Dracula by Bram Stoker

Publisher and release date: Archibald Constable and Company (1897)

In any story featuring vampires, on screen, in theatre or on the radio, the fundamentals behind them remain the same and Dracula is always the most notorious. Bram Stoker’s novel, Dracula, may be a little less known than the titular character, but it’s what made the legend just that.

Dracula’s first chapter by itself should have a mark on fiction for being one of the best openings in storytelling. Stoker’s description of the mysterious man who takes Jonathon Harker to the Count’s castle is slick and sets the atmosphere for the book without fault. The suspense and constant mysteries surrounding the following events within the castle, and afterwards outside it, keep the tale from becoming mundane as Stoker brings together the people who will become the crew that hunt Dracula. It takes a while for the several letters and notes that make up the story to connect, but it’s worth the wait when Jonathan Harker, Mina Murray, Dr. John Seward, Quincey Morris, Arthur Holmwood and Abraham Van Helsing finally assemble and begin their journey.

Dracula is a medley of horror, love and adventure that is missing nothing. There isn’t much blood and gore in the book by today’s standards, and Dracula himself isn’t as evil as Stoker’s inspiration for him: Prince Vlad III the Impaler, but the story is still scary without being unnecessarily disturbing. Stoker’s portrayal of vampires seems unique from a modern perspective, and Dracula’s ability to control animals and his limits of crossing water seem like new ideas instead of old ones. It would have been good if the sisters who haunt the castle had gotten more page time as their roles are small, but, besides that, all of the characters have a clear role, and the humanity each one shows is impressive and makes each one on par with the other. There’s no unnecessary conflict between them and the overt flaws many characters of fiction possess are absent. My only itch with Dracula is how what occurred at the end of Jonathan’s stay at the castle, and how he survived it, is never told to its full extent.

Dracula undoubtedly should be up there with some of the best books ever written, and I have yet to read something better. It’s not surprising that it eclipsed all the other works done prior and after by the author, but it is a shame in that sense. Not only does Dracula bring out the best in storytelling, but it’s a reminder that age sometimes really is just a number for great fiction.

  • Reasons to read: if you’re looking for an old-fashioned good book, or a reminder that vampires can make great storytelling.
  • Reading level: dictionary required at times.
  • Length:  402 pages.
  • Where to get: physical and electronic retailers and any good library.
  • Favourite quote: “. . . I could see it under the heavy moustache, was fixed and rather cruel-looking, with peculiarly sharp white teeth; these protruded over the lips, whose remarkable ruddiness showed astonishing vitality in a man of his years.” 

Have you read Dracula? What did you think of it? Let us know in the comments

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  2. I completely disagree with you, bookheathen. I read this when I was younger and fell in love with it. It remains one of my favourites. Especially the darkness of the prisoner and the narration of Harker.

    1. Maybe if I had read it when younger (much younger) I would have a different opinion. Was my reading experience spoiled by having seen already so many distortions on screen, do you think?

      1. Perhaps you are right there. I have never seen an entire version of one of the films. I always feel it would miss the subtleties of the book.

  3. It’s one of those books you have to read and, certainly, it’s a good ‘story’. However, I don’t think of Dracula as a great novel. Even by the standards of 1900 it’s ponderous and not especially strong in the drawing of character. Its lasting popularity and the modern revival of vampiric fiction generally is surely due more to translations of the novel to the screen.

    1. Ponderous is definitely a good word to use for some points, so I agree with you there, and definitely: its lasting popularity has been due to its transitions to different mediums, but, I have to say, I found its drawing of character strong enough for the story. Many stories are obsessed with character to the point that the story itself is neglected. Dracula, to me, avoids that problem.

      1. Yes, the obsession with character at the expense of story is often a weakness, I agree. Yet when I look back on a story after several years, it’s often the memory of an outstanding character portrayal that comes to me. That doesn’t happen to me with Dracula but, of course, it would be a much less interesting world if our literary experiences were identical.

  4. Audible has a new audiobook release of “Dracula” with such artists as Alan Cummings, Simon Vance, John Lee and Tim Curry as Van Helsing. I’m listening to it this week. Check it out! This is one of my favorite books and I agree on the castle escape lack thereof

    1. That sounds good. I’ll get it the same time I get the book in hardcover, and I might even read it the same time I’m listening to it. Yeah, we won’t ever know entirely how he escaped the castle.

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