Dracula

by Bram Stoker | Horror |
ISBN: 3895080968 Global Overview for this book
Registered by erinacea of Friedrichshain, Berlin Germany on 11/7/2020
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Journal Entry 1 by erinacea from Friedrichshain, Berlin Germany on Saturday, November 07, 2020
Bought in May 2007 at my (since closed) local second-hand bookshop, "East of Eden".

Started this year shortly before Halloween, though less because I was in the mood for horror, but because I'm currenly trying to write a story in fictional diary format, and "Dracula" happened to be the only English book in that format I happened to have lying around. Throughout the year, I've struggled with this story but put off opening "Dracula" because I felt Spring or Summer wasn't the right time for it. Finally, Halloween rolled around and I ran out of excuses...

I had only meant to read a few excerpts (a few diary entries from each of the different characters), but I got hooked on the story and ended up reading the entire book, after all. Though I usually only found time to read late at night, I didn't find it at all scary. (Though I suppose it might have helped that I knew some parts of the story that had filtered into my literary knowledge.) And speaking of spoilers: I'm glad I pretty much discarded the book jacket as soon as I started reading (it got in the way and I didn't want to leave finger prints on the glossy surface) as the inside blurb gives away key points (who survives and who dies). However, I was a tiny bit upset that the table of contents spoiled which characters were guaranteed to survive until at least the showdown.

Of all the characters, my favourite by far was Mina. So clever and practical. Much more interesting than the more flighty Lucy (who was mainly characterised by her beauty). Of the male characters, Van Helsing stood out as the de-facto leader of the mission, but also because of his droll speech patterns. However, I couldn't help noticing that his grammatical mistakes, mostly related to tense, are not consistent. I also was puzzled that his occasional exclamation in his (presumably) native tongue were German rather than Dutch.

I disliked Dr. Seward, though I guess I was biased against him by his profession (doctor at a lunatic asylum) and the way he regarded his patients. Still, at least I had an opinion about him, other than Quincey Morris, who played no role in the story at all (spoiler, highlight to make visible except to die heroically in the end because, I suppose, it would have been unbelievable for everyone to come out of this alive, but Stoker didn't want to sacrifice anyone the reader would actually care about. Watch me not care. *yawn*)

Unsurprisingly (given my mission), I paid particular attention to the diary format. It was really useful to see different examples of e.g. handling time passing (time stamps, "Later", sudden interruptions) and amount of detail (itinerary, inventory) as well as the occasional explanations for why someone would note down insignificant details (for example, to practice stenography, or to serve as a memory aid when retelling their adventures, or because every little bit might be a clue that could be important later). With so many characters keeping a diary, I would have expected more overlap, especially when recounting shocking revelations, but they always neatly lead over from one point in the story to the next. This is handwaved away by the preface claiming that the editor (Stoker, presumably) had redacted them to skip over "needless matter", but still... For the most part, I felt, the characters mentioned the events and emotions that would seem important to them. There were two exceptions to this:
1.) I was confused why Lucy would be able to write a neat account of a deeply traumatic experience but would later be unable to talk about it. This was retroactively explained as "silent spells" that were a result of the vampiric poisoning. However, other than sleeping a lot, I hadn't noticed her (or Mina, for that matter) becoming less communicative or more enigmatic, so to me that seemed a bit of an unsubstantiated claim.
2.) It struck me as odd that a change as significant as Jonathan's hair changing from brown to white within a single (harrowing) night would, rather than pointed out explicitly in the narrator's diary entry, would be something merely mentioned in passing ("his whitening hair").

The ending felt a bit anticlimactic, though that might be (probably is) because I've been spoiled by countless action sequences in books and movies. I had expected a bit of a showdown between Count Dracula and the band of heroes. Instead, the suspense of the final portion largely rested on the question of whether they would manage to defeat him before Mina would fully become vampiric and, if she did, whether they would actually kill her. (Unfortunately, I already knew she would survive because a) I had seen in the table of contents that hers was the final diary entry, and b) the switch back to her perspective after Van Helsing bemoaning that she'd become too drowsy/weak to even keep her faithful diary meant that she would recover. Even without the former spoiler, the latter was a bit of a give-away. It would have been interesting to see her write the epilogue from a vampire perspective, but I considered that an extremely unlikely outlier option.)

All in all, I liked the book (though I skimmed over the "newspaper clippings" and some historic excursions). It's easy to see where vampires got the reputation of being sex fiends (the count himself was clearly only interested in beautiful women, preying on them in their sleep, and the scene describing the mutual blood transference had an uncanny resemblence to a rape scene) as well as the prototype of the female "vamp" or "femme fatale".

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