I fall into the category of someone who should have read ‘Dracula’ but who just never got around to it so I came at this book with the kind of preconceptions that anyone who has been exposed to the Hollywood Dracula canon cannot help but acquire. I was pleasantly surprised at the differences I found in the written work.
It’s an easy read but it is told in an unusual style via extracts from a variety of writings created by the protagonists. Unfortunately, this means that you are at the mercy of character perspective: if you enjoy certain styles over others, some parts will be harder to stick with. Personally, I found I was willing to do away with Jonathan Harker myself after a couple of pages and as for Mina, well, I’m just not going to go there, not at all!
I found it an entertaining book, possible not always in the way Stoker intended. The bumbling attempts by Van Helsing’s vampire hunters were a hoot. It was like ‘Imbeciles: 101’ and I wondered what comedy slaying attempt was going to pop up next. As for Van Helsing’s heavily accented English, even the grammatical errors Stoker introduced were not a correct and natural representation of a foreign language speaker. I enjoyed the dark world Stoker created, nonetheless, with the Count’s castle, the suspicious locals and the compliant wolves. The heavily overdone sexual symbolism was sometimes too blatant but it did suit the style of the novel. What surprised me was how little Dracula himself actually figured in the novel – he was more of a shadowy presence than a vibrant character and as a result of Stoker’s use of multi-character narratory perspective and his omission of Dracula from this, we only ever see him through the eyes of others and are therefore unsure as to the veracity of the descriptions. Nonetheless, he cuts a sinister figure in the Whitby churchyard, which has changed very little, even in the present day. The description of the heavy mist on the Whitby sea is an eerie picture.
All in all, it’s a fun book and I thoroughly enjoyed it. There’s plenty of mileage for those who wish to delve deeply into the symbolic side but I chose not to. I’d rather keep this as one of my genre-defining favourites. I can indulge in Stoker’s story, in the beautiful Folio Society edition (black and blood-red with woodcuts) and a big bar of chocolate on a Friday night in.