Dracula – Bram Stoker

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Dracula is one of those classic books that has never really appealed to me, as I’m not a big fan of vampires. When I saw that Fizzy Thoughts was hosting a readalong, just in time for Halloween, I thought I should grab the opportunity to read it with a group of people, before it gathers too much dust on the shelf!

I knew very little about Dracula before starting it, as I avoid vampire films and have never had the urge to ask anyone about it! The opening scene was exactly how I imagined it to be – an English man heading towards a spooky castle in the middle of Transylvania. I enjoyed the first few chapters, as the central character, Jonathan, meets Dracula and observes the old castle.

Hitherto I had noticed the backs of his hands as they lay on his knees in the firelight, and they seemed rather white and fine; but seeing them now close to me, I could not but notice that they were rather coarse – broad, with squat fingers. Strange to say, there were hairs in the centre of the palm. The nails were long and fine, and cut to a sharp point. As the Count leaned over me and his hands touched me, I could not repress a shudder.

I thought the atmosphere was built up well initially and I almost found it creepy, but just as things seemed to get darker, the atmosphere was lifted by some flippant remark. The tone of the book was a lot lighter than I expected and it reminded me of Three Men in a Boat. The book was trying to be funny and I was quite disappointed that it wasn’t creepier. 

I felt that the dark atmosphere was even harder to maintain once the plot left Transylvania. I was very surprised that so much of the book took place in England, as I had just assumed that it all took place in Dracula’s castle. I found myself becoming increasingly bored by the book – the characters failed to engage me and the unlikely plot meant that I didn’t really care what happened.

The ending was very predictable and the length of the book meant that it took far too long to get there. 

I am pleased that I read Dracula, as I have filled a gap in my knowledge, but I didn’t enjoy reading the book and would only recommend it to people interested in the development of the vampire novel.

stars21

Have you read Dracula?

Was it how you expected it to be?

 


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61 Comments

  1. Steph says:

    I’ve only read an excerpt from the book, which I read for a course I took in university that looked at how monsters have been portrayed in literature and writing over time and how these reflected the social mores and deepseated fears of their eras. Ever since that, I’ve always intended to read the novel in its entirety, but I just haven’t done so yet!

    Now I’m not quite sure what to think, because recently many book bloggers have tackled this one and found it lacking the bite they hoped it would have. You’re the second or third person I’ve seen mention that the beginning is great, the but the sails begin to droop soon thereafter and the story gradually loses its oomph. I do have a copy of the novel so I know I will still read it, but I think I will have to lower my expectations!

    1. Jackie says:

      Steph, I have been reading the other bloggers thoughts too and it does seem that we all enjoy the first few chapters and then the book just dies. It is such a shame as I did think it would be much better. I look forward to finding out what you think when you get round to getting your copy off the shelf.

  2. Amanda says:

    This is one book I’m just not much interested in reading.

    1. Jackie says:

      Amanda, I wasn’t interested either, but I do like to try these things – sometimes I get a nice surprise. Unfortunately it wasn’t the case this time!

  3. Priscilla says:

    Like you, I was never much interested in reading it. I also was never much interested in reading Frankenstein. It feels sort of refreshing to actually admit that!

    1. Jackie says:

      Priscilla, I’m not really interested in Frankenstein either – especially when others have said that Dracula is better! Maybe next year I’ll give it a try, but I don’t think I’ll enjoy that either.

  4. Care says:

    Well. I don’t know what to think but this actually inspires me more to finally get around to reading. I want to see if I will have same reaction.

    1. Jackie says:

      Care, I’d love to know your thoughts on this book and I think that Autumn is a great time to read it. I’ll keep an eye out for your Dracula post!

  5. mee says:

    Did you think the book was trying to be funny? I thought it was trying to be scary (but failed). Some of the elements were just ridiculous: the holy wafer, the garlic. So yea it became funny, but I think Stoker’s intention was to be scary.

    I completely agree with your take on the book. I’m never a fan of vampire stuff as well and I’m glad I read the origin of many vampire stories, but that’s probably about it.

    1. Jackie says:

      mee, I’m really not sure what it was trying to acheive. There were points when i thought it was trying to be scary, but then the man would say something really stupid and turn it into a joke. I thought the whole book came across as quite light, as though it was trying to be entertaining. It would be interesting to hear what others think it was trying to be.

  6. Sandy says:

    Huh. Well I love a good vampire tale, and I like creepy, so I would have been really tempted to read this. How disappointing! In my mind, it should be a classic horror tale. Bummer.

    1. Jackie says:

      Sandy, The first few chapters are reasonably creepy, so perhaps you should read those! The rest of the book isn’t worth the effort.

  7. Melody says:

    I haven’t read this yet! I’m thinking of reading it but after reading your review I’ve decided not to rush into reading it.

    1. Jackie says:

      Melody, I was so disappointed with this one. There is no rush to read it and if you never get the chance then I wouldn’t worry too much – there are so many better books out there!

