20 January 2012

Dracula by Bram Stoker

Dracula by Bram Stoker has been republished so many times that I could probably do an entire post just on the various covers that have been attached to it. I will include a few with this review.

Obviously, this is a classic that will never die (sorry, couldn't resist) and who am I to criticise? So instead I think I will break this review into three categories: difficulties I had with the book; reactions I had to the book; and interesting tidbits.

Difficulties: The biggest difficulty I had was with the language. It was lyrical and descriptive until either Van Helsing or a lower class Englishman was talking. At those times the content became difficult to follow. Van Helsing's musings were written to impart to the reader a Dutch accent. With the language already being a little tricky, I really had to ponder and re-read to get some of what Van Helsing was trying to say. It was infinitely worse when trying to decipher the meaning of the lower class. Their input was written phonetically and in the slang of the time. Occasionally I just skipped over trying to figure it out. Luckily Van Helsing got easier to figure out as the story progressed and there wasn't a lot of the other.

My Reactions: As I hit about the middle of the book and started to assess my feelings about it, two things hit me. First - I love the language! Maybe it's because there was no TV and few pictures readily available at the time but the classical writers have such a way with descriptive language. As they write, you can see the picture unfolding before you. It really is like they paint a picture with words. Sadly this seems to be a lost talent. Or maybe because we have so much visual stimulation and experiences to draw from now, readers just don't have the patience for truly 'visual' writing. The second thing I realized was how very little gore was actually included in the book. Perhaps it was considered a gory book at the time but, compared to some books of modern times, Dracula seems almost sanitized. I was feeling rather disappointed in my lack of fear reaction until I had to go out to my car in the dark to retrieve something. I walked out the front door and was immediately struck with a tightening of my chest and a paranoid fear. I guess the descriptive language worked after all. Then there was the night of nightmares after falling asleep with the book in my hands. I totally underestimated Bram Stoker's ability to manipulate my subconscious.

Interesting Tid Bits: Until I began reading the book, I didn't realize it was written as a series of journal entries and letters. There is no direct storytelling per se, just recollections the characters wrote in journals or to each other. Dracula himself is actually almost a supporting roll with the primary focus being on the reactions of those that interact with him in some way. Also interesting was the use of the terms 'UnDead' and 'if looks could kill'. Both of these were used, in the modern sense, for the first time in this novel.The 'modern rules' of vampire were also introduced in Dracula. Vampires do need to be invited in, in some way, before they can torment you at home.

I'm glad I finally got around to this book. It makes all these modern, feel good, vampire books feel like cheap imitations. There is so much depth and darkness in the original. First book in the Back to the Classics Challenge done!

A Taste:
He became almost speechless for a minute, and then went on, "Do you know what the place is? Have you seen that awful den of hellish infamy, with the very moonlight alive with grisly shapes, and every speck of dust that whirls in the wind a devouring monster in embryo? Have you felt the Vampire's lips upon your throat?"


  1. I still haven't seen a Twilightish cover but I guess that will come too. Anyway glad you liked it :=)

  2. I really enjoyed your review and seeing the covers, and you are right this is the orginal of all the spin-offs these days. I like the aspects you have picked out like the use of descriptive language and the format it was written in!

  3. I LOVE this book! I'm glad you read and enjoyed it and even got a little creeped out. ;)

  4. I haven't read this yet.... but I love the descriptive language of the time period as well, so I probably should. Thanks for including all those covers! The third one looks so creepy!

  5. I try to read one classic a year (don't judge my low expectations!) and I plan on reading Dracula this year. I might listen to it on audio instead though so I an avoid the pesky phonetic issues.

  6. ALexis - this would be one I would love on audio. Then I think I would have been really freaked!!

  7. Dana, coincidentally, I also chose Dracula by Brams Stoker for the Challenge's Classic Horror Category. To be honest, I've read the book before but it was such a long time ago and I didn't want to choose it for the Classic Reread. Let's see what I'll come up with in terms of review after I'm done with it. Congratulations!

  8. I read this last year. I thought it was a decent book, but I think I've been jaded by the whole vampire thing. I can understand how Stoker's book could have been scary when it first came out because it was the first of its kind, but having read different versions of vampires, it wasn't scary for me.

    I did not know about the format of the book (i.e. journals, letters) until I read it as well. I thought it was interesting and a neat way to see the story.

    I AM glad that I decided to read it though. It really helps us understand how this phenomenon started and what frightened readers back in the day.

  9. I also read this for the classics challenge and really loved it. I was surprised, because I didn't think it would be my kind of story.

    Here is my review on Rose City Reader.

    I am going to add a link to your review on mine. Please come over and leave a comment telling me not to if you don't want me too. Thanks.

  10. I added a link to your review on mine. Thanks for visiting Rose City Reader. I really like your blog too and am now following your blog and you on twitter.

  11. The first time I read Dracula in high school I also had some trouble with the language, especially because English isn't my first language and I was still adjusting. But the almost visual beauty of the language kept me going. I would read late into the night, everybody else asleep, and then lay in bed for what seemed like forever listening to the creaky silence of the old house, my heart beating much too fast to be able to go to sleep. It wasn't so much about the gore back then, it was about the suspense and the atmosphere that got your imagination all revved up. Nowadays we're so desensitized that if limbs don't fly it's just not considered scary. People are totally missing out, aren't they?

  12. I posted about this one on my blog too! I loved it and Dr. Van Helsing's passages didn't bother me a bit. Stoker was really committed to being accurate. I read he asked his brother who was a surgeon how a blood transfusion worked! So great.

    1. That's interesting. I'll have to pop over and see what you had to say.


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