Mysterious, gloomy castles and open graves at midnight are just two of the Gothic devices used to chilling effect in this 19th-century horror classic that turned an obscure figure from Eastern European folklore into a towering icon of film and literature. [ synopsis from goodreads ]
(Note before I start: I realized after writing this review that it's possibly riddled with spoilers. But since I don't think there's a person in the world who doesn't know how this story ends, I'm not really marking any of them. So I figured I'd just stick this little disclaimer at the top in case you don't want to read. So hey! Spoilers ahead! Just in case you're into knowing that kind of thing.)
I can tell you with total confidence that "I have read Dracula" is a sentence that I never thought I would be able to utter honestly. But, yet, here I am. I guess things do change.
I started reading this book in high school for my senior thesis. I wasn't much of a classics reader back then and probably didn't even make it 100 pages in before switching topics. I figured I'd never get back to it. Then I picked it as a book club reading, thinking I might finally make it through this time. Well, that part I was right about. It was much easier this time around and at the beginning I found myself enjoying this novel quite a lot. I've seen lots of Dracula film adaptations and many of the vampire stories this book has spawned.
I think that was both an advantage and a curse. Because I've now realized that the more a story grows and the more other stories the spawns, it leaves the origin with less meaning. I can't look at this book objectively because I've seen it in a thousand different forms from movies to tv shows to other books to games. I can't read this book clearly without comparing it to every other vampire thing I've encountered (and believe me, I tried). And because of that, I liked this book a lot less.
I almost wish I would've been alive to read it when it came out. Because, believe me, I can tell what I would've thought. I can see how this story would've been terrifying then. Now, it's sadly just lost in the shuffle.
But, honestly, I think some of the other vampire stories out there have made this novel better. Because I found myself disappointed in the way this story is told. At first I loved that it was mostly told through letters and diary entries that it managed to keep a sense of mystery because it was all second-hand encounters with the vampire. But then it was like this story started to get repetitive. It was slow and felt like it was dragging on for far too long.
And then I decided that the one thing this novel truly lacked (that every single movie version I have ever seen more than makes up for) is the Count as an actual character. Because aside from the beginning (which is told entirely through Jonathan's viewpoint) we never really see the Count as a character. We never get to know him. We never see his power first hand. We only get watered down accounts, after the fact. And we never, ever see him with Mina (not from her point of view anyway and not doing more than scaring her/turning her).
And honestly I think that's the thing that really bugged me about this book. And why I love the adaptations better. Because they did something that this novel didn't: they made the Count the main character. They made it his story. And they showed us his point of view. The reason that I love (most) of today's vampire stories is because they give us a sense of what it means to be a vampire. They give us a look at immortality from their eyes. Of living long enough to see the world change and to experience that change. And then to, eventually, realize it's been too long.
This story never gives us a chance to see that side of the Count. We never find out how long he's lived or what he's seen or if he's loved and lost. We never see him as more than a monster-- because that's how our characters see him. We are never given a chance to really get to know him as the person underneath. And now knowing that this book doesn't give you that actually saddens me greatly.
So I'm glad countless films and shows have taken that extra step and given us a Count that is a character in his own story. After all, the book is named after him. But after reading this book, I couldn't tell you a thing about him more than he's supposed to be scary. And I guess I'm selfish because I like a little more from my villains. I like knowing them and finding out what makes them tick-- what made them the way they are. And maybe I go into every story expecting to get just that. Most of the time I do. That's probably why I expect it.
So I guess I am glad I read this book. Because I always would've wondered. This is the story that started them all and I'm glad to have it under my belt at last. But it's probably one I'll never read again. Because there are other vampire stories out there that are just better. And that give me more what I want and what I've come to expect from them all.
I'm glad we've evolved from this novel. Because if they were all like this one, I never would've fallen in love with vampire stories. And picturing my life without all the vampire stories I have loved over the years seems so sad.
So thank you to this novel for being the first and lighting the spark. But thank you especially to all the stories that came after it and took that spark and made the flames that have made my dark days a little brighter. You're the real heroes here. And for that I will always be grateful <3
(And before you ask, no I don't mean Twilight as a great vampire story. It's true that I loved it once a long time ago. But those were the days when I didn't love classics/didn't read a lot and had yet to realize how many amazing stories I would find out there with a little perseverance. Now, when I talk about great vampire stories I'm mostly talking about the films that have been made from this novel but have gone beyond it and made it better. And to a few other vampire stories that hold my heart but I won't go into here because that's a whole other story that you probably shouldn't get me started on...)
review originally posted on goodreads