing knows the truth.
The story soon begins alternating between the journal entries of several protagonists, including Mina, Harker's soon-to-be wife; Dr. John Seward, the administrator of an asylum not far from Dracula's new English estate; and of course, Abraham Van Helsing, the well-known vampire hunter who helps to save the day.
Now, I won't say any more about the plot so that I don't spoil it for you guys, but I will say that it was a great, suspenseful read overall. It was a bit predictable and a bit confusing at times (late 1800s European sayings and dialects seem strange to most Americans), but when I finished the last page not only was I proud of myself for having read such an esteemed classic novel, but I felt that I had learned something and had that much more intelligence regarding American pop culture. I know that comparing reading the novel to learning may turn some of you off, but the story is nothing like a textbook. It is rich, filled with culture, and written using multiple distinct yet engaging voices that capture the reader's interest and push them to keep turning the pages. If you do have a hard time understanding the language or the historical settings, read Brooke Allen's footnotes. They provide much guidance throughout the book, and getting through to the last chapter is a breeze with the notes to help.
My overall take on it? I'd say that Dracula is definitely a must-read for all self-proclaimed horror enthusiasts, such as myself. You'll understand little references here and there on TV that confused you before; you'll have a great time reading this horrifyingly good, classic thriller; and if you're like me, you'll gain a sense of accomplishment from finishing a book that is so referenced, so talked about, and so popular. Plus, you'll have random trivia to spook your friends with on Halloween ("Did you know that Count Dracula was actually really tall and had gray hair and a beard? And he didn't even wear a cape.").
For those of you who have read Dracula, what's your take on it? Is it a must-read, or is it one that readers can skip? Share your opinions in the comments!