Context: Started this in the Romanian town of Sighisoara (in background), birthplace of Vlad Tepes who some claim to be the model Stoker used for the character of Count Dracula.
Read this entirely in Romania but, despite the immensity of the Dracula legend there and the terrific amount of tourism it generates, Stoker apparently never visited the country. That’s not all he seemed to be ignorant of.
This novel is difficult to read as it was intended us to read it. It’s hard today to read it without knowing what exactly is sinister about Count Dracula. Stoker drops hints here and there but it isn’t until way near the end of the book that you get a clear idea of what vampirism is all about. Of course, we know all about it from knowing the story so it’s spoiled for us.
That aside, the story is reasonably engaging. It isn’t helped though by the stilted structure that Stoker adopts. The book consists entirely of pages from diaries, letters and the occasional telegram or memo. I don’t know why he chose to adopt this medium because I felt it didn’t lend itself well to the kind of narrative that he was trying to relate.
For example, in diary entries, we don’t use pages and pages of directly quoted conversation. We use indirect speech. Neither are we explicit in what we’re referring to or the background to events because we know that the diary is not going to be read by anyone but ourselves. So, there seemed little point in Stoker adopting this style for his narrative.
Throughout the novel, there’s a battle between science and superstition. Harker struggles with his inability to accept the supernatural which, until he finally grasps that it exists, causes him a severe attack of “brain fever.” The older and wiser van Helsing manages to marry science and the supernatural and so remains sane.
This is typical of the time. What is also typical is a lack of clarity regarding Lucy’s three blood transfusions. In the space of about a week or two, the lady undergoes three complete transfusions of blood from three different donors, with no mention of blood type. The chances of Lucy being AB positive blood type, and therefore able to receive blood from anyone, are pretty rare – around 3% of the UK population. Seeing as succesful blood transfusions had only been done perhaps some 20 years or so before, Stoker can, I suppose, be forgiven for his lack of realism here.
The novel gallops on to its inevitable conclusion and is alright I suppose but I won’t be heading out to buy up all that Stoker wrote.
Left Munich at 8.35pm on 1st May, arriving at Vienna early next morning; should have arrived at 6.46, but train was an hour late.
Already he knows her sweetness and loving care; later on he will understand how some men so loved her, that they did dare much for her sake.
terrible > poor > mediocre > okay > good > very good > excellent > superb