Dracula by Bram Stoker Review 4/5

Overall Impression: Longwinded; but ultimately a great atmospheric and tangible tale of the most notorious vampire in pop culture.

I have wanted to read this book for so long, that I almostDracula by Bram Stoker can’t believe I’ve finally done it! As a girl who got caught up in the vampire craze of YA literature, I knew that at some point I would have to delve back in history to one of the original sources and inspiration; Dracula. While, like many others I had of course heard of Dracula from the constant stream of references, puns and parodies saturating our media, I never really had any knowledge of the details and plot twists it entailed. And I have to say in many ways, it was not at all what I was expecting! When I finished the book in the early hours of 5am I was almost left with the feeling that the whole tale was real, or at least, that it could have really happened.
This I think, is a large aspect of its appeal.
This book was also read for the belated Eclectic Reader Challenge for the horror genre.

Collected inside this book are diary entries, letters and newspaper clippings that piece together the depraved story of the ultimate predator. A young lawyer on an assignment finds himself imprisoned in a Transylvanian castle by his mysterious host. Back at home his fiancée and friends are menaced by a malevolent force which seems intent on imposing suffering and destruction. Can the devil really have arrived on England’s shores? And what is it that he hungers for so desperately?

Jonathan Harker is a young Englishman with the new burden of responsibility, and all he wants to do is succeed. So when he is sent to help the mysterious Count Dracula he does everything within his power to please him. It is not long however, until he starts to find a few strange things about the place. There seem to be no serving staff – or anyone else living around for that matter. Why does the Count never eat, and where does he skulk off to late at night? Soon Jonathan finds himself a prisoner inside the four cold hard walls of the castle and ominous shadows press in on him from all sides. As he wallows in despair Dracula makes his way across the waters to England with new victims in mind; Harker’s fiancée Mina, and her innocent friend Lucy.
When Lucy grows pale and sickly and complains of strange dreams and penetrating red eyes which cause her to sleepwalk, all those around her become uneasy and concerned. Enlisting the help of Van Helsing, the owner of an insane asylum and a few other willing men, will the group be able to piece together what is really going on? And how can they possibly stop it?

I must admit at first I had real difficulty getting into this book, mainly because of the way it was written. It started slowly with lengthy descriptions of Transylvania, and although I have a lot of patience for books it seemed dry and obtusely longwinded. Stoker certainly has a love of his semicolons! Phew. I had difficulty not zoning out, or I would get half way through a sentence and forget what he was going on about. But even though it was hard work, I couldn’t help but be intrigued by all the strange happenings. My curiosity soon got me interested in the book, and the further I got through it, the more I began to appreciate Stoker’s writing style and his peculiar way of phrasing things. I started seeing elegance in the drawn out sentences and a sort of rhythm to the prose. I loved all the gothic imagery that he created, it was so atmospheric and mysterious, the perfect setting for something supernatural. What struck me most about it though, was how real it all felt which is pretty impressive when your dealing with vampires – something not very realistic at all!
Here’s an eerie description I loved 🙂 :

‘It was a shock to me to turn from the wonderful smoky beauty of a sunset over London, with its lurid lights and inky shadows and all the marvelous tints that come on foul clouds even as on foul water, and to realize all the grim sternness of my own cold stone building, with its wealth of breathing misery, and my own desolate heart to endure it all.’

The structure of this book was also a really interesting choice, it gives the novel a feeling of sophistication which I think may have been lacking if Stoker had chosen to go the straight forward route. It’s all made up diary entries and the occasional newspaper article. In the book the characters comprise all their separate journal entries together into one big book in order to help them find clues about Dracula, and this leaves you with a weird book within a book feeling because it’s almost as if what you’re reading could be real, and that the whole thing could be non-fiction. Pretty cool. 🙂
The most fascinating thing about the structure though, is the way each different characters diaries entries, their separate thoughts and experiences slowly weave together to create a literary patchwork quilt. Rather than reading all about Dracula himself, you instead find yourself reading about each person’s vague impressions of him and his foreboding ominous presence that seems to be found at every turn. I was surprised, but loved how Dracula wasn’t actually in most of the book. The parts that he was in were actually my least favourite parts, it was a much more compelling read when seeing the threat of his presence through the eyes of others.
However I did have one slight logical issue with it, in their diaries they would write down the details of these massive conversations in big chunks. Now I don’t know about you, but I can barely remember short conversations well by the end of the day, let alone massive ones to write in my diary. Maybe that’s just nitpicking though.

