I've been watching Mark Gatiss's History of horror on BBC4, and this prompted me to re-read Bram Stoker's Dracula. I originally read Dracula and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein back-to-back some years ago. I loved Frankenstein, but at the time was less enthusiastic about Dracula, so it was about time to re-visit it.

I was surprised what a good novel it is. It's told in the form of diaries and correspondence, so although it is told in flash-back, there is a great feeling of immediacy to the work. The other advantage of this method of telling the story is that there can be clear insight into the minds of five of the principal characters. There are also two very feisty heroines, one of whom (Mina Harker), the chaps are gallantly trying to treat like the Victorian little woman, but who resolutely refuses to take a back seat. It's a great Gothic novel told right at the turn of the nineteenth/twentieth century. Like Frankenstein there's a great delight in technology, but also an admission that man is not always as in control as he would like to be.

As a horror novel, it is probably not as shocking now as it would have been when it was first published - although I can imagine how shocked Victorian sensibilities would have been, certainly by the sexual element. it is however a well told tale, which has certainly been highly influential in many a later horror story. It was the inspiration for Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian (highly recommended), which is told in a similar fashion to Dracula, and clearly takes it as its inspiration. Dracula is a must-read, whether you're a fan of classic novels, horror novels, or even horror films - you just can't imagine modern horror without it.


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