Saturday, 8 September 2007
This is one of those odd instances where you're sure you've read a book but it turns out you haven't. I must have been confusing film with book that's all I can say but I quickly realised as I was reading that I certainly had *not* read Dracula before. Hardly anything about it was familiar and I think that's because it's written in diary form and thus, to my mind anyway, is quite unlike any of the movies.
The story begins as Jonathan Harker, representing his Exeter firm of solicitors, is on the way to Transylvania for a meeting with Count Dracula. His subsequent experiences scar him for life and he's lucky to escape with said life intact. In the meantime the count has set off for England with his boxes of native earth in tow. Harker's fiancé, Mina, is in Whitby with her friend, Lucy, when the count's ship lands up there with all hands dead. Lucy has a deadly encounter with Dracula in the churchyard and thus begins her decline. Dr. Van Helsing from Holland is called in to help and joins forces with Lucy's fiancé, Lord Godalming, Dr. Seward, a doctor in mental health, Quincy Morris, a friend, Mina herself and Jonathan on his eventual return from Europe. Together they hatch various plans to ensnare the clever and evasive count and there are many twists and turns before they finally have to pursue him back to Transylvania.
I was really quite surprised at how much I enjoyed this one. It was creepy, full of suspense and beautifully written. There were times, I have to admit, when I thought, 'How can they be that stupid?' But many books rely on the stupidity of its characters, so that's okay... there would be no stories if everyone used their common sense. I very much liked the 'diary' format of the book, I think it was used a fair bit back then (late 1800s) in supernatural writing - not so much now perhaps. It enables you to get the story from many points of view in a way that works very well and Stoker gets the voices right, imo - even down to Van Helsing's not quite correct English. The blood transfusions made me smile. I've no idea when the medical profession started doing those but I'm thinking that in 1897 they didn't know about different blood types! But, small nit-picks aside, this is such a good read and I honestly have no idea why I never bothered to read it before.
I feel fully prepared now to read Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian, looking forward to it in fact and intrigued as to how it connects to the events or people in Dracula.
Edited to add: Beware! Spoilers for Dracula in comments!!
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Great review. I just finished this book and totally left out in my review how stupid they were at times. Glad you brought that out. I did enjoy the suspense and how it built towards the conclusion. And I found the story to be a complete surprise. I guess I don't watch too many vampire movies.
Weren't they incredibly stupid at times... leaving Lucy or Mina alone for instance when it was clear they shouldn't. The story was a surprise to me too. I didn't remember anything about Mina from the films and had no idea whether she lived or died. I must say that it did feel like killing off poor Quincy at the end was a *token* death. Stoker had to kill off someone and Quincy drew the short straw. Oh well, I still loved it.
For all the good word about it I just didn't get much from it. It was interesting to see where the myth of Dracula came from and I liked the epistolary format. I guess I just didn't care for it that much.
Petunia: That's okay. :-) Lots of books other people rave about which have left me cold. The Time Travellers Wife for instance. Even my husband raved about that and he doesn't rave about much. ;-) I just really didn't care for it. Oh well. It would be so boring if we all liked the same things and at least, as you said, you now know where the background to all the subsequent stories has come from.
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