Author:  Bram Stoker

Published By: Barnes & Nobles Classics

Reviewed by Melissa Minners

            Iíve been steadily catching up on classics I missed out on in school.  Iíve gotten through quite a few of them.  This Halloween, I decided to opt for a classic horror novel - Bram Stokerís Dracula.

            When Jonathan Harker travels to Transylvania to seal a real estate deal in London with the mysterious Count Dracula, he gets more than he bargained for.  The journey to the Countís castle is tedious at best and when he tells the locals of his destination, their reactions are quite peculiar.  Chalking it up to local custom and superstition, Harker continues on his journey.  When he meets the Count, he is at first drawn in by the manís hospitality, but as time passes, Harker begins to realize that he has become less than a guest and more like a prisoner.

            Meanwhile, Mina Murray, Jonathan Harkerís fiancťe, is spending time with an old friend named Lucy Westenra.  Lucy has just announced her own engagement and the visit at Whitby, England should be a happy one.  Unfortunately, Lucy has taken to walking in her sleep.  On one such night, Mina finds Lucy in a cemetery, looking very pale and bearing a strange wound on her neck. 

            After Mina leaves Whitby, John Seward, lead psychiatrist at a local asylum and former suitor of Lucy, is called in by his friend and Lucyís fiancťe to check on her condition as it has apparently worsened.  Noting the strange wounds on Lucyís neck, her pallor and growing weakness, Dr. Seward calls in colleague and former mentor Dr. Van Helsing, who immediately recognizes the signs - she has been repeatedly bitten by a vampire!  Every attempt is made to save her, but they are too late to prevent what she is to come. 

            Now, bent on destroying the monster who attacked Lucy, her former suitors band together with Dr. Van Helsing in an effort to hunt him down and destroy him.  The recently escaped John Harker and his wife, Mina, join the group and the information they provide about the Count leads the group to believe that he is indeed the vampire who attacked Lucy.  What follows is an extraordinary journey as they group follow Count Dracula all over the country and back to his home in an effort to prevent him from harming anyone else.  But can they stop this hundreds-year-old menace and how many will they lose to the cause?

            I canít believe I never read this novel before!  It was on my motherís bookshelf all those years and I never really showed an interest.  I should have read Dracula a long time ago.  The book has so much to offer - a bit of a mystery with a taste of action and adventure all wrapped up inside a horror novel.  I loved Bram Stokerís descriptiveness - you could actually picture the story in your mindís eye as you read the tale.  And I loved the fact that the story was told via the entries in individual characterís diaries, telegrams and news clippings.  The telegrams and news clippings lend a sort of realistic feel to the tale, while the diary entries offer us insight into the feelings and observations of each of the characters throughout this novel.  We see the tale unfold via numerous points of view.

            Iím glad that I never really paid much attention to the original vampire films like Nosferatu (a term that is mentioned in this novel) or the Bťla Lugosi or Christopher Lee versions.  I had seen recent versions of vampires, but I was able to clear my mind of all preconceptions regarding such creatures.  This enabled me to accept Bram Stokerís vision of the vampire life much easier.  Dracula is quite crafty and, not content to stay within the confines of Transylvania, travels to London where he might partake in the blood of a huge population.  Stokerís Dracula is more traditional in the sense that he has no reflection in the mirror and does assume the form of a bat, but there are some differences.  For example, Dracula can take just about any form.  He still must be invited in, but once there, he can actually transform into a mist.  He can control the weather around him.  He also seems to have control over the wolf population (later versions of vampires have been at odds with wolves). 

            The Barnes & Noble Classics version of Bram Stokerís Dracula was quite informative, featuring an introduction and notes by critic Brooke Allen.  I enjoyed reading about the author and was interested to learn that in Stokerís childhood, he was very sickly.  To counteract his illness, he was bled in accordance with the medical profession at the time.  Could it be that this childhood experience given him the idea for this novel?  I also enjoyed Allenís discussion of the novel, the vampire tales prior to it and the various incarnations of Dracula afterwards.  Quite an interesting read.

            My recommendation is to clear your mind of all you think you know of vampires and read the book that started the vampire fervor.  Bram Stokerís Dracula is a captivating adventure and there is no doubt in my mind as to why this novel was so popular in its time and continues to be popular to this date. 


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