It’s been over twenty years since I last read ‘Dracula’ and I was a little surprised to find that my opinion about it this time was essentially the same. It’s 50% utterly wonderful, a wildly evocative mystery story with enough half-spoken to lead to a century of derivative works, none of which can quite capture its unique atmosphere. The first part of the book largely falls into this category.
But then there’s also the 50% pointless tedium, lifeless characters writing long letters about how they had a meeting and how wonderful another boring character is. Aside from possibly Van Helsing, the characters are so thinly drawn it’s sometimes breathtaking. Quincy, for example, has the defining feature of being American, and that’s pretty much it. Lucy is the worst though, surely the most insipid personality ever put on a page (and praised to the heavens for being braindead in such a delicate, ladylike way,) she only gains any character when she is killed and brought back as a vampire, only for the others to be physically repulsed by her passion to the point of driving a stake through her heart. I’m sure there has been a great deal written about what this says about Stoker’s view of female sexuality, none of it very positive.
In spite of all of this I still loved reading it again. The best parts are absolutely worth sitting though the dull sections for, and if you’re anything like me you can also enjoy imagining what you would do with it if you were Bram Stoker’s editor.
…and here’s a clip from perhaps the most famous adaptation, the one with Bela Lugosi from 1931. Unfortunately the film gets even more bogged down in its second act than the book does, but this scene shows off both Lugosi and the superb set design.