Dracula by Bram Stoker

Some of you may remember that I read Dracula last summer.  A fellow blogger, Cheratomo, and I decided to read this book together and we wanted to post our reviews together.  Originally we planned on posting the reviews late summer/early fall.  But things didn’t go according to plan. First she went to Germany for a vacation.  Then I moved to London.  Then she started college and ended up getting pretty sick.  Before we knew it, the holidays were upon us.  Well here we are, the first month of 2012 and now both of us are ready to post our reviews.  That is what I call persistence.

Abraham “Bram” Stoker (Nov. 8, 1847-April 20, 1912) was an Irish writer. Most of us in today’s world know him for his novel Dracula.  However, during his day, he was better known as the personal assistant of the actor Henry Irving.  I had to look up this Irving chap.  As it turns out, he was the most famous actor of the time.  They met in 1876 and became friends.  During the years 1878 until the actor’s death in 1905, Stoker’s primary job was as Irving’s assistant.  I find it ironic that Irving was so popular during his day and I didn’t know anything about him.  But I knew about his secretary.  Life is funny sometimes.

During Stoker’s childhood he was sickly.  In fact, he was bed-ridden until he was seven.  After this, he made a complete recovery and during his time at Trinity College, Dublin, he was a champion athlete.  During his illness as a child, he spent many hours reading.  Recently I learned that Robert Louis Stevenson, the author of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, was also frequently ill during his childhood.  I wonder if Stephen King also had a childhood illness, but I am getting off topic.

Bram Stoker wrote many novels, but most people today only remember one, Dracula.  He published this novel in 1897.  From the time it was printed until today this work has been a success.  Also, many film versions of the novel have been made.

When I set out to read this, I was only familiar with the movies.  I selected the book since I was participating in a Gothic Reading Challenge and it was on my 1001 list of books.  I wanted to kill two birds with one stone.  What I didn’t expect was that I would love this novel.  As soon as I settled into the novel and started reading the pages from Jonathan Harker’s journal I was hooked.  Each page brought more drama, anticipation, excitement and horror.  I could feel his terror.  And then boom, Stoker switches gears and includes letters between Mina Murray, Harker’s fiancée, and Lucy Westerna.  Then he includes parts from Dr. Seward’s diary about his unusual patient Renfield.  Eventually, Stoker connects all of these characters in a quest to eradicate the evil Dracula and his plot to create an army of Un-Dead.  An army of Un-Dead—that’s some pretty terrifying stuff.   What I loved was that Stoker used journals, letters, news articles and diaries to let the reader feel like he or she is piecing together the story.  As someone who loves history, the style worked for me completely.  I felt like I was tracking down primary sources to find out what really happened.  His format kept adding new layers of anticipation and fear.

Dracula is without a doubt one of the scariest creatures I’ve encountered in my readings.  I remember several times when I was reading this I would jump at the slightest sound.  Once while I was walking my dog around the reservoir near my home in the early morning hours, I thought I was a goner when a sudden mist appeared around a bend.  This novel put me on edge.  It scared me.  It made me wonder if vampires could exist.  For people who loved to be scared, this is a must read.  If you love a good mystery, this is the right novel.  I cannot recommend this novel enough.  Please just read it!

About TBM

TB Markinson is an American living in England. When she isn’t writing, she’s traveling the world, watching sports on the telly, visiting pubs, or reading. Not necessarily in that order.
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38 Responses to Dracula by Bram Stoker

  1. Caroline says:

    That’s quite a review story. 🙂
    I read this when I was 16 or so and agree it is a great novel and for all those who love vampire stories but only know Twilight and the like, they should see where these books are coming from.
    It is interesting that you found it scary. I didn’t think so at all but the scenes in the asylum (right), made me a bit queasy. I guess it really depends on our moods whether we find something scary.
    You shouldn’t watch Noseferatu then (also reviewd 🙂 ) It made me feel very uneasy.

  2. Caroline says:

    Oops that (right) in brackets was me wondering whether I do remember it right.

    • TBM says:

      I get scared easily. I did watch Noseferatu last summer when you and Carl suggested it. I enjoyed it, but didn’t find it as scary as the novel. I think what scared me the most was the anticipation…it just kept building and building for me. And I was living in the apartment by myself and I did most of my reading late at night. That could have added to it. This is why I don’t usually watch scary movies…

  3. Great classic. I guess books depend less on time while movies are considered sooner old fashioned. That’s why older books can be far more scary than an old movie. But that’s my opinion of course 🙂 Good review anyhow.

