Adventures in Reading

R.I.P. Challenge: Dracula by Bram Stoker
October 3, 2008, 1:14 pm
Filed under: book reviews, fiction | Tags: , , , , ,

In Leonard Wolf’s introduction of the 100th anniversary of Dracula, he explores the sensation that is Dracula. Though only a century old, Dracula is a tale that seems much older and a story that has seeped into public unconsciousness like any well-known myth or allegory. Dracula is erotically dark and violent, passionate and frightening, sexual yet repulsive.

Told in an epistolary style, Bram Stoker’s story unfolds through letters, journals, newspaper clippings, phonograph recordings, and telegrams. Rather than a solitary narrator, nearly every character within Dracula is allowed a passage to develop the story. Plot wise, and one I’m sure most people are familiar with, the young Englishman Johnathan Harker heads to Transylvania as he has been hired via a firm by Count Dracula. After a terrifying forced visit at the Count’s castle, he returns home only to find that the Count has beat him to England’s shores. The Count proceeds to terrorize the two female characters in the story while the male cast comes to term and plot to defeat the vampire.

Wolf points out that one of the intrigues of this novel, one reason why it is so easy to become fascinated is because Stoker quite deceptively provides his reader with a monolith of complex material and themes: sex, tradition, modernity, science, medicine, folklore, myth, horror, good versus evil, sex. You can read Dracula for the blood tingling gothic horror it is or you can easily spend your time delving into the multitude of layers.

My only real criticism: there is some cyclical repetitions throughout the book (like the men giving blood to Lucy) that become rather repetitive. Personally, I could have done without the American Quincey entirely. But that’s really besides the point, it’s a sensational book and was a perfect novel to read for the R.I.P. Challenge!

Conclusion: Keeper.

Other opinions: Book Nut, Bookworm, 1morechapter, Becky’s Book Reviews, Dreaming Out Loud, Here, There, and Everywhere, and Reading Matters.


Revisited Reviews: Woman of Independent Means by Elizabeth Forsythe Hailey

The first time I read Elizabeth Forsythe Hailey’s A Woman of Independent Means I was a sophomore in high school and read it with other members of a book club. At the time I greatly enjoyed the book. Trying to relax my brain from schoolwork I picked it up again the other afternoon but found the book a bit more problematic on the second reading. Hailey wanted to write a book about a woman finding her independence and as her husband assured her that a woman going out to find her independence was a dried up story line, he encouraged her to write a book about a woman finding her independence within a domestic setting. The book is largely based off of her grandmother, in epistolary format, and takes place from 1899 to 1968.

If A Woman of Independent Means is meant to achieve an understanding of a woman in a domestic setting and her independence I fear it fails greatly. The main character Elizabeth has two marriages, which both are largely unhappy and the only money she has is a result of her mother’s death and the fact that another man made financial decisions for her even though they were against her wishes. She does travel abroad a lot, which seems to imply that a woman cannot find independence within a domestic setting. She has three children who in later life reject her for smothering them (though amends are made before she dies) and she never really seems to do anything. An interesting read but quite the damming story of the domestic experience.

I’m still confused at the intentions of this book expressed in the author’s forward and the story produced by the end of the book. Can women find independence in a domestic setting? It’s a great question and Hailey, or at least her husband, believes it can work out. But Elizabeth, the character, only seems to discover dependency on her parents, the men in her life, and her children. An interesting contrast to this is the sister who takes in and raises the main character of Allende’s Daughter of Fortune – a woman who anonymously publishes erotica and leads the social influence of her group.

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