I've meant to read this book every October for about two years, but I always wind up choosing something else. I did the same thing this year, but then I decided that it didn't have to be Halloween for me to enjoy a horror novel so I read it anyway.
Bram Stoker's Dracula was originally published in 1897 and is the introduction of the now iconic "Count Dracula" and our quintessential idea of a vampire. There has been a fascination with vampires in pop culture for the last several years -- the Twilight series, True Blood, The Vampire Diaries -- and even going back to Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Lost Boys. It was nice to read the original version of what a vampire is supposed to be.
The novel is presented in a series of letters, diary entries, newspaper articles, and other miscellaneous written artifacts. From the other literature I've read from this period, that seems to be pretty a common style back them. It adds a personal feeling to the plot, so I enjoyed it.
In the beginning, lawyer Jonathan Harker travels to Count Dracula's castle to give him legal advice. While he's there, he notices the Count's strange appearance and behavior. He soon realizes that Dracula is holding him as a prisoner in the castle. Meanwhile, Dracula is also keeping tabs on Harker's fiancee Mina and her friend Lucy. The novel also follows Dr. John Seward, who is the manager of a mental institution close to Dracula's castle. Seward's main patient is Renfield, who routinely eats bugs and small animals. Trust me, it all ties in together eventually.
I was struck by the fact that, for the entire novel to be named after him, Dracula isn't really around for much of the book. He's in the first couple of chapters, and is obviously present and causing mischief in the rest of the book, but as a character, he's pretty absent. You don't get a lot of dialog or much of a glimpse at him as a person. It adds to the creepiness of the story, but I personally like to get inside the mind of villains in books. That's unfortunate, because it would have been interesting to do a better comparison of Dracula to the newer version of a blood-sucking fiend. The more modern idea of a vampire is an over-sexualized, glittering, violent, brooding jerk (see image to the left). Stoker's Dracula is certainly charming, but there's no excessive seduction scenes or bloodbaths. Also, I don't think I recall anyone sparkling. I don't think Stephanie Meyer read this book.
All in all, I really enjoyed Dracula, and I'm glad I finally got around to reading it. I will say that, like most period novels, it can be hard to follow (just because of the difference in language), and it drastically loses its pace at about the 75% mark. It had me captivated for the first part, then it fell pretty flat. Not terrible, but a twinge disappointing.
PS -- This was my 30th book! I hit my goal for 2011 with this book.
Read from November 3, 2011 to November 24, 2011