    • TBM says:

      I think that makes sense. And today’s scary movies are so gory and such that I think when I watch a classic scary film I don’t get as scared. However, I think some of the older movies can be more frightening with the buildup of anticipation. Sometimes it is best not to see the outcome, but to imply what is happening. But I agree, books don’t seem to age as fast as movies.

  4. The Hook says:

    The whole vampire mythology certainly has changed since Bram Stoker, right?
    Great review, though.

  5. I enjoyed the book a great deal but found it just as dated as the movie. I actually think it is because of the use of “primary sources” which pins the language down to a very specific time.

    (Of course, I think no vampire story can equal Buffy the Vampire Slayer (TV – NOT movie) so what do i know?)

  6. Very interesting about the author. I can’t stand scary stories or movies, but may have to give this one a shot. Maybe.

    • TBM says:

      I found his background interesting as well. You never know who will be remembered in history. This one scared me…but several others have commented that they weren’t scared. Like you though, I’m not a big fan of scary stuff so I may be more prone to getting terrified.

  7. Melissa says:

    To answer your question about Stephen King, he did have bouts of sickness when he was child-ear issues. I am finding that lots of writers/artists had health issues that kept them in bed and solitary at a young age, it might help develop a more enriched creative mind. Frida Kahlo, was another one. Great review! I saw a biography of Bram Stoker a few years ago and he was not what I imagined. I had this image of a dark, crazy man lurking around in some stone castle but in fact he was very modern and in the mix of culture (which is probably why it took him so long to write it. Many think that Dracula was actually based off of his employer (who was not a nice fellow)-let this be a lesson: treat your assistants well!

    • TBM says:

      Ear issues sounds painful. I had an ear infection when I was five and I still remember the pain. It is interesting that so many people who have/had such creative minds were ill during some part of their lives. It makes sense. If you spend a lot of time alone you have to entertain yourself somehow. And fortunately for us, they shared their creativity. I really like Kahlo’s work by the way.

      I would like to track down a biography on Stoker. Like you, I thought he would have been kinda off. And yes people should treat your assistants well..I can’t imagine that his boss was actually like Dracula…yikes! I would have quit!

  8. Fergiemoto says:

    Good review. Thank you. I haven’t read it, though – I shy away from scary movies and books.

  9. I downloaded this to my kindle, i might have to start reading this soon!

    great review 🙂

  10. Carl V. says:

    I’ve told you before but I’ll repeat again that Dracula is and has been my favorite novel for decades. No matter what else I come to love, Dracula fits in that top slot. It started when I first experienced how incredibly eerie and unsettling the novel was at about the age of twelve and has continued through multiple re-reads throughout my adult years. I find it an incredible work of literature on one hand and an intense, entertaining novel on the other.

    Dracula is one of those novels where you can pick out and grab hold of a variety of themes depending on what you are in the mood for or where your mind is at. Of particular interest to me is often just how noble the protagonists are and how much they feel it is their mission (and in Van Helsing’s case his mission from God) to stop this evil creature. And that is the other thing that I love about this book: Dracula is not attractive. He is not an erotic figure or in anyway some misunderstood being. He is evil incarnate. His power over individuals has a sensual, arguably sexual, quality but it is in no way a glamorous thing. His breath smells of death. He isn’t particularly physically attractive. He does not seduce women for sex, he is a monster who wants to slowly drain them of their essence. That is my kind of vampire fiction.

    One of my favorite scenes in the book is the non-scary scene in which Lucy Westenra is proposed to by multiple suitors. They are all so sweet and chivalrous that you cannot help but want to root for all of them and it is great when they all come together to battle Dracula. That chivalrous, “manly” camaraderie may seem old fashioned by today’s standards but it speaks to me. I don’t think males today are encouraged enough to embrace the kind of intimate relationships that are such a strong part of a healthy life and when these kind of bonds of friendship are shown in books like this one, or The Lord of the Rings, for example, I find it a cause to be celebrated.

    Dracula is the quintessential gothic book. It is steeped in the kind of eerie, creepy atmosphere that make for perfect ‘chill up the spine’ reading. I’m so glad you enjoyed the book and am thrilled that you are finally posting about it.

    • TBM says:

      Carl you were right when you told me I would love this book. I didn’t even think about it, but you raised an excellent point, Dracula is not attractive. That is so different from vampire books and movies today.

      I enjoyed the friendships in this novel. Even though most of the young men wanted to marry the same woman they still maintained their friendship when she decides which one to marry. In fact, the relationships are strengthened over the course of the novel. I think in today’s world, it is too easy to overlook the importance of having close friends you can trust. These bonds make life more enjoyable. Some of my fondest memories are being with close friends and laughing, talking, and just living. And yes, it does remind me of the friendships in The Lord of the Rings.

