Ah Dracula… I hope I don’t need to tell you about the plot for this one! The edition I read was a modern library classic and the introduction was extremely well done. As with most introductions to classics, it does carelessly share spoilers as though it’s at the end of the book. I still like to read the intro first though, because I think I get more out of a book when I’ve read a little of the literary analysis first. The literary analysis in this book was interesting and very well done, but on top of that the author was actually very funny. The tidbit that stuck with me the most was the observation that Dracula could represent a fear of independent and sexually liberated women. And oh the sexual undertones! It was all very Victorian era and while the views of women were quite archaic, it was still a fascinating glimpse of past social norms.
Although I wouldn’t describe the sexual undertones as subtle, there was certainly never anything explicit. All violence was similarly vague and never described in gory detail. Having read several “sequels” and re-tellings in addition to the original, I think this is one of the main features that sets the original apart. It was definitely less creepy than the newer Dracula spin-offs, but I really appreciated the author leaving so much to your imagination. The subtlety was a refreshing change from the sensationalism of many of today’s thrillers and horror novels.
I also loved that the novel was written as a series of letters (in an “epistolary” style for you English majors). As the intro points out, the author often doesn’t explicitly make the connection betwen events. Instead he trusts the reader to figure it out and by doing so, he engages the reader more deeply with the material. The author also does a great job giving each character a distinct voice. Even without labels, it would be possible to figure out who wrote each letter by tone alone.
The characters are fairly flat, but they’re also not really the point. This novel is driven by the suspense, not the characters. Fortunately for us modern readers, the characters are reasonably intelligent about their situation. I found their reactions believable, but they don’t figure everything out slowly enough to be frustrating. Overall, this is less creepy than modern novels, but I enjoyed the book for both it’s lack of sensationalism and for it’s historic place in vampire mythology.This review first published at Doing Dewey.