Author(s): Bram Stoker
'Alone with the dead! I dare not go out, for I can hear the low howl of the wolf through the broken window'. A chilling masterpiece of the horror genre, "Dracula" also illuminated dark corners of Victorian sexuality. When Jonathan Harker visits Transylvania to advise Count Dracula on a London home, he makes a horrifying discovery. Soon afterwards, a number of disturbing incidents unfold in England: an unmanned ship is wrecked at Whitby; strange puncture marks appear on a young woman's neck; and the inmate of a lunatic asylum raves about the arrival of his 'Master', while a determined group of adversaries prepares to face the terrifying Count. This is the Penguin English Library - 100 editions of the best fiction in English, from the eighteenth century and the very first novels to the beginning of the First World War.
This was a great classic read and one that really got me thinking. I enjoyed the different narrative viewpoints, especially the fact that parts of the story were narrated by female characters. I also appreciated how darkly gothic this was. This being one of the first vampire novels, and probably the most famous, it was interesting to consider how the genre (or subgenre) has developed since Stoker’s time. In Dracula we never doubt that the vampire is the villain and there are strong religious and moral themes to back this up. Today’s vampires are much more romanticised and alarmingly sympathetic, especially considering the horribly murderous things that they do. Religion has largely been taken out of the equation, for better or for worse. While I don’t enjoy long Victorian moralising passages on female sexuality, let us not forget that 50 Shades of Grey is 'Twilight' fanfiction. That’s another rant, but vampires have long been associated with abusive relationships and I think it’s worth understanding their context. I know that I tend to put a feminist spin on everything, but there’s an interesting discussion to be had here about vampirism, danger and sexuality. At the end of the day what I’m trying to say is that you should read Dracula (if you haven’t already) because it’s both a great story and a key text in understanding modern popular culture. - Holly
Abraham 'Bram' Stoker (1847 - 1912) was a sickly child, unable to stand until he was seven years old, and spent the majority of his childhood reading before defying the odds by becoming a champion athlete at Trinity College, Dublin. Starting his career as an Irish civil servant, his love of theatre led him to become an unpaid drama critic for the Dublin Mail and later manager and secretary for the famous actor Sir Henry Irving. He also wrote a dozen books, of which Dracula (1897) is without doubt the most famous. An immediate bestseller in Victorian England, Stoker's masterpiece of the macabre has remained popular ever since, as testified by the countless film adaptations of the novel.