Have you ever read Dracula by Bram Stoker? For some, it is perhaps one of the best examples of classic gothic literature ever written and if this is a genre that appeals, then Dracul, the prequel to Dracula, written in part by Dacre Stoker, the great grand nephew of the famous author, is a novel to add to your ‘To Be Read’ pile.
Drawing on both the notes left behind by Bram Stoker himself and family history, Dracul, is said to be, on the whole, rooted in truth.
The novel begins with us finding out more about the sickly child that Bram once was. Living in Clontarf, Ireland, Stoker was bedridden and close to death; stricken by an illness that no doctor was able to truly diagnose. Yet, here he is years later, at the grand age of 22 locked in an abbey tower protecting those he cares about from a vile, ungodly being.
How is such a thing possible?
Dracul is a dramatic, and at times terrifying, story of Bram’s early life. Through the pages of this epic tale we find out more about the Stoker family – his parents and two of his siblings – Thornley and Matilda – and the mystifying nanny, Ellen Crone.
The reader is also introduced to Dracula for the first time, and we begin to understand exactly how this monster came into being. Or rather, how this vampire turned into a bitter, twisted and callous member of the un-dead.
Recording what he witnessed in his diary, Bram unravels the extraordinary story of what the Stoker family believe was not meant to serve as a purely fictional fable but as a real warning of the true evils inflicting the human race.
Written in three parts, the reader jumps from the reflections of Bram’s childhood, where we learn more about Ellen Crone and the grisly discovers made by himself and his sister Matilda at both their family home and at Artane Tower to a period in Stoker history where Ellen Crone was absent and the children were able to live, what they believed was a normal life. The last part however, as with any good horror novel, reveals the heinous monster Dracula to the reader. Slowly he draws out the one he seeks by using the Stoker siblings as bait. It is at this point that you realise the family’s fate was always going to be stricken with this curse; it was inevitable that they would be drawn back to the haunting world they discovered as children.
Fighting the un-dead and protecting the living may not be a natural act for most but for the Stoker children they seem to fall into the role quite naturally and without too much provocation. In fact, from a reader’s perspective it seems like they do not challenge this abstract concept of life at all, instead taking this emergence of the inhuman as an ordinary, almost everyday occurrence without too much fight.
Would I recommend Dracul?
If you are an avid Dracula fan you may have felt that the beginning lacked a bit of scene setting. That’s not to say that Dracula is not a fantastic novel, I am simply highlighting that when the original manuscript was published back in 1897 the first 101 pages had been cut from the finished publication. Dracul fills that space. It is the scene setting for the big event to come.
When reading Dracul as a fictional work there is very little to question, but when you reflect and think about the fact that the Bram Stoker insisted that his work was not make-believe, I can’t help but query elements of the story. Surely, even back in the 1800s, if something sinister was happening so close to home you would demand answers. You would not, I hope, walk so blindly into the firing line without first questioning whether you have lost your own sanity.
This thought aside however, Dacre Stoker and J.D. Barker have created an elaborate and ambitious modern gothic novel. It is hard not to like this doorstop of a novel and while in places I did feel that the narrative slowed and lost pace, prolonging the lengthier chapters perhaps slightly too long, it is still an extravagant novel worth reading.
Have you read Dracul? Perhaps you are an avid gothic reader and would like to recommend some other great novels to us. After all, we are always looking for books to add to our ever growing reading list.
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