Confession time: I haven’t read many of the classics. I find them rather stodgy and slow. I appreciate that they are great works of art but I tend to find them less rewarding. I know this is a bad approach to have, especially from someone who loves to read and works in publishing, but I can’t help how I feel.
Then, I had a brilliant idea. Instead of reading them myself, why not listen to other people read them to me? And so it was that I found a version of Bram Stoker’s Dracula performed by Alan Cumming, Tim Curry and a whole star-studded cast on Audible. Suddenly, this daunting book, written entirely in letter and diary form, was less intimidating. I instantly fell in love with all of the characters. The actors had me gripped from the beginning and, all in all, they made bus journeys far more exciting.
Dracula is a slow brew. The tale begins with Jonathan Harker who visits the famous Count Dracula in Transylvania. He is greeted warmly and kept very well as a guest in the castle. However, things take a darker turn when Harker realises that his host has a very dark secret. Jonathan’s journal entries become hurried as he tries to escape what he now realises is a prison and a host who is a vampire. Left on a cliff-hanger, the story shifts to London.
There we meet three new characters; Dr Seward, Lucy and Mina (Jonathan’s girlfriend). Mina is worried about Jonathan’s lack of recent correspondence since visiting Dracula. She is also worried about Lucy. The girl is unusually pale and weak. Enter Dr. Seward who’s called in to consult on Lucy’s health. He is flummoxed by her condition and asks his colleague Professor Abraham Van Helsing to assist him.
The Character’s letters and diary entries slowly unfold as each comes to believe in Van Helsing’s theories of the undead and how they walk among us. It is a wonderful development. I could hear the change in their voice the moment they begin to believe that vampires may just be real.
Mina is the real hero of the story. She is the Hermione Granger (of Harry Potter) and mastermind of this adventure group. When the others take off in their various flights of fancy, she brings them back down to Earth. She uses the information collected by Dr. Seward and Van Helsing to develop a cohesive plan to destroy Dracula.
I found it interesting that a book written in 1897 would have such a woman focus. Popular culture had me believing that Van Helsing was the hero of this book. He is, after all, the one who gets all of the sequels and spinoffs. Dracula himself also gets a lot of attention and, it’s true, he is the most memorable of the characters - what with his undeniable class, velvet voice and unbelievable style. He deserves attention but I truly loved that the novel is lead by an unsung heroine.
Dr. Seward, Jonathan and especially Van Helsing are in awe of Mina. They know that she is utterly invaluable to them and the success of their mission. They marvel in her presence and desire to protect her at all costs. The audiobook portrays this perfectly as Alan Cumming (Dr. Seward) and Tim Curry (Van Helsing) carry such reverence in their voices when discussing Mina. I was utterly rapt by their performances.
I do not regret listening to Dracula rather than reading it. In fact, I think I enjoyed it more. Horror is even more compelling in audio form because the delicious sense of dread and fear is so well pronounced through tone of voice.
I dared not skip ahead in the audiobook (just to check if everyone was okay) like I easily do in a physical book. I loved that other-worldly captivation - especially with my noise-cancelling headphones. It sent wee chills down my spine.
I understand now why Bram Stoker’s Dracula has been deemed a classic. Kudos to you, Mr. Stoker! I have basked in your genius and added you to my historic persons dinner party list. I’m now fully prepared to pipe up and argue that Mina is the true heroine of Dracula. Move over Van Helsing. You didn’t deserve all of those movie sequels.