Dracula by Bram Stoker

Dracula cover

I’m really not into horror in fact I’ve avoided even the mock-horror Dracula/Frankenstein films but spurred on by other bloggers like Stefanie (So Many Books) and Jane GS (Reading, Writing, Working, Playing) I decided to give Dracula a go. And they were right, it is a good read, so much better than the only other book of Bram Stoker’s which I’ve read – The Seven Jewels.

I’m sure everybody knows the gist of the story, because even I did so I’m just going to comment on what led me to read the book which was Stefanie’s remark about it being full of weeping men, which it is, very weird. There isn’t a stiff upper lip between the lot of them, in fact I think the kindest thing that could be said of the men is that they are a bunch of wet willies!

I think it must have been designed by Bram Stoker as a bit of excitement for his lady readers, what with all that male bodily fluid being transferred to Lucy I suppose it was only fair that he should try to titillate his female readers with scenes that I’m sure none of them would have experienced before in Victorian Britain, such a lack of control! How exciting!

Anyway, first published in 1897 and it’s still entertaining us, can’t be bad.

When our boys were wee we rented a cottage in Whitby and because I knew very little about the book I had no idea that it featured in it. I had it in my mind that Dracula was set completely in Transylvania. I thought that all the tourists walking up the steps to Whitby Abbey were doing so just because it had been used as a film location. But Whitby is an interesting place to visit and spookily, while we were there we saw the most amazingly dramatic sunsets that we’ve ever seen.

The Jewel of Seven Stars by Bram Stoker

It was a dark and stormy day with the rain battering on the windows and wind howling down the chimneys, so when the gas man finally managed to fix our NEW boiler, (he’s been trying since Thursday) I thought it was the perfect atmosphere for finishing off The Jewel of Seven Stars.

I’m afraid it didn’t help matters though. It says on the cover of this book: STOKER’S CLASSIC TALE OF TERROR, the inspiration for today’s Mummy movies!

At the beginning Abel Trelawny, a keen collector of Egyptian artefacts, appears to have been attacked in his own home and has fallen into a comatose state. It is thought that the many Egyptian mummies which are in his room have caused his illness.

On page 104 one of the characters who has been relating past experiences in Egypt at great length said, “I dare say you find this tedious;” which was exactly what I HAD been thinking!

It didn’t do anything for me at all. I’ve always avoided horror movies and for that reason I didn’t really know much about Frankenstein, so when I actually got around to reading the book earlier in the year I was pleasantly surprised that I really enjoyed it. I thought that I might be missing out on something and as quite a few people have been mentioning Dracula recently I thought I would start off with one of Stoker’s shorter books first. Now I’m not sure if I will bother with Dracula because although this book was only 188 pages long, it did seem to drag.

First published in 1903 this was apparently Stoker’s eighth book, which is a surprise to me because I didn’t think it was very well written and I had been thinking that he must have improved over the years, maybe not then. It was re-written in 1912 and I think it is that version which I read. I suppose it’s because it’s Gothic, but it’s stilted beyond belief, and I say that as someone who reads more Classic books than modern.

Even reading it with tongue firmly in cheek I couldn’t get any enjoyment from it, however I ploughed on regardless to the end. This was a book which I borrowed from the library and the previous borrower had left their bookmark in it less than half-way through, so I can’t be the only person who wasn’t enamoured with it.

I’ll see what others think of Dracula before embarking on it.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

I’ve been avoiding reading this book for a very long time because the subject matter didn’t really appeal to me. I’ve never watched a Frankenstein film either but when I saw the book in my local branch of The Works at the amazing price of 10p – I took it as a sign that it was time to read it. Also, I just realised that I can make it my first book which counts towards the Gilmore Girls Challenge.

I did enjoy the book, it wasn’t really what I had been expecting at all. Frankenstein isn’t the monster but is actually a chemist who has managed to construct a monstrous form of life, which is a really crazy idea. The monster escapes and Frankenstein believes that he has let loose a murderous being on society.

The monster learns about human life whilst hiding out close to a family and being able to observe them he develops language and teaches himself to read, hoping that he will be accepted by society despite the fact that he looks so scary. But he is driven away by the family and his anger and loneliness change him from a gentle beastie into one consumed with bitterness and rage. He decides to track down his creator with the intention of making Frankenstein create a female monster to alleviate his loneliness.

The action switches from Switzerland to Britain with Frankenstein hoping that he can avoid the monster there. Frankenstein and his friend Clerval travel round Britain from London to Oxford, Derby and then to Scotland visiting Edinburgh, including Arthur’s Seat and St Bernard’s Well before travelling on to Cupar, St Andrews and Perth, ending up on a remote Orkney island, which is where the monster caught up with him. Obviously this is just a brief outline of the story and I’m not going to go any further with it. I think it is the sort of book which you could read umpteen times and find something new in it at every visit.

Mary Shelley wrote this book during a holiday in Switzerland with her husband Percy Byshe Shelley and Lord Byron. The weather was dreadful with the sun being unable to break through the atmosphere which had been polluted by the eruption of Tambora on the Indonesian island of Sumbawa.

During this dark and spooky time they had entertained each other reading German ghost stories and decided they would all write their own, but Mary’s was the only one which was completed.

I was really surprised when the action moved to Scotland, close to where I live. It seems that every book that I pick up at the moment has a Scottish dimension.

Anyway, I’m glad that I read this one at last and I may even do so again.

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

I’m not going to do an in depth review of this book, I’m just going to make a few observations. It’s a fairly hefty tome at 627 pages, this is partly because it was originally printed in a weekly magazine and I suppose the editor wanted so many words each week to fill the allotted space for it. You can down-load it in instalments if you want to go for the authentic Victorian experience and I think I might have preferred that, then you get the cliff-hangers which Collins wrote for the end of each piece. Also, I imagine that if you are waiting a week for the next instalment then you are bound to think about it more and try to guess which turn the story is going to take.

I did think whilst reading it that the Count Fosco – Sir Percival relationship was what the Victorians would have deemed to be ‘unnatural’. There was the constant repetition that Count Fosco had a strange power over Sir Percival and in my Penguin edition on page 214, Marian describes Sir Percival as having a mania for order and he is upset even by flower-blossoms which have fallen on the carpet.

I think that Victorian readers would have seen such behaviour as ‘womanish’ and definitely suspect in a man. Coupled with Count Fosco’s flamboyant clothes and Sir Percival’s assertion that there was no chance that Laura would be having any children, it does seem to add up to me, but nobody else seems to have noticed it so I might be going off at a mad tangent with that thought. However I see from the introduction which I have just read – I always keep that for last – that Oscar Wilde was given the nickname of Fosco when he was a student.

So, it’s very wordy with masses of description and doesn’t really have much in the way of humour in it. Mrs. Catherick is a tragic/comic figure in her determination to appear to be respectable, but I did enjoy reading it although I probably wouldn’t read it again.

I reviewed this book as part of the Thriller and Suspense Reading Challenge.