The plot is intriguing, but overall very slow moving. For the most part this wasn’t an issue for me but I wouldn’t recommend it as a read for those who like a lot of action in their books. Still, at points I could not put the book down, I had to find out what was going to happen next! I kept telling myself I would stop at the next chapter break but I just had to keep reading. After such a long build up the ending seemed a little abrupt, but I think this is probably more of a reflection of the time it was written in, before you needed fireworks and big explosions for the big finale.
It was also quite funny, at times I found myself sighing and thinking ‘gosh this is so clichéd!’ I really had to kick myself and think – no, this is the original! This is where all the clichés came from. It was quite a difficult thing for me to get my mind around! I will also confess that I didn’t find the book scary at all. As Dracula is a horror book this surprised me. So I would also say don’t be put off reading this book because you scare easily, because it’s really not that bad!

The characters were all really interesting and fleshed out, once again they felt like people that you could meet on the street in real life – you know, if you lived in the 19th century. 😛 Jonathan Harker was the only one I didn’t particularly warm to but the rest by the end of the novel I had a fuzzy affection for. Dr Seward was endearing and his constant struggle with science vs the supernatural made for a really interesting read. Dr Van Helsing (while no Hugh Jackman) is driven by his tragic past to fiercely protect those around him. He is a constant source of insight, strength and at times philosophy. A lot of the quotes I liked came from him. Renfield the mental patient was also a fascinating character and whenever he appeared I was glued to the book.
I was somewhat apprehensive about the female representations in the book due to some research I did for an essay but it turned out to be less aggravating than I thought. Lucy although sickly sweet and coddled was like Dr Seward endearing and ultimately very likable with her childlike persona. I was pleasantly surprised by the portrayal of Mina too, as although she was very much the delicate woman who needed to be protected, she was also shown to be capable in other ways; brains, logic and levelheadedness. However, towards the end of the novel I kept coming across more and more teeth grinding declarations like this:

‘Mrs Harker is better out of it. Things are quite bad enough for us, all men of the world, and who have been in many tight places in our time; but it is no place for a woman, and if she had remained in touch with the affair, it would in time infallibly have wrecked her.’

I realize that it is a reflection of the time the book was written in, but it was still hard to swallow with so many statements like this in a row!

I would recommend this book to fans of the vampire culture and those that love gothic imagery. The language used is quite heavy going and the plot is slow building, therefore, I would not really recommend it for classic novices but rather those who have read a few already. 🙂 Dracula would appeal to both males and females 16 +.

Some awesome quotes I liked:

Dracula – ‘Once again…welcome to my house. Come freely. Go safely; and leave something of the happiness you bring.’

*   *   *

Dracula – ‘We Transylvanian nobles love not to think that our bones may be amongst the common dead. I seek not gaiety nor mirth, not the bright voluptuousness of much sunshine and sparkling waters which please the young and gay. I am no longer young.  And my heart, through weary years of mourning over the dead, is not attuned to mirth. Moreover, the walls of my castle are broken; the shadows are many, and the wind breathes cold through the broken battlements and casements. I love the shade and the shadow, and would be alone with my thoughts when I may.’

*   *   *

Graveyard Man – ‘For life be, after all, only a waitin’ for somethin’ else than what we’re doin’; and death be all that we can rightly depend on.’

*   *   *

Van Helsing – ‘Ah it is the fault of our science that it wants to explain all; and if it explain not, then it says there is nothing to explain. But yet we see around us every day the growth of new beliefs, which think themselves new; and which are yet but old, which pretend to be young – like the fine ladies at the opera.’

*   *   *

Van Helsing – ‘Remember my friend, that knowledge is stronger than memory, and we should not trust the weaker.’

