I expected this famous Gothic horror novel to be trashy and cheap, in the fun, readable way that characterizes (in my experience) even the lowest-quality literary output of the late 19th century. Though the characters lack depth and the book displays both offhanded sexism and instances of laughable sentimentality, it is much better written and more fun to read than I anticipated. The creation and build-up of suspense is handled skillfully and the plot is satisfying, with a good payoff. Stoker’s technique of telling the story through the diaries and letters of multiple characters generally works well, though he does not settle into a good rhythm in shifting between characters until Chapter 5. This chapter, with its abrupt switch from the excitement of the first four chapters, to comparatively boring and unconnected content from different characters’ points of view, marks the only dip in the book’s action. Dracula is definitely a page-turner: with only 50 pages left to read, I was equally excited to find out how the story would end and sad that it would soon be over.
Just a little research indicates the nausea-inducing amount of literary criticism this novel has been subjected to, with tortured psychological and sexual interpretations that are, to my mind, equal parts bull and shit. My reading of the book for pure enjoyment (surely the cause for which it was written), hinted at no undertones, overtones or, in fact, tones of any kind that would merit the overblown speculations that have been painstakingly read into the text by various scholars.
A note about this edition: the introduction, by Brooke Allen, provides a blow-by-blow synopsis of the book’s plot, a surprisingly common “sin” that I find both annoying (because SPOILERS!) and disrespectful to the author’s work.
[Why I read it: it’s one of those classics (like Shelley’s Frankenstein) that I have always meant to read. When I saw it on the shelf at the thrift store, I knew the time was right.]