  8. caite says:

    I have to admit to never having read it. One of those classic I think that I should have read, but haven’t. I like creepy too, so I really should give it a go.

    1. Jackie says:

      caite, If you like creepy then I think you will be disappointed. It is a classic though, so perhaps you should see the origin of this sort of book.

  9. Jenny says:

    I started Dracula once, got bored, and abandoned it. As I’ve seen more and more reviews of it during this RIP season, I have become completely convinced that I did the right thing. Mm, I love being able to write off classics as not worth my time – I feel like I’m simplifying my life…

    1. Jackie says:

      Jenny, I was very tempted to abandon it several times. I probably should have done – I wouldn’t have missed anything that was worth the effort. Congratulations on giving up on it!

  10. She says:

    I’m sorry you didn’t like it. I read it about 5 years ago and remember really liking it, particularly the Renfield character. It did take me for-ev-er to read though. :)

    At least you can say you’ve read it now!

    1. Jackie says:

      She, Everyone on Amazon seems to love Dracula, so you are not in the minority. It is strange that most (all?) of the readalong participants didn’t enjoy it, but I am pleased that you did. As you say – at least now I can say I’ve read it and don’t have to go through it again!

  11. Dot says:

    I read this years ago but I remember finding it a little lighter than I expected. It came free on my e-reader so I might give it another go, it’s definitely not as creepy as you think it’s going to be though!

    1. Jackie says:

      Dot, I was very surprised by how light it was. It was much easier to read than I expected, but nowhere near creepy enough. I’ll be interested to know what you make of it on a re-read.

  12. Beth says:

    I treid to read this a wee while ago, I got about a quarter of the way through it, and then gave up, to be honest, I was bored. Maybe one day I will try to read it again. Great Review.
    Big Hugs, Bethxx

    1. Jackie says:

      Beth, I got very bored at about the same point as you. I think that you made the right choice in giving it up – it didn’t improve!

  13. Heidi says:

    I have to admit I found both Dracula and Frankenstein (which I read this year) somewhat dull. And I did a lot of skimming. Frankenstein’s best chapter is also the first which is very atmospheric. I think both authors though created characters that than became archetypes and seated in the public consciousness. Later authors and even movies took the stories further and perhaps to better places than the originals. When they came out being original ideas I am sure they were of more interest to readers in that time period…..

    1. Jackie says:

      Heidi, I’m sorry to hear that Frankenstein is dull too. I’ll probably read it at some point, but I’m in no rush.

  14. Claire says:

    The novella “Carmilla” by Sheridan Le Fanu predates Dracula by twenty-five years and is interesting to read to chart the rise of the vampire novel.

    1. Jackie says:

      Claire, Thanks for letting me know. I might try to read that at some point.

  15. kimbofo says:

    This is one of those books I loved — and I’m not someone who seeks out vampire novels. You have to remember it was written in 1897, so, in that context, it’s interesting to see how it poses some great questions about science and faith, religion and folklore, topics that were being debated at the time in which it was written. Interestingly, the role of women in society is another theme, with Lucy representing the “traditional” weak-willed woman who succumbs to Dracula’s charms, and Mina, who is strong enough to fight him off and plays a pivotal role in his eventual destruction, representing the “new” female.

    1. Jackie says:

      Kimbofo, I agree that it is an interesting book to glimpse what society was like then, but I found the book really dull. This is one of those books which is great for studying the changes in society, but anyone looking for a creepy story will be disappointed.

      1. kimbofo says:

        Clearly I must be a wimp, because I found this a very scary book.

        1. 3m.michelle says:

          Me too, kimbofo, and I also loved it.

        2. Rebecca Reid says:

          I also found it scary but I hated it!

  16. Amy says:

    Your review of Dracula rang very true for me. I read it in college for a course and it was a disappointment. I don’t generally care for vampire books and I always expected Dracula to be scary, creepy and to feel spooked after reading it. Well, the book definitely wasn’t creepy and didn’t scare me. It was sort of amateurish and, as several commenters said, boring. This is one instance where I prefer the movie although I tend to stay away from vampires!

    Another great post, thank you!

    1. Jackie says:

      Amy, I haven’t seen the movie and I am tempted to watch it now. Thank you for your kind comment!

  17. I’ve never read Dracula, although I want to. I think the development of the novel and the genre is really interesting. I just wanted to say that the cover of that book is so, so creepy! I would not want to run into that guy at night :)

    1. Jackie says:

      Kim, I think that it is only interesting to read as an insight into the way things have changed since then – as a story it is dull!

      I agree that the cover is great though! I don’t think I’d want to meet him in the daylight either!