*   *   *

Van Helsing – ‘Here is a lesson: do not fear ever to think. A half thought has been buzzing often in my brain, but I fear to let him loose his wings. Here now, with more knowledge, I go back to where that half-thought come from, and I find that he be no half-thought at all; that he be a whole thought, though so young that he is not yet strong to use his little wings. Nay, like the “Ugly Duck” of my friend Hans Anderson, he be no duck-thought at all, but a big swan-thought that sail nobly on big wings, when the time come for him to try them.’

Writing Style: 4/5
Originality: 5/5
Entertainment: 3/5
Character Development: 4/5
Would I recommend this book? Yes.

Overall 4/5

P.S. The whole time I was reading this I just kept thinking of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode where she encounters Dracula. I’t’s such a funny Dracula parody so I thought I would share it with you guys! 😛
(I apologize for the terrible quality, it was the only one I could find. :()

Image Sources:
Book Cover: http://www.goodreads.com/book/photo/2132280.Dracula

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29 thoughts on “Dracula by Bram Stoker Review 4/5

  1. Ok,that’s the second time in as many days I’ve come across Dracula exposition.
    I guess I’m going to have to finally read it.

    Great review!
    (I like the end of the buffy episode where she just threatens the dracula cloud and it turns around.)

    • Ohh really? What a coincidence, someone is obviously trying to tell you that you should read it. 🙂

      Thanks, it took me quite a while to write because there was so much to write about!

      Ohh yeah I love that bit too haha. ‘You think I don’t watch you’re movies? *sarcasm* You always come back…. I’m standing right here!’ Lol. I wanted to try and get a video that had all the funny parts but unfortunately there weren’t any like that so I had to make do with this one.

  2. Great review as usual! Dracula, is, as you said, the dark grand-father of all gothic novels, the one everyone fetches their cliches from.

    I read an article once on how poorly the book is put together – Johnathon Harker disappears for most of the novel, there are too many characters some of which don’t do a lot – but I agree it’s a great book. The scenes in Whitby are realistic to the town (I’m not sure how Mina runs from one side of the town and up the 100+ steps to the church without stopping though!).

    I think the semi-colon thing was a fad they were going through in Victorian literature. Robinson Crusoe is full of them, rather than using full stops.

    • Thanks Tony. 😀 He is indeed. There were a few other stories before Stoker came along, but he was the one that really catapulted vampires into the limelight, so props for that!

      Ohh really? That’s interesting, I found the way that it was put together really interesting, but you are right – Jonathan doesn’t appear much after the first section of the book and there are a couple of guys that don’t have big parts, but I think that is pretty much true of any book you read, there are always some character that are fleshed out more than others. 🙂
      Haha yeah that’s true! For dramatic effect I guess, or maybe she was secretly having an affair with a fitness instructor. 😛

      Yeah probably, I know he isn’t the only author to do it but I just noticed it a lot more with him! Hmm…I’ve never heard of Robinson Crusoe.

  3. i’ve had Dracula on my Kindle for quite some time now, but since I’m reading Les Miserables, it will be a while before I read Dracula. Your review has definitely made me want to read it eventually; hopefully when I do, another vampire craze won’t come up and make me tired of any mention of vampires.

    • Ohh right cool. 🙂 Wow, Les Miserables eh? Good luck with that doorstop of a book! Are you enjoying it so far? I really want to read it at some point, but I don’t think it will be for a while yet, what with my tbr pile.
      I’m glad my review made you want to read it, and hopefully you should be safe from another vampire craze, dystopian has taken over for now. 😛

      I’m sure Dracula will wait patiently on your Kindle for the time being, ready for you to enjoy. 🙂

  4. I haven’t read Dracula, but I feel like I should now. The last ‘historic’ book I read was Jame’s Joyce “Ulysses”. Wow, what an epic struggle, but it was worth it in the end (just to say I got to the end) 😉

    • Haha I’m glad I managed to interest you in the book anyway. 🙂 I’ve heard of Ulysses and it’s reputation for being a hardcore book but I don’t really know anything about it! Hehee, I bet you appreciated other books so much more after finishing it though!
      I always say read what you want to read, not what you think you should read. There aren’t enough hours in the day to waste time on books that you won’t enjoy, and there are a thousand other fantastic books waiting to be discovered. 🙂

  5. My son chose to read this for a high school English class a couple of years ago, and because I always checked over his essays for him, I decided to read it at the same time so that I would have a better understanding of what he was writing about. I agree with you that the language and style of writing is kind of hard to get used to at first because it’s so very different from the writing styles of today’s authors, but I too really enjoyed it and couldn’t wait to see what happened at the end. There’s nothing like a good old-fashioned vampire story :).

