Thursday, 13 October 2011

Group Read: Dracula - Pre-reread Post

I've decided to do the Dracula Group Read which is being hosted by Allie at A Literary Odyssey, mostly because I don't need an excuse to reread the novel - although it has been a while since I read it all the way through.  This post is, as the title suggests, a chance for me to share my thoughts about Dracula before I start my reread; I think it will be interesting to see if my opinion of the novel changes as a result of a new reading.

Please note: potential spoilers below for anyone who hasn't read the book.  I do talk about bits I remember really liking, which are things that may not be as well known about the novel as certain elements (primarily: vampires!).

I first read Dracula at university; not for a course but for the fun of the thing.  I've since bought the absolutely gorgeous annotated edition, which does occasionally frustrate me with the suggestions that it's all real and Bram Stoker is reporting facts - the same is true of my annotated Sherlock Holmes; I get that people like to pretend it's all real and that's fine but eurgh, it bugs me - but has some fascinating notes and all sorts of awesome pictures.  Sadly, I couldn't get that on the train with me as it is a veritable brick, so I'm using my slightly battered Penguin Classics edition (as pictured).  I can at least read it without needing to prop it on my knees or hurting my arms.

So, what do I remember about Dracula?  I have reread the beginning a few times and that's (currently) my favourite part.  The end doesn't interest me as much, though that may be because I've only really read it once.  The whole book is a bit mad, and suffers from the usual Victorian problem of a lack of copy editing as Stoker forgets how long journeys took and changes what people do and don't know/can and can't do for the sake of the plot.  As far as I recall it also features some fun sexism and big strong men being utterly stupid, which may contribute to my feelings of annoyance.  All that stuff about Mina having the gentleness of a woman and the brains/courage of a man is a bit too close to all that nonsense about Marian being almost as a good as a man in The Woman in White.  Heaven forbid women are strong without it being a manly characteristic.

What I mostly remember about Dracula - other than the utter homoeroticism of the Count laying claim to Jonathan Harker as his own (am now just thinking of Vampire!Bill and his entire "Sookie is miiiiine" thing) - are the creepy set pieces.  There are a lot of these, mostly in the beginning before people figure out what's going on, primarily:

- Jonathan's attempts to escape from the castle after he's found the coffins
- Dracula crawling down the wall
- the dog on the beach after the wreck of the Demeter
- Mina's nightmarish rush across Whitby to find Lucy (probably the most surreal and fantastic bit of the book)
- my utter fury with Lucy's mother for opening the windows and removing the garlic; it's not that she was prompted by Dracula, it's that she was officious idiot
- all of the stuff with Lucy and the escaped wolves and the children.

In fact, there are a lot of set pieces I can remember.  I don't think it is a book made up primarily of 'moments', but those are the things that stick with you.  Listing all of these is really making me want to reread it, though, although I'm not sure how I'll feel about the end when I get to it.

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