imagine most of us have seen the film Dracula. There are indeed plenty of adaptations of Bram Stoker's original novel out there for our entertainment, starting as early as 1920 a Russian film Дракула, which has since been lost. Then in 1922 the German film Nosferatu, starring Max Schreck as Count Orlok, really brought vampires to the silver screen and thereon into our homes to become a household name. Bela Lugosi also took the role of Dracula himself in 1931.
However, how many of us have read Stoker’s original version of Dracula?
I first read Stoker’s Dracula as a teenager obsessed with vampires, especially the movie Fright Night with Chris Sarandon, and an avid book lover. I was given a beautiful version of the book which also had pictures throughout of all the movies that had been made to that point. While that was many years ago, recently I have published my book, Graystings, about vampires and featuring the Dracula family.
While Graystings is set in Scotland, the sequel will, in part, be set in Transylvania. So, I decided to do my research on the country and its legends. I made the trip to Brașov and Castle Bran, the legendary home of Dracula himself. Naturally, while there I had to pick up a copy of Stoker’s Dracula for reading during my long train journeys.
Stoker never actually set foot in Transylvania. His geography, therefore, is a little limited. The Borgo pass is some 240 miles north of Castle Bran, the supposed home of Dracula. Budapest is to the west of the Borgo Pass and Bran is to the south.
Dracula is by rights a horror story as an undead fiend drinks the blood of his living victims to continue his undead existence.
Stoker is vague in certain details. The reader is left to wonder how Dracula’s ship ran aground in Whitby where Harker’s fiancee was staying, was it mere coincidence, or had Dracula planned this? If he did plan this, how did he know she’d be there? Unlike the movies, the book doesn’t mention a discourse between Dracula and Harker regarding Harker’s relationship other than to say the count intercepted a letter to Mina which was deliberately written in shorthand so he wouldn’t be able to understand it. There seems to be a lot of these coincidences that are not explained incredibly well in the duration of the book.
Dr John Seward visits Lucy Westenra (Mina’s best friend) in Whitby yet his lunatic asylum was in London next to Carfax Abbey. Dr Van Helsing is able to travel between Amsterdam and London faster than one could in modern times.
This aside the reader is drawn in almost from the off. As the book is set out as excerpts from diaries and letters it reads almost like it could be a genuine narrative. Stoker does tell a very good tale, one that keeps the reader interested throughout the book. He describes his character's personalities well enough but does lack physical description. The reader is more or less left to make up their own minds on what the characters each look like, although he does describe the undead women in fair detail.
Stoker’s Dracula is one of those books that simply must be read. It is, without a doubt, one of the literary greats and in all truth, my sat here picking holes in the geography and the coincidental plot lines cannot in any way detract from that. It was clearly ahead of its time and will continue to be made and remade in all probability to time immemorial.
I still give it 10/10, for drawing me in, keeping me interested and making me want to read to the end. The grammar is faultless, and for an Irish man who had never set foot in Romania, he did a fairly good job of conjuring it in my imagination that didn’t detract too far from the real thing.
One final point, if Stoker had never written Dracula I would never have written Graystings and I would never have visited one of the most magnificent countries in Eastern Europe.
For stirring my imagination and taking me on the most exciting journeys not only in my mind but in real life, thank you, Mr Stoker.
Bram Stoker's Dracula is available from most good bookstores and libraries.
Xania Boreanaz - Graystings is available from Amazon here: Graystings.