Michelle Isenhoff

Dracula, by Bram Stoker, 1897

I hear you. You’re all saying, “What? This is not Michelle’s usual fare.” And you’d be right. But this summer, I was camping with my sister, sitting around the fire talking books. Somehow, we worked our way around to Frankenstein, which she had never read. I had. (Here’s that review.) As a result, she decided to pick it up, and I snagged a copy of the audiobook to listen to on my bike rides (I’m over 1250 miles this summer!). I wouldn’t recommend the audio to a new reader, as it’s such a wordy book and so easy to miss details. But it was my third time through, so…shrug.

Anyway, Frankenstein got me thinking about Dracula, which two books have always gone together in my head, even though they were written almost 90 years apart. So I borrowed a digital copy from my local library.

Dracula does have some striking similarities to Frankenstein. They’re both gothic horror, written by Brits in the 19th century. They both rely heavily on science, though Dracula does less so. And they both are difficult reads, written in a wordy, antiquated style with an old-fashioned view of women. Dracula was considerably worse in this regard, probably because it was written by a man while Frankenstein was written by a woman. (Poor weak women, so gentle in nature, and the big, strong men who fight for and protect them.) Dracula is very unique in one regard. The story is told entirely through a series journal entries, letters, newspaper articles, and other correspondence. But let me move on to the plot.

The action begins with Jonathan Harker, a brand new London solicitor, traveling to Transylvania at the request of Count Dracula to oversee the count’s purchase of London property. Harker soon finds himself imprisoned in Dracula’s castle and witnesses some decidedly not-normal and un-Christian events that put him in fear of his life. The word “vampire” doesn’t come up till much later in the book, possibly because Harker doubts his own sanity at some points, but his suspicions are clear to the reader. Dracula leaves for England, and Harker makes a desperate escape and spends several weeks in a monastery recovering from a brain fever brought on by mental anguish.

During this time, Dracula travels to London along with 50 boxes of dirt from the chapel graveyard beneath his castle, which he must return to during daylight hours. In the meantime, the story switches to the perspective of Harker’s fiance, Mina Murry, who lives with a young woman named Lucy who is bitten by Dracula and eventually becomes a vampire herself. The remaining protagonists are introduced here: Quincy Morris, Dr. John Seward, and Arthur Holmwood, who all love Lucy, and Dutch scientist/scholar/all-around-braniac, Abraham Van Helsing. It is Van Helsing who discovers the true nature of Lucy’s illness, after Jonathan Harker returns and notes are compared, and he who leads the charge in stabbing her undead body and cutting off her head to set her at peace.

After this, the story becomes a quest to take down Dracula. (The rest of this paragraph contains some major spoilers.) He is eventually driven from London after Van Helsing and company place sacred wafers in all but one of his earth boxes. Dracula takes ship for Transylvania in his last box, but not before biting Mina Murry. Now on the clock, the heroes chase Dracula across the continent and eventually slay him outside his castle home, saving Mina and the rest of the Christian world, amen.

I have to say, Stoker did have an acute sense of the dramatic. His book was an instant success which spawned an entire genre of vampire literature. In over 100 years, it’s never gone out of print. Quite an accomplishment Mr. Stoker. I salute that. But I didn’t love your book. I’m glad I read it. Dracula is a classic that has become part of the lore of the Western world. And it is very cleverly done. It just isn’t my style. But I would recommend it to curious high schoolers with the stamina to endure the quaint vocabulary and outlast the dry spots in the middle. By modern standards, it’s very mild horror. And it’s easy to find. Amazon has lots of copies at all different prices. Or grab it free off Project Gutenburg, a great source for classics in the public domain.

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Okay, review done, I’ll give you a quick update on my Pinterest project I mentioned halfway through the summer. At its core, Pinterest is a search engine, and I wanted to make use of it to draw people to my website (and hence my books) via some of my most search-friendly content. I created a whole bunch of pins, most of which didn’t require posts here as I thought they might. So apart from new two post about my Divided Decade series, you guys probably never noticed! The only thing that really changed here was my homepage.

So what am I on to next? Time to get back to my new series. If you haven’t heard the latest on that, you can read about it here. In addition, my two-year experiment to try to make a regular income from my books has run up and I’m going to be going back to work, which will cut into my writing time significantly. I’ll be returning to freelance work, which I’ve done before, but it’s been 15 years. Seeing if I can make a go at that before I have to go back to teaching, which I’ve lost all heart for. So my new series will be a while in coming. But you know the moral of that story already–slow and steady wins the race.

When I find a bit of time, I’ll try and pop on here for a review or two. For now, happy reading!

Dracula, by Bram Stoker, 1897

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