    • Ohh really? That’s so cool, at my school we never got to choose which books to study for English, our teacher got to pick, not the students. That’s a much more interesting way of doing it because then you can pick something you’re actually interested in! 🙂

      Ohh good, glad that it wasn’t just me, I found it harder than say – Jane Austen which I wasn’t expecting! I’m glad that you enjoyed it too, it was a really interesting book, quite different from others that I have read before which was refreshing. Vampires rule! 😛

      • Yes, I really like how they did it at our local schools. There were some books that they had to read as part of the curriculum, and then other times they were able to choose either from a list of books or from a certain genre. This worked out great for my boys because oftentimes the books are more geared towards girls in school.

        By the way, how are you liking The Gemstone Chronicles so far? I am about half way through and am finding it quite enjoyable. I mean, it’s obviously written for children so the writing is definitely at a child’s level, but it’s a great fantasy adventure!!

      • That sounds really good. It also sounds like from what your describing that your children had to read a lot more books as well. We barely read any, half of Oliver Twist (ugh) a play, Romeo and Juliet (again ugh) and Of Mice and Men, and that was it for two years of work for English, lol! Weirdly, I think ours were slightly more geared towards guys….how interesting how things differ!

        Ohh I’m glad to hear that you’re enjoying it! I’m on page *goes and checks* 27 so about a third-ish of the way through. I agree with everything you’ve said, it’s quite simple but also really sweet and quite fun. The writing needs a bit of work at times, but overall thumbs up so far. 🙂

  6. You know, when I was a teenager I use to keep a journal/diary myself and I would always try to be diligent and write in it everyday if I could. But whenever I thought of Dracula, I would always think to myself, did people in those days really write such LOOONG entries in their diaries? I mean, seriously? I struggled to write one page sometimes, Ha ha 😀

    So I agree, it can be very drawn out and I also agree that if it was written from a 3rd person perspective, it would never have been the same.(Although considering the fact that a lot of Victorian novels were written in the first, almost seems like a trend).

    When it comes to old classics, I was always try to read them from the perspective of a reader who lived during that time. So even though everyone I’ve spoken to says Dracula is not scary at all, I feel differently. Or maybe I scare too easily 😉

    Brilliant review, I’m very impressed and I love the quotes! I seem to have forgotten so many things but you jogged my memory here. I would love for you to watch Francis Ford Coppola’s version of Dracula now, since you read the book. It’s my favourite movie of all time and stays true to the story(well, mostly) and I’d love to know what you think 🙂

    • Haha me too (currently) lol. I reckon they probably did write everything in a lot more detail in those days, they seemed to have more patience and if they did something they seemed to make sure they did it properly! (That’s the general impression I get anyway.) I still think Stoker used a little poetic license though. 😉

      Hmm I’d never really noticed that a lot of Victorian novels were written in the first person, how interesting! 😀 I’ve never really been very good at consciously noting the perspective used, so a lot of the time these things go unnoticed by me.

      That is very true actually, I mentioned to my friend that I was reading it and she said that she’d always wanted to read Dracula but was wary because she scares easily. I mentioned to her that 19th century people were probably horrified more easily so in comparison to things now it was pretty tame. 😛 That is so interesting that you try and read it from their perspective! I would love to do that but I don’t think I would have enough knowledge of the times to do it in depth…

      Thanks Nisha 😀 and thanks for taking the time to comment with everything lately, I was just particularly curious to hear your thoughts on this one seeing as I know you love it and you often have lots of interesting Nisha knowledge. 😉
      Oooh a recommendation! I must check it out.

