This the book that started it all! All the vampire movies and all the vampire books that came after were inspired by what Bram Stoker wrote way back when. It dawned on me recently that even though I have read many other books about vampires, I had never actually read this Classic.
And now, I know why. It is not an easy read! I usually fly right through a book once I have started reading it, and this one took a long time. It is not written in a narrative format, but rather, in a series of letters and journal entries written by each of the characters.
Some characters know things that the others do not, and that makes things a bit confusing. The letters and journal entries are written in a loose chronology, but not exactly. The reader ends up jumping back and forth in time in places, and sometimes ends up reading the same event twice from different characters points of view.
To add to the complexity, Stoker has included many incidental characters, who all seem to speak a different form of slang English. The words themselves are confusing, and there are apostrophes appearing in odd places. Some I could figure out, such as when the text said ‘ouse, I knew it meant house. But other words were a mystery.
There is a point in the story where one of the characters that is difficult to understand is describing a storm at sea, and a boat affected by it. There were sailing terms and weather terms that were unfamiliar to me, and I ended up having to go back and reread parts just to figure out what the heck was going on.
The copy of Dracula I was reading is a Barnes and Noble Classic, and has notes in it to help describe many things in plainer English. The notes were especially helpful when Stoker was refering to different countries and cities in Transylvania, and naming off different groups of people who lived there. None of that was familiar at all. The notes also make it more clear when Stoker has his characters using railroad stations in England, some of which I was familiar with, others I had forgotton the name of.
Then there is Van Helsing. Forget anything you think you know about that character from other books and other movies. In Stoker’s Dracula, Van Helsing is an almost elderly Dutch doctor/professor. He speaks English, but puts together sentences in blocky, choppy, ways. He refers to other characters as “Friend John”. There are two characters with that name, one a John, and one a Jonathan, so it made things a bit difficult to follow in parts.
If you are determined to read Dracula, it does get a bit better, once you get through these difficulties with the language. The action is really slow and subtle, however, so, don’t expect a big, exciting, fast moving, vampire story with this one.
In fact, don’t assume that this book is much like the movie that was based on it called “Bram Stoker’s Dracula“. (It had Winona Ryder and Keanu Reeves in it, and Gary Oldman as Dracula). The movie is only loosely based on the events in the book, and moves the story along much faster.
I am glad that I did struggle through this book, because it really is the Father of all other vampire books. If I ever read it again, I think I am just going to skip over many of the more confusing parts!
There was one thing I found to be really interesting. Lucy, one of the main characters, gets bitten by Dracula. She gets sick, and, since the other characters do not know about Dracula, or that he had bitten Lucy, they do not know that she is basically turning into a vampire. They notice that she is very white, and withdrawn, and sleeping all day long.
Van Helsing, and Seward, two doctors who are friends of hers, consult. They decide that she needs to be given blood. So, they simply find the strongest man they can, Arthur, the man she is engaged to, and take blood from his veins and put it in her veins.
Lucy does not get better, and, before long, she has been given blood from another suitor, Quincy Morris, and from John Seward, (who wanted also to marry Lucy, but was refused), and eventually from Van Helsing himself.
Not one single word is mentioned about what blood type any of them have! Perhaps this is because Stoker himself did not have knowledge about different blood types, and the possibilities of bad things happening if you give blood to someone with a different type than yours. Maybe he wrote this book before all that was discovered? I don’t know. I kept waiting to hear that Lucy died from the blood, figuring that was what was going to happen next.
I was also pretty amazed that three of the four men who help Lucy are all in love with her. (Van Helsing cares for her, but isn’t interested in marriage or anything like that). Arthur, Seward, and Quincy are all rivals, and all know it, and yet, all work together without any conflict at all to help her. It seems to me that someone turning into a vampire because of a bite is more likely to happen than three men who all want the same woman to work together to help her without even one fight happening!