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Book Review: Dracula

Six years ago, I decided to give the classic horror novel Dracula a try, after hearing a couple of friends rave about it.  It has since become one of my all-time favorite books and I make a point of rereading it every October.

Many people know of Count Dracula, the vampire, but may not know the story behind Bram Stoker’s original work.  A solicitor named Jonathan Harker sets out on his first assignment after passing his exam: traveling to the ruined castle of Count Dracula to go over the purchase of his new estate in London.  The local villagers try very hard to persuade him not to go.  Since he’s not a superstitious person, he ignores them.  But as the Count forces him to extend his stay longer and longer, and Jonathan starts to pick up on weird things happening in the castle, he realizes that the locals were right and he needs to use all of his wits to escape.

Meanwhile, Jonathan’s fiancé, Mina, worries about the fact that she hasn’t heard from him in months.  Her best friend, Lucy, becomes mysteriously ill, as though she’s lost a lot of blood, even though there’s no sign of injury or anemia.  And so a group of characters, connected in various ways to Jonathan, Mina, and Lucy, come together to find the vampire and kill him before he can infect everyone in London.

Every time I read this book, I find new things to appreciate about it.  I love each of the characters, from the heroic, eccentric Professor Van Helsing to the brave, clever, compassionate Mina Harker.

Mina may be one of the most misunderstood characters in classic literature.  Whether in films, television, or the “authorized” sequel, it’s rare that she’s portrayed as she appeared in the book.  More often she’s either a crying damsel incapable of helping anyone, or she’s madly in love with Count Dracula and reluctant to help the heroes.

In the book, Dracula does target Mina, but not out of love.  He attacks her to punish her and the other heroes for trying to stop him.  After recovering from the traumatic encounter, Mina reacts by using her brain to outsmart him.  She’s shown to be one of the most intelligent characters in the story.  The men worry that she’ll fall apart because she’s a woman.  She is afraid- who wouldn’t be?  Yet she never lets it stop her or her friends.

As much as I love this book, I should warn you that if you’re looking for a page-turner, you’ll probably want to read something else.  Dracula isn’t a thriller with constant scares. However, it does have some disturbing moments.  The captain’s log from the ship that brought the Count to England reads like the plot of a horror movie on its own.  And Stoker draws out Lucy’s illness over several tense chapters, as she seems to recover each day with Van Helsing’s help, only to relapse after the Count comes to visit during the night.

It can be a slow read at times, but Dracula deserves to be known as a work of classic literature.  I highly recommend it to anyone who would like to read a book about a vampire that acts like a monster and not like a brooding love interest.  It’s perfect for a chilly fall evening!

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