      All the best. 🙂 x

      • This is probably just me but I find I enjoy a piece of Classic fiction much more when I’m fully aware of the time it was written in. My view of it is therefore not influenced by my modern-day thinking.
        Besides Dracula, when you look at books like Frankenstein and Jekyll&Hyde, the most famous novels in horror literature, reading them now they are as scary as a Mills and Boon book! LOL, but when you understand the mindset of the people at the time, I totally get why they found those novels scary. MInd you, there are a few scenes in Dracula that I would not read at night. Like in the beginning when Harker is waiting at the Borgo Pass(?) for Dracula’s coachman to pick him up. That scene always gives me the heeby-jeebies 😛

        Also, sorry to come across as pedantic, dont mean to, but wrt to the cliches, Dracula was not exactly the original. Stoker actually ‘stole’ a lot of information and vampire motifs from earlier vampire novels like Carmilla(le Fanu), Varney The vampyre and from John Polidori. The fact that Dracula became more famous than these could very well be attributed to Stoker’s brilliant writing. 🙂
        Nisha Knowledge? Did you just coin an awesome new phrase? 😀

      • Yeah that is true, I kinda of tend to do it the opposite way around to you. I usually read the book and get my first impressions of it so that I am not swayed by others opinions, and then after I’ve finished it I start researching the history a bit more and then that suddenly gives the book a lot more context and makes it more interesting. 🙂 Plus, I always get worried that if I research beforehand I might accidentally read a spoiler, hehee.
        Ohh really? Lol, that’s good to know because I plan on reading those at some point too! Yeah I guess I can see how that would be a little spooky (maybe I don’t scare that easily…hmm). It’s strange – In hindsight thinking back on the scene it is a lot more creepy when I picture it than when I was actually reading it, which is a pretty interesting effect.

        Ahh no that’s ok, I already know that from your past useful Nisha Knowledge. 😉 That’s why I said at the top ‘I knew that at some point I would have to delve back in history to ONE of the original sourCES and inspiration’ and when I was talking about it being where the cliche’s came from I meant the fact that it was the story that catapulted it into the limelight, and therefore where they started from, if that makes sense? Sorry, it probably wasn’t that clear. 😛 I plan to read the others at some point too because I read this non-fiction book From Demons to Dracula that made them sound interesting. 🙂 Plus, I want to see how they compare!

        Haha, I did indeed! Do you think it will catch on? 😉

      • Oh yes, true, Dracula definitely made those now-cliched motifs popular, sorry my bad 😛

        Loved Carmilla but itching to get my hands on Polidori and Varney. Will have to search the internet for them I think, we’ll never find them in an ordinary bookstore. 😦
        LOL 😀 I hope it does catch on, maybe I’ll start a #NishaKnowledge hashtag on twitter! 😀

  7. I haven’t read this since I did my postgrad. I meant to get around to it again last year, but didn’t. I love you pointing that what we would consider cliche is actually the original source, ha!

    • Maybe it’s time for a reread 😉 Lol. It is always a difficult dilemma for a bookworm as to whether to read a new book or reread a good one. Unfortunately there just aren’t enough hours in the day! Makes Becky sad.

      Haha thanks. 😀

  8. I read this book just after I finished high school because, like you, I had gotten wrapped up in the all YA vampires are hot craze and I thought it necessary to go ‘back to the beginning’. However, I really didn’t enjoy this book in the slightest.

    While I’m sure it would have turned heads and being new and exciting when it first came out, as like you said, it was the first of its kind, I find it long-winded and dull. The whole thing seemed like a cliche of any action or mystery novel. I spent the first half of the novel being angry that they were scratching their heads not knowing was going on, and the second half annoyed that they kept being like “well get him tonight” when, considering there were still a couple of hundreds pages left, there were not.

    of course, I do think I’m being unnecessarily harsh considering I know about vampires, but considering the reputation it has, Dracula for me is lacklustre and doesn’t really stand out from the rest; which is what I expected.

