Home > Literature, Reviews > Review of Dracula by Bram Stoker

Review of Dracula by Bram Stoker

Most books one reads, one has little idea what exactly will happen, but reading the original novel of one of the most famousest stories ever is a little different. My secondhand edition is actually a tie-in with the Francis Ford Copola film from the 1990s (how long ago that was), which I’ve seen, but not at all recently, so it’s difficult to compare the movie to the novel. In fact, while I tended to visualise Keanu Reeves, Anthony Hopkins and Gary Oldman in their respective roles, the rest I imagined anew (Winona Ryder I left out completely – and anyway, was she Mina Harker or Lucy Westenra?).

The best part of the book, by far, is the first four chapters, wherein Jonathan Harker travels to and is imprisoned in Castle Dracula. The story is thick with mystery and tension, and while we, the reader, know exactly what the deal is with Count Dracula, Jonathan’s bewildered account creates a certain incipient terror.

The next section of the story deals with Mina and Lucy exchanging gossip. Actually, the rest of the book is an anticlimax – much weaker than that opening segment.

The story takes the form, mostly, of diary entries from a number of characters. This has its merits – it can have a great immediacy, and is an important part of the book’s 19th century character – but in Dracula it also brings some problems – or, in fact, one big problem: lots of redundant stuff. Like, for instance, the aforementioned gossip – which, OK, is there to build the characters – but as I read the novel I got more and more irritated by all the praise the characters heap on one another.

The resolution of the story is pretty weak. Once Van Helsing and company have found all of Dracula’s chests of earth, how does this epitome of evil respond? He runs off back to Transylvania. Once the good guys finally catch up to him and are about to decapitate him, what does he do? Well, nothing – it’s still daylight and he’s a vampire.

On the subject of daylight, it was interesting to see that the sun’s light didn’t harm Dracula at all – it just reduced his powers, such that he couldn’t change form. Having said that, there also seemed to be an inconsistency in that sometimes Dracula was up and about in the daytime, yet sometimes he was immobile in his coffin.

One little thing I kind of liked was that Van Helsing, being Dutch, doesn’t speak perfect English; for instance, he doesn’t conjugate his verbs (ie, he doesn’t add -ed or -s).

I can quite imagine that the reason Dracula is such a popular subject for screen adaptation is that, while the central idea is fantastic, the plot is relatively weak. Filmmakers therefore have to rewrite the story for it to stand any hope on the big screen, thus merging their own ideas with the classic vampire tale.

It’s an intersting book, and actually very readable, but dated and something of a disappointment.

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Categories: Literature, Reviews
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