      I loved this novel!

      • Carl V. says:

        Anytime someone falls in love with the novel it gives my heart a thrill.

        Even the women vampires, who are by all accounts from Harkin lovely tempting creatures reek of death when they get near to him. There is that sickly sweet cloying smell of blood and rot. I like that it isn’t all “hey, hot vampire chicks! Yes!!!”.

      • TBM says:

        “Hey, hot vampire chicks.” That is funny Carl.

  11. T.F.Walsh says:

    That is so awesome to have such a fantastic classic instil fear into a reader… that’s how you know it’s a great book… I love Dracula. One of my fav classics:)

  12. lynnsbooks says:

    I love this book – I’ve already reread it twice fairly recently and now your review has made me want to pick it up again. For me, this is one of those books that you can just pick up at any time and open to your favourite parts. It’s also one of those books that I compare others against. This is such an old fashioned gothic read that whenever I read a review that describes a book as ‘gothic’ I can’t help buying it. Most of them don’t compared unfortunately 😦 Oh well, I’ll keep searching. Good review – I love the bit when you’re walking your dog and think you’re ‘a gonner’ because of mist appearing round the bend. Excellent.
    Lynn 😀

    • TBM says:

      I think I will re-read this one in the future. There is just so much to love about the book. I haven’t read many Gothic works but I would like to. I sampled a handful last summer and for the most part I enjoyed them. Out of the five I read: The Castle of Otranto, The Mysteries of Udolpho, Frankenstein, Wuthering Heights, and Dracula, Stoker’s novel was the best. I hope you can find a Gothic work that compares to Dracula. However, I think that will be hard.

      The mist was scary…I thought Dracula was going to get me and my dog.

  13. Pingback: Dracula « cheratomo

  14. cheratomo says:

    Hweh! I only just completed my review. I would like to add about Stephen King: He was not really ill, but he did have a completely terrifying babysitter who would do horrible things to him. He says that’s one of the things that made him into what he is today. You should read Stephen King’s On Writing, it’s a very good book. Good advice. Nice biography too.

    I’m glad I agree with you with how much I LOVE THIS BOOK. xD It’s just a really great book. When I got to writing about it I ended up writing way too much, but I couldn’t cut any of it out, so now it’s just like a term paper or something, but much more informal and no doubt with spelling errors. I hate proofreading for spelling.

    Ah, thank you for choosing this book to read! I probably wouldn’t have read it otherwise, and then I would never have known that I was missing out on something that would change my view of life. THANK YOU VERY MUCH!

    • TBM says:

      Funny that you mentioned King’s On Writing. I recently picked up a copy and it is on my small stack here of TBRs. I’ve heard that it is quite good. Now I’m excited to learn about the babysitter.

      This was a fun book to read. I’m glad you loved it. I’ll pop over to your blog and see how it changed your view of life. Good luck this semester!

  15. Bridget says:

    I had no idea Dracula was (at least partially, from what I can tell from your review) an epistolary novel! I love when novels are written like a series of letters or journal entries. It makes the story more real, somehow. As if it actually happened and you’ve just happen upon the evidence! How cool!

    I’m so glad you liked it. Your review really makes me want to read it.

    P.S.–Was the reservoir near your house the Chestnut Hill reservoir? I seem to remember seeing a picture of it on here somewhere. I went to Boston College so I’m quite familiar with the area! (Also, apologies if we’ve had this discussion already!)

    • TBM says:

      I didn’t know that it was an epistolary novel either when I started it. It does add a sense of authenticity, which was brilliant for this novel. I adore that type of writing. Like I said in my review, I’m a history nerd that these novels entertain me when well written.

      I hope you read it and enjoy it. It is a fantastic book.

      Yes it was the Chestnut Hill Reservoir. I used to live across the street from it and my dog and I would walk there every morning. It is such a beautiful area, unless you think Dracula is lurking in the trees…then it is a little scary.

      • Bridget says:

        Agreed! I remember part of it being rather dark at night, too…that would have definitely creeped me out if I thought Dracula was in the trees! I wonder if we ever passed each other. How funny.

      • TBM says:

        It is a small world so we might have passed each other. I miss the reservoir. Walking my dog there in the mornings was a great way to start the day.

  16. Kristina says:

    Charlie has the book and I am going to read it, so thanks for the review! 🙂

  17. “Please just read it!”

    You’ve said it!

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