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Bram Stoker’s Dracula by Cian Morey

“I want you to believe.”

“To believe what?”

“To believe in things that you cannot.”

The term “classic” is thrown around a lot these days. It seems almost every day there is a new “classic” popping up somewhere in the world of literature, film or television. I doubt that many of these supposedly “classic” works meet the criteria for “something that is judged over a period of time to be of the highest quality of its kind”. Insufficient time has elapsed for the “new classic” books that are springing up everywhere to be considered on one level with Shakespeare or Dickens.

Dracula, an 1897 novel by Bram Stoker is a true classic; moreover it’s the definitive tale of vampirism. Dracula is particularly notable for creating the traditional concept of a vampire, which Bram Stoker achieves by taking the scattered traits set out in earlier works and twining them together to form the iconic Count Dracula who drinks blood, creates other “undead” monsters, can turn into a bat and speaks with an unnerving Eastern-European accent.

But, at least for me, the Count was not the most interesting part of the novel, nor was he really present in the main bulk of the story. Instead, Bram Stoker spends the first half of the book weaving an intricate mystery around the Count’s motives and various suspicious incidents in London, without clearly revealing how they all tie together until the second half.
Those of you who were looking forward to reading an action-packed scare-your-pants-off bloodbath will most likely be disappointed.

The best part of the book is the depiction of Victorian society (or societies). As it was written in 1897, it paints a far more authentic picture of the world at that time (obviously) than anything produced nowadays. The archaic language, though at times quite convoluted and difficult to understand, makes the book into more of a fascinating historical experience rather than simply an enjoyable read. Bram Stoker, like most writers of his time, was very curious about all of the different cultures in England and the wider world the world and clearly took pleasure in trying to depict the mannerisms, dialects and patois of the Eastern-Europeans and Yorkshiremen. I’m not quite sure if he managed to do it all very accurately, but it nonetheless adds to the historical appeal of the book.

The novel is written in epistolary form – this means that it is composed entirely of a series of documents such as letters, newspaper clippings and diary entries. It is a quaint style that I feel subtly adds something to the book, like all of the other small but unusual aforementioned details.

I know from experience that a writer can get into quite some difficulty when writing in the first person, and especially when writing from multiple points of view. If the writer fails to make each character unique then the whole book can fall flat on its face. If the writer succeeds, however, the result can be magnificent.

Bram Stoker succeeded.

There was not a single character whose portions of the book I dreaded, nor was there any character who lacked individuality. Van Helsing was probably the most interesting and entertaining of them, though unfortunately he was often portrayed only in the accounts of others. The occasional writings which he made himself were things that I looked forward to.

Overall, Dracula was a gripping tale that offered a glorious insight into the Victorian era, with strong characters, an interesting style, a good mystery and an iconic monster lurking beneath it all. It is a masterpiece that has rightfully endured for over a century now, and one that I am certain will continue to endure for a long time yet.
Dracula is, truly, a classic.