At some point in high school, I managed to stumble upon The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (the movie, not the graphic novels). And thus began my love affair with Sean Connery — and also the Victorian Era. Or, at least, the gritty, semi-steampunk version of it presented by my favorite godawful film.
In addition to delving deep into the filmographies of everyone involved in this movie and losing myself down the Mina/Dorian rabbit hole on fanfiction.net, I made it my mission in life to covertly let everyone know how knowledgable I’d become about the era (and what a cool nerd I was, desperate to discuss LXG). I believe I read The Picture of Dorian Gray first, mostly because I knew the name Oscar Wilde pretty well and I was 112% in love with Stuart Townsend. And then I found Dracula.
Dracula is the grandfather of the monster story. (Frankenstein, of course, is the deity that created it all. *Snaps, Mary Shelley.*) Without Bram Stoker and his weird obsession with the legends of a land to which he never traveled, we wouldn’t have one of the world’s most iconic creatures of the night. And what a ride it was, revisiting this mofo.
Dracula is an epistolary novel, told through the journal entries of many of its major characters, supplemented by letters and newspaper articles
that you can totally skim over. We open on the furtive journaling of baby solicitor Jonathan Harker, who is more concerned with sending home fun Eastern European recipes to his fiancée Mina, who’s living the life down the shore back in England (more on her in a moment). Jonathan is heading out to Transylvania — the part of Romania near the Carpathians, not the planet — to replace a solicitor named Renfield who hasn’t been quite right since taking on legal dealings on behalf of one Count Dracula.
As if Renfield’s sudden illness weren’t enough to dissuade him from taking this job, Jonathan also faces the scandalized looks of his fellow travelers, the fearful prayers of locals, and the giving of a literal necklace of garlic whenever he mentions where he’s headed. I know it was Stoker who hammered home most of the vampire media lore we cling to today, but you’d think a supposedly bright young man would think about heading home the seventeenth or eighteenth time someone crossed themselves and tried to forcibly remove you from Romania.
But Jonathan perseveres, and after the most horrifying carriage ride in history, he finally makes it to the castle he’ll end up calling home for the next few months and meets the mysterious Dracula. He only really starts to get nervous when Dracula 1) asks him to write a bunch of letters saying Jonathan plans to stick around for another month or two; 2) forbids him to explore any locked rooms in the castle; and 3) locks Jonathan into his bedroom at night. Dracula also has to save Jonathan from three vampiric harpies who enjoy feeding on children and then crawls down a straight vertical wall like a lizard. Totally normal host behavior.
Meanwhile, back in England, Mina isn’t worried about her beloved Johnny B. Goode, because she’s got some fun in the sun to attend to. She’s gallivanting around the cliffs of Whitby with her best friend, Lucy, who A) is being courted by three hot dudes; and B) mysteriously takes up her old sleepwalking habit. But though the lovers are separated by an entire continent, their dueling stories of confusion and horror are inextricably linked, and it isn’t long before they reunite to stop the man-beast known as Dracula.
Dracula is the only book I’ve been able to read this many times and still not get tired of it. I’m a notorious one-and-done reader, quickly dropping finished books in my wake, never to be read again. But the multitude of characters and interpersonal relationships in Dracula, as well as the descriptions of exotic locales and Victorian travel — and, of course, the ~spooky~ elements — draw me in every time.
If you find yourself in need of a new TV show to binge and a deep love of Dracula, I highly recommend my current television obsession, Penny Dreadful (EDIT: I wrote this before the finale. I still recommend watching the show, just prepare yourself for some finale heartbreak!). And if you still need more of the vampire huntin’ gang in your life, watch Keanu Reeves attempt a British accent. You’ll only regret it a little.
A slightly biased four out of five stars! Hooray!
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