Book Review, Classics

Dracula – Book Review by a Romanian

I have never read this before… where the greatest myth about my country started…isn’t that crazy?

Dracula – Historical Context

Dracula was first published by Bram Stocker in 1897, when Eastern Europe is still considered behind the West from a technological and scientific point of view.

It is just four years before that when princess Marie Alexandra Victoria of Edinburgh departs for Eastern Europe, to become Crown princess of Romania, wife of the future king, Ferdinand I.

Transylvania is still under the Austro-Hungarian rule at this time and it may account for a lot of the things that for me, seemed a bit off in the novel.

Dracula – The Blurb

So… what is this book about? Well… the most famous vampire.. Count Dracula – a vicious, blood sucking creature, who wants to create more and more vampires just like him. For no exact reason, he decides to move from Transylvania, where his castle is, to London. To help with the logistics of such an endeavour, he employs a solicitor – Jonathan Harker. Luckily for us, Jonathan Harker is very diligent about keeping his diary so we gradually see just how strange of a character the Count actually is. A lot happens during his stay at the castle. Though he is initially very welcoming, Jonathan soon realises the Count has very dark plans for him, plans which may or may not involve three young women “with brilliant white teeth that shone like pearls against the ruby of their voluptuous lips”.

Somehow he manages to escape and return to his beloved fiancee, Mina Murray, but troubles seem to follow his friends and acquaintances as Dracula succeeds in coming to London. At this point, we are acquainted from letters with Mina and her best friend Lucy Westenra who manages to receive three marriage proposals in a day! One is from dr. John Seward (who also manages an asylum), the second one is from Quincey P. Morris a “young and fresh” Texan who, only to amuse Lucy, speaks in slang, and the third one is from Arthur Holmwood, a nobleman whom she actually accepts.

Soon after these events, while Arthur is away visiting his father, Lucy starts feeling ill. She seems devoid of blood and the finest doctors are called for consult. At the suggestion of dr. Van Helsing she is even to receive blood from the finest young men, in order to help her feel better. Of course, it’s all in vain! Whatever they try, Lucy will die and become a vampire they need to kill.

So it all unfolds from there: they begin to understand whom they are dealing with – a creature they can’t believe it even exists. They decide Dracula must be killed, no matter what. His devious plan – which we still don’t understand – must be stopped and he mustn’t get any more women on his side, the way he did with poor Lucy.

My thoughts

First of all, Bram Stocker had never been to Romania. He tries to hide that with many small details about the people and the food there.

who are you kidding??

What I felt he got wrong, was the presence of so many nationalities. I don’t know what he thought, but Romanians were always predominant, even while under Austro-Hungarian rule.

Also, apart from “mamaliga”, I have never heard of the other two dishes he presents as traditional. They may be traditional for the Hungarians – who knows?

However, these are small, unimportant things. What he does, in reality, is reflect the opinion of Western Europe with regards to Eastern Europe’s traditions and superstitions. I feel not much has changed around that in the last hundred years. There is always some superiority shown there, but nowadays it’s mostly around finance – Eastern Europe Economies are more fragile and smaller than those in the West.

What did sadden me a bit, is how he portrays Romania as a corrupt country, where bribery gets you anywhere. Even if that was true back then, I can’t help to think about how “Dracula” is now a classic everyone reads and maybe that will be the first impression they get about Romania. Once written…it forever remains this way. It’s not ideal, isn’t it?

My good opinion once lost is lost forever.

This is all I have to say about the setting of everything. Let’s get into the actual action of the novel.

I like the epistolary format – it adds lots of suspense. We only get one point of view at a time, we are in a person’s head always – it’s just great! However, the voices for me blended and sounded identical. Had it not been titled, I wouldn’t have known whose journal I’m reading. That is always a shame, but it is symptomatic of another problem – character development. All characters felt the same. Yes, here and there there was a slang to differentiate, but nothing substantial.

I didn’t feel connected to any of the characters and didn’t like any of them in particular – not even Dracula.

This book was so slow paced for me, I hated it. It feels like nothing happens until the last chapter. Dracula is portrayed as this all powerful being, yet, avoids all conflict, always hides and barely makes any problems in the end. Also, as quickly as he decides to come to London for no reason, he also decides to go back to Transylvania for no reason. Or – no real reason anyway. Did he decide to leave just because he was discovered and haunted? Come on! These people were always out at night, he could’ve killed them all, one by one.

Also…Dracula is shown here as a lot more powerful than recent vampires – he has the strength of twenty men and can also change shape, control weather and smaller animals – like rats or wolves. But most of all, he seems able to go out into the daylight – of course, only when it is convenient for the novel. When he sleeps during the day, he seems impossible to wake up.

So…yes…lots of plot holes that I see, and, annoyingly, they took me out of the story so much with questions around things that simply don’t make sense to me! However, they don’t make sense if I read them without seeing what is behind and that is what annoys me even more.

Dracula is the symbol for tradition and superstition. He seems powerful, but he’s no match for the brave scientist and men of knowledge. Which is hilarious. As hilarious as sexualising blood transfusions and not being able to handle a more sensual woman. The portrayal of the voluptuous Eastern women vs. the pure western women – I’m not even going to go into that.

In conclusion – I didn’t like it.

It was just weak writing and kind of a waste of time. I struggled a lot to finish it.

Should you read it? I wouldn’t really advise it, unless you really like vampires – if it is so, you most definitely have to find out how it all began. Dracula is, after all, the most famous one. However, I think modern vampires are a lot better.

And now you! Who is your favourite vampire? Let’s chat!

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