all words: Ashlyn Frassinelli
BOOK TITLE: Dracula by Bram Stoker
BOOK TYPE: Gothic Horror
You may enjoy this if you liked: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson, any of the Goosebumps series by R.L. Stine.
When I opened Dracula, my idea of the Count (and really, all vampires in general) was ripped straight from the old Bela Lugosi film: a bat-faced, widow’s-peaked, high-collared guy with a thick accent shouting “I VANT to SUCK your BLOOOD” as he popped out of a coffin. If you’ve been putting off this book because you’re not into campy vampire antics, you’ll want to give it another try. Bram Stoker’s Count Dracula isn’t Bela Lugosi-style vampire, or Edward Cullen-style vampire, or even Count Chocula-style vampire. The difference is that Stoker’s Dracula is actually pretty horrifying.
Among the book’s more frightening moments (without giving too much away):
· A ship rolls into a harbor in a storm; it looks abandoned until everyone notices the rotting corpse tied to the steering wheel.
· A woman is force-fed blood from a wound in a man’s chest.
· A series of highly detailed descriptions of blood transfusions (not for the squeamish).
· Messy decapitations for everyone.
The book opens on Jonathan Harker, a man who visits the mysterious Count Dracula’s estate to do business. He winds up a prisoner in the castle; Dracula then uses Harker to help him enact a plan that will help him cross the ocean to England. He succeeds, and that’s where all hell breaks loose.
The Count starts preying on unsuspecting girls as they sleep. Meanwhile, a bunch of other suspicious things start happening across the countryside. Wolves escape from zoo enclosures. Children disappear from their homes. Insane asylum inmates start going crazy (well, more crazy than normal). Only a few people – Harker, his wife, and soon a small group of others – know enough to realize that Dracula is the one behind it all.
Of course, as with any vampire novel, there is a ton of neck biting action – Dracula doesn’t disappoint in that aspect. And with all the blood drinking comes no small amount of innuendo. The further you get into the book, the more apparent it is that there’s something at least a little sexual going whenever the Count sticks his fangs into someone. He only preys on young, beautiful, “pure” women. He only goes for the neck (one of the body’s erogenous zones). He gets really excited whenever he sees blood. He penetrates girls in their sleep with his long, thick… fangs. You get the picture.
If you’re not used to getting spooked by 17th Century literature, this book may surprise you. Stoker does an excellent job of building suspense throughout the novel and of creating a general feeling of unease. He also doesn’t pussyfoot around the gory stuff. When someone gets a stake jabbed through their heart, the scene isn’t cushioned with a bunch of flowery language. Stoker tells it like it is.
His preferred style of storytelling also lends itself to a more mysterious unfolding of events. Dracula is an epistolary novel; the entire book is told through the letters, journal entries, dispatches and notes of seven individuals who are each influenced in some way by the Count. The way in which the different storylines blend and weave together makes for a fascinating, creeping plot development – especially during the first half of the novel, where no two characters know the same information, but each holds at least a small piece of the puzzle. Stoker is also talented at giving his characters unique voices. Even if you don’t read the header of each section announcing which character is writing, you’ll be able to tell just by the style of narration whether the speaker is the honorable Van Helsing, or the winsome Lucy Westenra, or the steadfast and sensible Mina Harker.
Dracula was published in 1897. This book is a classic. If you’re anything like me, you’ve been meaning to read some classic literature for a long time. Now’s the time. Pick up this book. Get cultured. Impress your friends and relatives. Remember to shut your windows at night.