Thursday, February 6, 2014

Book Review: Dracula by Bram Stoker

I have never been able to read this 1897 classic, even though I am an avid reader and have no problem with the likes of Shakespeare or scripture, some of the older classics just don't draw me in. So I decided to give Dracula another try and listen to the audiobook. I was in the mood for a good vampire story, but I don't have much interest in the surplus of teenage vampire romances that clog the YA shelves these days (though I am a Twilight reader, I will confess), so I decided to go back to where it really began.

There were vampire stories before Stoker's, but "Dracula" is considered the granddaddy of all vampires who have followed. And with good reason. The characters of Mina and Jonathan Harker, Doctor Van Helsing, bug- and bird-eating lunatic Renfield, and of course Count Dracula, are all very memorable, which explains why they have been gleefully portrayed many times on TV and in movies.

While not as heart-thumping as many books I read, due in large part to the journal-entry style of the story, I did find the book compelling and fascinating and at times I didn't want to stop listening. 

One thing I found very surprising was that some Dracula reviews I've read mention the seductiveness or erotic overtones of the book, and I found very, very little of that. I guess you find what you're looking for? There is only one scene that could even be considered erotic, where Dracula has Mina drink his blood, through a self-inflicted slice in his chest, but frankly, I don't find the drinking of blood erotic in the least, nor does Stoker describe anything remotely titillating about the scene, so I'm not sure where that comes from. On the contrary, it's horrifying and Mina suffers much because of it. Later vampire stories certainly engage in lots of kissing and other, ahem, activities, but Dracula? Not so much. Which I was thankful for.

I was also surprised by the opposite being true. Dracula is a book with a lot of faith in God. All of the characters, especially the chatty Van Helsing, talk about God and about putting their faith in Him and that whatever happens, God's will be done, and they pray and they (of course) use implements of faith: the cross, the holy wafer, etc. in their efforts to vanquish the vampire. I found this refreshing, especially for a horror book. Faith wasn't used to make the characters seem weak or blind or naive. On the contrary-- faith was what gave many of them strength.

The only things I really did not like about this audiobook were how much Van Helsing had to say and the female narrator. Often I found myself wanting Van Helsing to just shut up and get on with it. I liked his character, but he was too talky. And the female narrator on the audiobook was kind of annoying. Her accent often sounded child-like, as though she couldn't pronounce certain sounds and had a slight speech impediment, similar to Barbara Walters's. I don't mean to sound harsh, but oddities in speech can be very distracting from the story. 

Overall, though I really enjoyed this book and I will probably look for more "classics" on audiobook. Frankenstein, anyone?

1 comment:

Chris said...

I read 'Dracula' as a teen and enjoyed it; I also like many of the variant film versions. Stoker, a man of his time, used actual metaphors, not hit-you-over-the-head literal descriptions, which in my view wouldn't be a bad thing for modern writers to return to. If you read 'Frankenstein,' you won't recognize it from any of the movies. Even those that claim to be faithful aren't. Shelley's book is a masterpiece, chilling and surprisingly realistic (a relative term) compared to the films.