    • Ahh, great minds think alike. 😉

      Yeah I totally understand what you are talking about. Although I did enjoy the book, I can also completely understand why others wouldn’t like it. 🙂

      I think you’ve hit the nail on the head, that is the big problem with it. Unfortunately it’s one of those classics that doesn’t hold up so well in the 21st century compared to something like Jane Austen. It was probably very much a novel of its time when it was all new and exciting and people didn’t know much about vampires, and therefore had no clue how it would end or how they would stop Dracula. Unfortunately it reads now – like you said as a well worn out plot line with not much mystery left.
      For me, the structure of it, the gothic imagery and the characters meant that I still found it very enjoyable. But you’re right, there was also a lot of dithering and scratching of heads that was quite frustrating!

      Sorry to hear that you didn’t like it more!

  9. This is one of my favorite books. It can be a little slow, but I think that helps build the tension. And it creeped me out on a few occasions. Glad you ended up liking it.

    • Ohh cool. 🙂 I don’t think it will be a favourite of mine, but it was a really fascinating read! The structure and the way everything fitted together was really interesting.
      You’re totally right, for the most part it does help build the tension. I did feel towards the end that it was getting a little too little drawn out, but for the most part it worked well.

      Thanks, I’m glad that you liked it too! 😀

  10. I really, really like this book. I think the suspense is done in a masterful fashion, exactly because things happen slowly and because the reader knows so much more about what’s going on than the characters, as they don’t get to read each other’s insights until quite late. That, for me, makes it special.
    I like what you said about the feeling that it could really have happened because that was the feeling I got from it the first time I read it as well. I like re-reading this book and I think I’ve learned from it as a writer as well (all the symbols and the foreshadowing and the ATMOSPHERE – genius!).
    What you say about the guys being a bit macho and trying to keep Mina out of things – don’t you think that is shown to be a bad idea when they try to do so and then she becomes a victim? So just because they try and keep her safe, she actually becomes more unsafe and they do realize that later on and say they won’t keep any secrets from each other anymore.
    Also, what I love about this book and dislike about the “new” vampires is the question of good and evil. Dracula is evil and there is no question about that. He has all the faculties of a living man, except the soul. I like that the women at the castle are released rather than killed – the death of their bodies give them peace. Dracula is outside of nature and has no redeeming qualities. That, for me, is what ‘vampire’ means and I really don’t know where that idea started from, that they can actually love and be kind and all those other things that would actually require them to possess a soul.
    (sorry, that turned into a bit of a rant at the end… I don’t mean to put down the new vampire, I just don’t understand where they come from and I really love Bram Stoker’s book)

    • Hi wordsurfer! Sorry it’s taken me so long to get back to you, I’ve just headed back to uni so stuff has been a bit manic. 🙂
      I’m glad you like the book, I thought the tension was done really well too. At times I did find it a little aggravating (mostly towards the very end of the book) but that’s because I was so impatient to see what was going to happen at the end! I’d never really thought to look at it from that angle before, that we have the upper hand over the characters, that’s an interesting thought.
      Ohh good, I’m glad I’m not the only one that thought that! I really felt it was the coolest part about the book. When I finished it at 5am I was sitting up in my bed staring around my room and I had the vaguest feeling that someone was watching me! Your totally right, if I only had one word to describe this book it would be atmospheric, that is definitely the real strength of Stoker’s writing and I’m glad you’ve managed to use it to influence your own writing. Stoker would be proud! 😛
      Hmm… I must admit I didn’t really get that impression, mostly because they didn’t seem to learn from their mistakes. They told her, then thought she couldn’t handle it so kept it from her, then started to tell her again and then changed their minds again! I still think it was quite a positive portrayal of females actually considering the time it was written in, it was just towards the very end where there was this whole section with lots of sexist comment. And my secret inner feminist started getting angry. 😛
      Haha that’s okay I’m pro rants on this blog! Yeah I see what you mean. The way I tend to look at it is that there are two separate types of vampire; Dracula-esk and fluffy bunny feeling vamps, so once I separate them in my head it makes the whole thing less annoying! Although I have to say for the most part, I am a fan of both types. 🙂

      Thanks for the long comment, and for following! 🙂

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