My rating: 4 stars
A fictional collection of diary entries written by various characters, some documents, news pieces and many letters was assembled to tell a worldwide famous story about a powerful vampire. Although this was my first time reading Dracula by Bram Stoker, I was familiar with both the story and the names of the characters thanks to the numerous film and TV adaptations available.
The first character we are introduced to is Jonathan Harker, who is invited to Transylvania by Count Dracula to advise him on a prospective London home. During his journey, he encounters many superstitious people, leaving him with a sense of unease. When he arrives at Count Dracula’s castle, he has a horrible feeling about the place.
Jonathan spends part of his time there speaking with the Count and finds interesting how he already knows so much about his future house in London. But he’s also intrigued by the lack of mirrors in the rooms, the Count never eating with him, and the absence of servants in the castle. His subsequent discoveries about the Count deeply terrify him. However, he can’t return to England without his permission, as he is locked in the castle. When the Count finally allows him to leave, Jonathan is psychologically traumatised.
Thanks to the epistolary characteristics of this novel, the story is like a puzzle where the pieces are the various letters and the characters’ diaries. We know the story not only from Jonathan’s point of view, but also from Mina Murray’s, his fiancée and then wife, Lucy Westenra’s, who is Mina’s best friend, Dr John Seward’s, who works at an asylum, and Professor Van Helsing’s.
When the Count departs from Transylvania, strange things start to happen in England: men disappear from a ship before it wrecks, Lucy becomes seriously ill and suspicious puncture marks appear on her neck, and one of John Seward’s patients speaks of the return of his master. But these are just a taste of the struggles the characters have to face.
At first, Mina’s diary entries reference some seemingly unimportant events, and the way in which they’re written is not that gripping in comparison with those of Jonathan’s and doctor Seward’s. But they become far more interesting as the story progresses, and she shows to be quite brave.
The story is full of instances of superstition, and occasionally an atmosphere of horror takes over, although the plot itself is not that scary. In order to come to grips with what is happening around them, some of the characters have to convince themselves, using their analytical minds, that what they previously didn’t consider to be possible really is. When the action takes place near and at the Count’s castle in Transylvania a sense of horror, mixed with a pinch of sensuality, is particularly present.
The way in which the plot is conveyed doesn’t allow the reader to know Dracula’s point of view and see the story develop through his eyes. That is something I would have liked, since I believe that it would have made the novel darker and more twisted. Nevertheless, I don’t regret at all having finally read the source of so many popular culture characters.