Author: Bram Stoker
Year written: 1897
Publisher and year: Penguin Classics, 2011
ISBN Number: 978-0-141-19688-6
Another classic that’s been on my to read list for a while and I did start it around Halloween as another kind of spooky book, it’s just taken me a while to read it. This is another in the Penguin Clothbound Classics collection as I just love the covers on these. There’s so many editions of this so the actual story part of the review will be the same for all but some bits are reviews on this edition.
This edition has an RRP of £14.99 and it’s on sale in Waterstones with a small discount at £11.99. I bought this copy on Amazon and it cost less than half of the RRP here. I’d say if you want this exact edition then look around for the best price, though other versions will have varying prices and there’s probably copies available in second hand stores for a lot less.
As I said I do love these covers, they’re clothbound and have a repeated pattern on them, most of them have something that’s obviously related to the story inside though I wasn’t sure what these had to do with it. It’s only been as I’m writing this that I realised this is probably an image of a garlic flower which would make it a lot more to do with the book than just a random plant. It looks nice but I have found with this one if I hold it in my hand for too long the print can transfer onto my skin, it’s only a small amount and odd flecks on my fingers but it’s a bit annoying. Since realising that I just had the book open on my lap and held the pages so it’ll stay looking nice as long as possible. I think of the copies I have in this series this is the one with the least obvious pattern due to the background colour though it does go with the dark theme of the book. Another thing that’s a bit annoying about this book is the mark that was left by the price sticker, it’s not too obvious but it always annoys me when a price sticker leaves a mark on anything.
The book itself is pretty thick though I think that partly this is due to the thickness of the paper. I know that others in this collection have thinner paper when they’re longer stories to keep the book thinner overall but this is probably the same thickness as most books you buy. The font does change size at times, mainly when it changes the character that’s writing it though it does sometimes change part way through a chapter with the same author so it might be more a space saving thing. I think it’s still large enough to read but smaller than in most books when the size changes.
The main story is written from different perspectives, each of them is in the first person and a lot of them are in the style of journals and letters. There’s a few chapters with parts that are meant to be from Newspapers so they’re not in the first person but they do fit in well. There’s a short paragraph at the beginning as if this is a collection of text about an actual event so they’re from the different peoples’ perspectives about the events they witnessed. This does mean at times it jumps around a bit, from Trasylvania to England near the beginning confused me a bit. It’s a good way to keep the story going when the original speaker isn’t in the place where the events are happening at that point in the book. The language in this book isn’t as obviously old as some other classics I’ve read, I think partly as it’s fairly informal with it being for their own journals, there aren’t many words I didn’t recognise and any that I didn’t know were explained in the back of the book though I didn’t actually find them that important to understanding the book.
I’ve watched a few versions of Dracula and I’d say that a lot of the events in those are in the book but I can’t think of any of them that have remained completely true to it. I think that most of them took elements from the original and worked around them and he can walk around in the daylight which is very different from most of the vampire movies and Draculas that I have seen. I’m saying that there aren’t any that are exactly like this but I have only seen a few and it’s those few that are different, if you’ve seen one that’s close or recommend any versions I should see then I’m happy to find them, I do like the general Dracula stories most of the time.
One thing that I did find is when I was reading the parts on Van Helsing I couldn’t help but imagine him as Peter Cushing from the Hammer Horror Draculas. I don’t think that any of the Draculas I’ve seen match the image of the Count himself as described in this book so I didn’t really have an image of an actor in my head with him.
If you’re expecting a lot of gore in this you might be disappointed, I don’t think I can remember anything that’s as gory as a lot of modern detective novels. There’s a bit of description of things like killing a vampire but it doesn’t go into a lot of detail. I also didn’t find the book particularly frightening, it seems like because it’s written as a factual account of the people who met Dracula at the time it’s less sensationalised than it could have been. I know that a lot of that will probably be because of the time it was written, parts were probably very shocking at the time for someone reading it but we have so much violence and gore in books and TV at the moment that it didn’t seem to be over the top. Maybe it’s not one to read with children but I’d say that it’d be fine for teenagers, I don’t think it’s any more scary than Frankenstein and seemed less descriptive of the body and blood bits than that and as that was something that others in my year studied when we were 14 or 15 then I think this would be ok for that age group as well.
This specific edition comes with a few extras, which I do quite like, especially the letters at the end of this one that Stoker wrote to Walk Whitman and the interview with Winston Churchill. I know not everyone wants extras and they do add a bit of thickness to the book, though not as much as with the Frankenstein one I reviews last time. Before the Dracula story itself there is a preface, chronology of the author’s life and an introduction which it says includes spoilers for the story so I didn’t actually read it before I started on the book. In the appendices are the letters to Walt Whitman and a reply, a letter from Charlotte Stoker to Bram Stoker about the ‘Cholera of Horror’, an article written by Bram Stoker on the censorship of fiction and the interview with Winston Churchill. Of the ones that I’ve read in this I thought they were all pretty interesting and the appendices did add to the book, I’m not sure on the introduction and chronology but if you’re interested in the author then they might be interesting to you.
Overall I definitely recommend this book if you like the vampire genre. I think it’s a really good book, I did find that when I was feeling better I ended up reading quite a bit at a time and thinking I’d just read one more chapter and keep going. It’s a fair sized book with around 400 pages on the story itself. It is pretty fast paced once it gets going, it took a while for the story to start with Jonathan Harker’s journey to Caste Dracula but as soon as they met it seemed to pick up quite a bit and I didn’t find it slow after that.
If nothing else it’s a great book to show how the whole idea of vampires as we know them now started and the original Dracula story. I think that it’s probably one that would interest others too but fans of the vampire genre might be interested. There’s a fair amount of action and, even without being too scary, it’s a good horror book to me. I don’t think it’s one that would give you nightmares but it’s still got a bit of a psychological horror hint to me alongside the more obvious vampire aspect.