Book Review: Dracula

Whilst I'm not a fan of horror movies, I love a good spooky story. There's something about a novelist creating that sense of creeping dread that lingers with you for days that I find brilliantly unsettling; it's the kind of thing that makes you check under the bed and behind doors because, even though you know there's nothing there, you can't quite be sure...

With Halloween less than a week away, I thought that this week's book review had to be on one of the most brilliant examples of this: Bram Stoker's Dracula. It's one of those stories that you've seen depicted on TV or in films a million times, but there is nothing quite as thrilling as actually reading it for yourself and finding out where the vampire mythology that has saturated popular culture for the last few years all began.

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The novel opens with Jonathan Harker, an English solicitor, visiting Count Dracula in the mountains of Transylvania to oversee the Count's purchase of some land in England. Once he arrives at the Count's castle, however, all is not what it seems... (I know that's incredibly short but I really can't say much more than that as it will spoil it!)

Firstly, I have to say that Stoker writes horror utterly brilliantly - the first part of the book, which takes place in Transylvania, is filled with a horrible build-up of tension as Jonathan, and the reader, realise that he's trapped in the castle. There's one particularly gripping sequence where I ended up missing my stop on the train because I was so immersed in it and didn't want to wait to find out what happened next. However, once the action shifts to England, the novel's style turns and it becomes more like a thriller which leaves you rooting for a small team of mortals pitted against seemingly impossible odds.

I also found the characters really engaging; even Lucy Westenra, a young aristocrat and friend of Jonathan's fiancee Mina Harker, could have been a two-dimensional simpering cypher, yet manages to come across as fully rounded and as developed as the central figures. It's a bit of a cliché but they really do all leap off the page and come across as completely believable. The settings are really well drawn too, particularly Whitby - I felt completely immersed in the surroundings and could picture it all so vividly, to the extent it's making me want to go there and see all the places in the novel for myself.

Overall I really enjoyed Dracula; it's a book that you might come to thinking you've seen it all before, but it's fantastically gripping and the pace really sweeps you along. Highly recommended for your Halloween reading. Just don't have nightmares...

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