  18. In my other life (where I am not the author of BIG SID’S VINCATI), I teach English literature. I have written some on both Dracula and Frankenstein. It may make Dracula more interesting a read to remember that Stoker was the assistant to Henry Irving, the dominant stage of the actor, whose biggest role was Shylock. Lots of Shylock in Dracula… Frankenstein is certainly more interesting from an intellectual standpoint but it suffers from being overwritten in a manner that reflects Mar Shelley’s youth.

    1. Jackie says:

      matthew biberman, Thank you for the insightful comment! Dracula must be a great book to study – I can see that there is so much you could investigate. It is just a shame that it wasn’t an entertaining book for me to read.

      1. You are right, Jackie. It is a tough book, given its length.

  19. 3m.michelle says:

    Oh no! I’m so sorry you didn’t like this more. I listened to it on audio and LOVED it. Even my two teenage sons and husband did as well!

    At least it’s one you can check off your list now, though. I always feel good about reading a classic, even if I didn’t like it. Well, except for The Red Badge of Courage.

    1. Jackie says:

      Michelle, It is interesting that you enjoyed the audio version. Perhaps it is one of those lighter books which work much better to listen to than to read?

      I like ticking off the classics too! It is very satisfying.

  20. Totally agree, it’s shit.

    According to one of my lecturers it’s about English landowners in Ireland and probably something to do with the potato blight. I replied no, it’s about a vampire.

    I didn’t say that.

    1. Jackie says:

      DamnedConjuror, LOL! Either way – it isn’t a great book to read!

  21. Stacy says:

    This is a classic that has never been high on my to read list. I think I’d feel just about the way you did. Great review.

    1. Jackie says:

      Stacy, There are a lot of other classics which are much higher up my list, but the timing was good for me. It is nice to know I’ve struck it off the list though!

  22. I think I might have read the abridged version when I was nine, or something. Can’t really remember.

    Pity you didn’t enjoy it, but like you said, at least you’ve read it!

    Hopefully, I’ll be able to say the same sometime soon.

    1. Jackie says:

      anothercookiecrumbles, I’ll be interested to read your thoughts on this one. I can see why an abridged version of Dracula would be appealing. I think it would be much better if it was 200 pages shorter!

  23. Dreamybee says:

    It’s funny, the more reviews I read, the more I agree with everyone who wasn’t that enthralled with it, but I still enjoyed it. Does that make any sense? I agree that the first 4 chapters were the best and after that it never quite resumed speed, I agree the writing wasn’t the best, etc., but I guess I tried to keep in mind the period during which it was written and judge it in that capacity. At the time I’m sure it scared the crap out of people, not only because of the creepy, look-out-for-scary-creatures! factor but also because of the keep-a-close-eye-on-your-mortal-soul! factor. Think of what could happen if you let your guard down for even one second…muahahahahaha!

    1. Jackie says:

      Dreamybee, Are you saying it is one of those books that actually gets worse over time?
      I can see why it appealed to people when it was written, but we’re not really scared about having our soul taken now (well it isn’t something I worry about!)
      I love your spooky laugh!

      1. Dreamybee says:

        LOL-No, I didn’t really mean it gets worse over time, just…things that were scary to society then maybe aren’t as scary now. Now, having a vampire boyfriend is sexy and mysterious and dangerous, but dangerous in a teenage rebellion kind of way; then, having a vampire boyfriend meant you were damned to hell, and people worried a lot more about that kind of stuff than they do now, generally speaking. I think there was a much more widely-accepted and literal belief in the fiery pits of hell. Also, it meant your boyfriend was a creepy old dude.

        1. Jackie says:

          Dreamybee, Thanks for the explanation! It is amazing how times change!

  24. Rebecca Reid says:

    My thoughts are very similar to yours — except I thought it was plenty creepy and yet plain stupid at the same time (he was trying to be all dramatic and I too became bored many times!).

    I wasn’t a fan, but like you, I had no desire to learn about vampires to begin with. I just thought it was a classic I “should” read. I guess I should listen to myself before starting books, huh.

    1. Jackie says:

      Rebecca, I’m afraid the stupidness prevented me from finding this creepy.

      I think I would still want to read this even if I knew it was terrible – as you say I like ticked classics off the list!

  25. Violet says:

    although I love vampires I wasn’t too fond of this book either. It seemed to loose focus often and as you said it was a little boring at places.

    1. Jackie says:

      Violet, It was more than a little boring in places! Perhaps I need to love vampires a bit more than I do to appreciate it!

  26. Michelle says:

    I got about 70 pages into it and then stalled. One day..

    1. Jackie says:

      Michelle, No rush!

  27. Madeleine says:

    That’s disappointing. I’m sorry you didn’t really enjoy it. I found “Dracula” wonderful, and it’s definitely one of my favorites. Thanks for the honest opinion (and allowing me to share mine)!

  28. Fyrefly says:

    I read Dracula for the first time two years ago, and no, it was not at all what I was expecting. Well, it was for a while… and then it was like “Mina Harker! Mina Harker is awesome! Isn’t Mina Harker a wonderful paragon of womanhood?”

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