May 17, 2015

Review: Dracula by Bram Stoker

Review of the classic horror novel Dracula

Title: Dracula

Author: Bram Stoker

Publisher: Norton

Date of Publication: 1986 (first published 1897)

Number of Pages: 488


A rich selection of background and source materials is provided in three areas: Contexts includes probable inspirations for Dracula in the earlier works of James Malcolm Rymer and Emily Gerard. Also included are a discussion of Stoker's working notes for the novel and "Dracula's Guest," the original opening chapter to Dracula. Reviews and Reactions reprints five early reviews of the novel. "Dramatic and Film Variations" focuses on theater and film adaptations of Dracula, two indications of the novel's unwavering appeal. David J. Skal, Gregory A. Waller, and Nina Auerbach offer their varied perspectives. Checklists of both dramatic and film adaptations are included.


Dracula was my lucky choice from the Classics Club Spin, in which I decided to take part for the very first time last April. I won't hide from you that I wanted to read Dracula for a very long time, and I had a copy just sitting on my self. For some reason, all of this time I was reluctant and this spin just gave me the right opportunity to open it and actually read it. It took me, though, an awfully long time to finish it, but I finally did it!

Jonathan Harker, a young solicitor, travels to Transylvania, in order to meet the respectable Count Dracula. The Count has decided to purchase an estate in London, so Jonathan will help him with all of his legal dealings. The trip though is turned into a nightmare for Jonathan when he discovers the true nature of the Count, and from a guest he finds himself a prisoner. When he manages to escape and at last returns to England, he finds out that Dracula is already there and there have already been observed several weird incidents. When Doctor Van Helsing reveals with certainty the identity of the creature they are dealing with, a group of men, who suffer a great loss from the vampire, decide to hunt Dracula and kill him.

What can I say about the story? It's one of the most well-known stories, that basically put the foundation on the vampire's modern image in later literature. What made this novel really difficult to get through was the narrative. The whole book is written as diary entries, memoranda, or newspaper clippings. This would be great if it helped the story go forward, but the greatest part of these entries was taken by the descriptions of the locations, or repetitions as to what has already been said. I would like to read a scene when the Count take action, to know how he lures his victims, not just the result of him feeding on them. Another problem I had while reading this book is how some things didn't really match. For example, when Mina started to get paler each day why wouldn't any of the two doctors in the house examine her throat for possible bite marks? This has already happened with Lucy and they were both witnesses to her mysterious illness, death and her becoming undead, so I believe that it would at least be prudent to examine this possibility first. The last thing that disappointed me was that in the end the story was a little anticlimactic. The group travels to Transylvania finds the Count and it doesn't take long to kill him. I felt that it was a little rushed, especially for a book that was very descriptive up to that point.

Apart from these problems the Count is a character you were afraid of. He was menacing, manipulative, and you never were sure as to what his next actions would be. He was the right image a vampire should have. Even Lucy, when she became one, her characteristics changed and it was great to actually see a difference between the living person and the undead. From the rest of the group Van Helsing was the one I liked the best. He was not afraid to acknowledge the existence of that creature that logic dictated otherwise, he didn't reveal it though very early to the others because he was aware of how they would react. Also, Renfield was a complex character, because he acted mad, although in the end he was as sane as any man could be. The rest of the group, Jonathan Harker, doctor John Seward, Arthur Holmwood and Quincey Morris, were likable enough characters, but I didn't really cared for them that much. Mina proved to be a key character to the story, although I believe that she was depicted much too perfect a woman to be realistic.

Dracula was a major disappointment for me because I was looking forward to reading this novel. I expected to feel the horror since it's one of the classics of this genre. I have to admit that when something actually happened it did build an atmosphere equal to my expectations, but unluckily this wasn't for long. I would recommend it only if you'd be interested in reading the classics, but it might turn out to be a slow and a quite dull read.

So, my advice is...

Sharpen your teeth and fly like a bat!          


  1. Hm, I don't think you can compare Dracula to the horror novels of this century. I wouldn't even say it's a horror novel in general. Back in that day everything with paranormal elements was considered horror and Dracula is a groundbreaking classic novel of the time because of the implied "new" concepts. There's a lot of implied sexual content and a lot of angst. That's the problem with novels that are more than 50 years old, as a child of the new age you're obviously used to different standards. What is remotely scary to you would have made a grown strong victorian man pass out from fear :D

    1. Well, I have to agree with you! This wasn't the first classic for me, so I knew what to expect and it did have an atmosphere, which is great for a novel. What stopped me from enjoying it was the descriptive language. In Frankenstein for example, which was almost 80 years earlier, both the narrative and the atmosphere made it a very enjoyable read.

  2. I've never read Dracula but, like you, I've been meaning to for ages but for some reason just haven't. I know I will eventually though, partially out of Irish pride (good ol' Bram was an Irishman) and also because it's Dracula and it's just one of those books you have to read. However, from reading this review and several others, in this case the book is almost for influential than it is good, if you get me. It's transcended to another place entirely in terms of influence even though it's not perfect. I think all your criticisms are perfectly valid but I'll still read the book anyway, at some point, just to say I did.

    1. It's definitely worth it, it's a classic ans a very inflluential novel. This is why I wanted to read it too. Although it didn't work for me, I'm glad that I got to finally read it, it's interesting to see how the original Dracula acts. Plus you can observe which folklore elements Stoker kept and which one changed later creators.

  3. Sorry you didn't like Dracula more, but I know what you mean about the narrative. I liked it, but after reading Frankenstein and Dr. Jekyll & Mr Hyde, it didn't stand up. Maybe I should have read it before the other two.

    1. I'm glad that my point did come through. I might have been disappointed because I had set my expectations high.

  4. Personally, I quite enjoyed Dracula however I do see where you're coming from with your criticisms. Great review!

    1. Thank you!
      It's a shame because it didn't work for me. But for someone who likes this descriptive language it's easy to see why it was enjoyable.


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