Dracula (Review)

Labels: Great Works

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Dracula
Bram Stoker, 1897
300-400 pp. (varies by publisher)

Book Review by Molly Lundquist
October 2011

Dracula is such a ripping good tale it makes one wonder: if it hadn't been for Bram Stoker, would there ever have been a vampire craze? We're still in the midst of that craze—more than 100 years later.

Stoker didn't invent vampires—they're part of ancient folk lore—nor did he invent the literary genre. But his 1897 Dracula has continued to spawn countless books, films, TV shows, paintings, video games, and silly costumes. It's the genre itself that's proved to be Undead.

Dracula is a genuine horror story. There's nothing appealing about this vampire: no inhuman beauty, no good soul struggling to restrain baser instincts. The Count is ugly, vicious, and relentless in his urges. The novel is also a thriller with a team of do-gooders who give chase, placing their own lives at grave risk.

Finally, Dracula is an old-fashioned detective story: the vampire hunters piece together disparate clues to uncover who, or what, has caused one death and a series of abductions. Those "clues" come through letters, journals, memos, and newspaper articles—which Stoker uses to tell his story. Dracula's irony is its heroes' dependence on reason and logic for answers that lie outside the very scope of reason and logic.

The novel opens with the writings of a naive, untested English solicitor on his way to Transylvania. He carries with him a bundle of documents to be signed by Count Dracula, who is purchasing property in London. At first graciously received, the solicitor eventually finds himself a prisoner in Dracula's castle. There begins the horror. The story then shifts to England, and eventually back to Transylvania and Dracula's Castle.

One negative observation: in an age of exquisite prose stylists—Henry James and Joseph Conrad, to name only two—Stoker's writing is downright silly. It's the "Hark! She comes!" style of writing.

Still, the writing's not a deal breaker, so don't let it stop you from reading Dracula. Despite its style, Dracula is gripping fun. And book clubs should have a good time sussing out late Victorian attitudes towards women, sexuality, religion, and class.

See our Reading Guide for Dracula.

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