2014 Challenges, Books, The Classics Club

Book 276: Dracula – Bram Stoker

Stoker, Bram - DraculaWelcome back Classic Club! I apparently needed a four, almost five, month break from the club. There wasn’t a specific reason other than perhaps the epic-ness of War and Peace, but I’m glad I took the break. I think this was an even better break because I came back with such a wonderful book! There were so many cool things that I learned that I didn’t know, or some how avoided knowing, came from Dracula!

I thought for sure I was familiar with the plot of Dracula, we all are aren’t we? But I was so wrong! I’ve never seen a film version of this and most of what I know is what pop culture has co-opted over the years. One of my favorite podcasts, Good Job Brain, even did an episode titled Very Superstitious which included a lot of fun trivia (some I think might’ve been wrong) about the myriad versions of Dracula. However, what I found out that most caught me off guard was that although the book was about Dracula he wasn’t the main character AND there was a bad ass female protagonist who rocked. There are spoilers, the book is over 120 years old so get over it! 😀

I’ll talk about the bad-ass female protagonist in a minute, because what I really want to start with is how awesome Stoker’s place writing is! Although the opening was a bit rough, I mean that opening line is factual, but within the first 30 pages as Jonathan Harker approaches Dracula’s castle Stoker writes what has to be one of the most amazing “dark and stormy nights” that I’ve ever read. As he described Harker’s journey I could feel the temperature dropping and the wind howling, it was eery how great it was. And it wasn’t just this section, his place writing in London and on the rivers/trains was excellently done. It makes me wonder if Stoker was a travel writer at some point!

I think what was most surprising to me, because I assumed the story was predominantly about Count Dracula, were the bad ass female characters! From one of the protagonists, Mina Harker to the sad story of Lucy Westenra and the Brides of Dracula, I was like whoa what?!? The Brides were CREEPY as shit and have apparently appeared in numerous renditions as even major players, they were only briefly involved in the original. Sure there were some questionably sexist undertones in that the only ones who were contaminated/converted to vampires were women (what no gay vampires?), but we’ll say this is a product of the times.

The saddest story, by far, is Lucy’s! On the eve of her wedding, after three proposals in one day, she dies after constantly being drained by Dracula. Then later in the story when small children start disappearing in London we find out . This is also how we meet the character of Van Helsing! For some reason I never connected him to the Dracula story as I’ve only ever known the pop culture references to Van Helsing, and the really bad 2004 movie – which I’m sure I loved more than most! But what killed me was when they had to kill undead Lucy. I didn’t cry but if I would’ve paid more attention to it I most definitely would have, the description of her features as Arthur (her fiancé) drives the stake into her heart is heart-wrenching, and then they cut her head off! They perform the same routine with the Brides as well.

Now finally for the kick-ass Mina Harker! Mina made the story for me, we get a lot of the story directly from Mina via her diary as this story is an open epistolary novel (a collection of diaries, letters and news clippings). What’s cool about Mina is that she’s the character that makes a lot of the connections between the different lines and often is the first to make the cognitive jump to what Dracula might or might not be doing. Throw in that she has to face her own battle after Dracula contaminates her, and clearly she’s a bad-ass. Stoker definitely didn’t cut her short and allowed her to become a fully fleshed out character.

Recommendation: DEFINITELY read this one! I was amazed at how well written it was and how quickly I fell into the story. The characters were fun and multi-faceted. If there is one drawback, it’s that I wish there was more information about Dracula, the character, and not just about his demise, but it was still really good. This is definitely one of the best Classics I’ve read as part of this project.

Opening Line: “Left Munich at 8:35 P.M., on 1st May, arriving at Vienna early next morning; should have arrived at 6:46, but train was an hour late.”

Closing Line: “Later on he will understand how some men so loved her, that they did dare much for her sake.” (Whited out.)

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18 thoughts on “Book 276: Dracula – Bram Stoker”

  1. I had a VERY similar reaction when I read Dracula. I mean the book is called Dracula so I thought he’d be the main character too! It’s so funny how we’ve absorbed this character into pop culture, but most of what we associate with Dracula actually came later. I don’t know if Stoker was ever a travel writer but he was associated with the theater for much of his life…maybe some of that shows in his writing?

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    1. Oh I didn’t know he was associated with the theatre, but that would definitely explain a lot of the melodrama! It is funny how pop culture has subsumed such specific parts of the story without the rest. I think the best thing was that I tweeted a couple of times about reading it and was immediately followed by a bunch of people that are live tweeting (think radio play) the entire novel as the characters!

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  2. This has been on my to-read list for ages. I’m heading to a book sale next week, and I’ll have to keep an eye out for a copy! I’ve been itching to get back to some classics as well.

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  3. Maybe I will have to pick this up. I read it for school when I was 11 and I think I was a bit too young–it put me off (and gave me nightmares!). I am in favour of kick-ass female protagonists, though, and I love beautiful travel writing, so maybe it’s due a reread.

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    1. Oh you were definitely too young! I think that’s the problem with a lot of the classics, we read them when we’re too young to appreciate them.

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  4. You make a good point about the plot! I was surprised how different it was from many pop culture versions as well. I also thought Mina was awesome, but found the way the guys treated her like she was so breakable and only awesome because she was womanly and virginal annoying. Although I think she had potential to be a fantastic protagonist, I didn’t think she really got to shine.

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    1. I agree, but taking into account the time period she’s still pretty out there. I mean they could’ve packed here off immediately and then had at it.

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  5. Dracula is one of my all-time favorite books and the one that turned me into a reader! Enjoyed your enthusiastic review. I think Stoker did a lot of traveling for his job (personal assistant of Henry Irving), so it must have been in his blood. :)=

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