Dracula – Bram Stoker

The first of the adult books we have studied for the MOOC I’m currently doing, and I can’t believe I’ve never read this before. Its fantastical and written as a series of letters and journal entries! I love it for its storytelling style alone!

Plus its Halloween. I need to write about a horror book for Halloween. Plus I found myself standing next to a bride of Dracula in the loos at work.

Reading this analytically, I’ve noticed things like the difference in starting viewpoint that a Victorian novel has, plus how much it feeds into later vampire novels. There are some starting assumptions, like that women are delicate little flowers, that are laughable in a story set in modern times but are just how things are in a Victorian setting.

I read these the wrong way around, but it contrasts well the The Historian, set in modern times with women permitted to be much more capable.

Dracula is satisfyingly sinister and the plot for how to kill him takes a while to come together (once I got over one of the protagonists missing a perfect opportunity before he learns of vampires), for a while its easy to conceive of him succeeding in success or at least escape.

We’re reading Frankenstein next. Funfun!

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The Historian – Elizabeth Kostova

The Historian is a Dracula story mixed in with a family mystery and the love story of the parents. A sense of historical placement is given by the impact the Iron Curtain has on the parents, but not the daughter as they try to escape the position they are trapped in. The tale is told from the point of view of the daughter as she unravels the mystery involved with her mother, and how it joins with Dracula’s history.

The main characters are all sharp and intelligent, with the main problems that befall them being created by each other, rather than an ability to avoid foreseeable problems. This combines with a fantastically rich sense of place to give a book where it is possible to forget that you are only reading.

The level of realism found in the book is such that I very much regretted reading it at home on a dark evening: in spite of myself I was checking the doors and windows, and that I had garlic handy.