Told entirely through written correspondence and journals, the story first follows Jonathan Harker as he visits Count Dracula in Transylvania to assist him in a real estate purchase in England. The first third of the book is him slowly learning more and more about what Dracula is, and I absolutely loved this section. Both the initial feeling of Harker being in a foreign land at the beginning and the pacing of how Dracula’s true being was revealed were both perfect. I was hooked from the first chapter.
The beginning of the novel is taken from Harker’s journal during his time in Dracula’s castle, and the rest of the novel involves a full cast of characters and is from the journals the keep and the letters they write. I found the transition between these two sections really jarring, just because I was loving it so much that I wanted to keep the same point of view. After a little time, though, my head was back in it and the change was for the better. It brought a lot more depth to the story than there would have been from the single viewpoint.
I listened to the Audible version of this, and it was a great production. Simon Vance is one of my favourite narrators, and his narration of Harker is part of why I was so immediately hooked. The rest of the cast is fantastic as well. Katy Kellgren was great as the incredibly modern Mina, and she sounded a bit like Mary from Downton Abbey, which helped. Tim Curry as Van Helsing was a genius choice. In their journal entries, each of the characters recount conversations that they had with the others, and part of the fun of listening to this on audio was hearing everyone do a Van Helsing impression as their own character. Each narrator was so talented. I haven’t done many full cast audiobooks before, but since this is an epistolary novel, it’s really just a new narrator for each chapter. You aren’t switching speaker mid-sentence.
I’m so glad I finally read this. As familiar as I am with the character, I really didn’t know the actual story of the novel, so it’s nice to see where all of our modern interpretations of this originated. Dracula, for example, is very much like he’s portrayed in modern film, charming and interesting, but he’s not involved in any romance or seduction in the novel. Harker and him have a burgeoning bromance at the beginning, but other than that it’s just not a part of the story. Abraham Van Helsing is not an expert at vampire hunting either. He’s a doctor, and a jack of all trades, and is only involved because he was called to diagnose the illness of Lucy Westenra, Dracula’s first victim. He is a natural, however, and is the first to come up with the theory that the symptoms could be from the bite of a vampire. He has no real knowledge of the undead, but he guides the team through the investigation.
I’d definitely recommend this to anyone. It’s not action-packed, and it’s more eery than scary, but it’s a lot of fun right up until the end.