Friday, March 11, 2011

My Review of Dracula

Read For: 19th-20th Century English Literature class

My Review:

My grandpa has often told me about reading Dracula and/or Frankenstein when he was in school, noting how much he enjoyed the setting descriptions of one or the other. I have not read Frankenstein, but after having now read Dracula by Bram Stoker I have to agree that this book is full of vivid, haunting descriptions of landscapes and graveyards. But the setting isn't the only haunting aspect of this book.

From the very beginning I was drawn into a horrifying story that is at once intriguing and engaging. I tend to be the kind of person that is easily bothered by certain books or movies. In high school, one of the books that bothered me the most was Lord of the Flies. Yet even though this book has gruesome and fearsome aspects to it, I found that I was invested in the story and enjoyed it, as much as this sort of "horror" story can be enjoyed.

The book is written in a different sort of way--as documentation of a series of events, including diary/journal entries, phonograph recordings (transcribed), letters, telegrams, and newspaper clippings. As much as this style would seem to stifle tension and bar reader involvement, the opposite was true for me. Everything was organized in a way that made me want to read more and find out what would happen next, and there was a lot of dialogue written in the accounts. (I don't know how these characters could remember so much!)

This is a somewhat longer and convoluted tale, but it is certainly very interesting. It was especially interesting to me to find out more about the legend of the vampire--very creepy! Even the first few chapters are filled with chilling and intense scenes that set the stage for an epic battle of good vs. evil.

As for the meanings in the book, suffice it to say that it's taught in a college literature class for a reason. There are numerous critical theories about the themes of the book, some of which we've already discussed in our 19th-20th Century English Literature class, including sexuality, inverse biblical symbolism, etc. I don't know which theme is necessarily "right," but I do know that the book is well-written and thought-provoking, filled with symbolism and complex characters.

I was kept in suspense until the very end, and when I finished the final note it was with a mixed sense of relief, accomplishment, and unease that I closed the book. I am glad that I have read it and I think some might be surprised if they pick up this book, in that they might like it more than they originally thought. However, I can't say for sure how each person would react, and along with my recommendation I give a warning that this book has some grotesque, strange, and disturbing scenes and images that might not be suitable for all readers.

P.S. Did you like this review? Would you be interested in reading some other book reviews of well-known literature on this blog? I'd love to hear your thoughts! Just vote in the poll in the sidebar and/or leave a comment below.

P.P.S. Have my posts become too cluttered and random lately? Would you prefer to have a more strict schedule (ie: book reviews on certain days, etc.), or do you enjoy a bit of unpredictability on the blog?

8 comments:

Vince said...

Hi Amber:

Your posts are just perfect because they are you. I look for you to do what you feel is best. This blog has a ‘voice’ just any author has a 'voice' in her novels.

What I would love to see are reviews from the time the book was released. How did the first readers of this book view it? We think of such books as classics but at the time some were considered popular trash. I’d love to know what the first readers of Dracula thought about the book. That might make an interesting college paper. (“From Trash to Treasure.”)

Keep up the good work.

Vince

Joy Tamsin David said...

Sounds like it was an interesting read. Did you think it was scary? It hate being scared.

Amber S. said...

Vince,

Thank you so much! That means a lot to me--and what a neat thought that a blog can have its own "voice," too! I hope if it's God's will for me to be published that my readers here will enjoy my voice in my novels, as well. :)

And I like the second part of your comment! There was a group that presented on the life and works of Bram Stoker today, and they mentioned that Dracula was fairly well-received in its time, but it didn't really become "wildly popular" until after the movie adaptations.

I did end up finding a website with a link to reviews of Dracula from 1897. Here's the site:

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/masterpiece/dracula/links.html

Just click on the link "Reviews of Dracula" when you go to the site above. There were a couple of reviews that were rather critical of the book, but most of them seemed positive. I especially like the one from Pall Mall Gazette (June 1, 1897) that says,

"Mr. Bram Stoker should have labelled his book 'For Strong Men Only,' or words to that effect. Left lying carelessly around, it might get into the hands of your maiden aunt who believes devoutly in the man under the bed, or of the new parlourmaid with unsuspected hysterical tendencies. 'Dracula' to such would be manslaughter."

The reviews are all so interesting! ;)

~Amber

Amber S. said...

Joy,

It was definitely an interesting read! As to being scary, it's really hard to say...

Like I said in the review, I'm easily affected by scary things, so if I was able to handle this, that might say something, I guess! ;) But then again, I was really intrigued by the whole thing and was motivated to finish it and be able to say I read it.

A lot of the scariness has to do with tension and suspense, but there are also some pretty gruesome descriptions in regards to vampire attacks and how one has to slay a vampire.

All that to say...proceed at your own risk. It's an intense book, but very mysterious and thought-provoking! And as we've been talking about in class, you'll get to see what vampires are "really" like, not the Twilight version of them... ;)

~Amber

Vince said...

Hi Amber:

Thanks for the link to the “Dracula” reviews. I read them all and it is amazing how well the reviewers could write. I think those reviews are far better written than the ones we would find today in the same publications.

A new novel was a big deal when you did not have movies, TV, radio or the Internet to compete for your attention.

It seems the reviewers got it right on “Dracula”.


Don’t you love a Kindle? Most of these older classics are immediately available for free!

Vince

Michelle said...

Enjoyed reading this review, Amber. I tried reading Dracula once, back when I was in high school, but I never finished it. Would love to read any reviews of classic literature that you want to write.

Amber S. said...

Vince,

I agree--those reviews were well-worded and interesting! And that makes sense that the release of a new novel back then would have been even more exciting. :)

I don't actually have a Kindle, but I have Kindle for PC, which is nice! Although I ended up getting a paper copy of Dracula. :)

~Amber

Amber S. said...

Michelle,

I'm glad you liked the review! There are a good number of classics that I never actually read all the way through, so I know what you mean. But I did enjoy reading Dracula, and I ended up writing about in my paper that's due today for that class! :)

And I'm glad you would like to see more reviews like this! I have to write reviews for my Lit. of the American West books I read anyway, so maybe I can post some of those...

~Amber