Bram Stoker’s Dracula is a book that every horror fan should read.
It’s a classic after all, and as a horror author I felt a slight bit of shame that I’d not read it before, but I’m glad that I rectified that with the Folio Society edition of the book because it is an experience I’ll never forget (for good and for bad).
This edition of Dracula is beautifully constructed, from the slipcase to the book’s cover and the gorgeous artwork that graced the pages throughout – everything that is added to the words lifts this book into something beautiful, something every collector needs to have. There are also small chapter-ending images that add another depth of class to the final product. Everything about this edition drips with the Gothic and the dark atmosphere the prose demands. This Gothic nature is furthered by the framing of the artwork with stunning borders as showcased below and above, each of these is painstakingly drawn and differs with each illustration, also containing small elements that are integral to the story at hand – each one is a masterpiece.
The story of Dracula is told through letters and diary entries, something I never knew until I started reading what most people class a masterpiece in Gothic writing. This tool of storytelling works really well as it pulls the reader into the unfolding drama of the page. With each correspondence, we are fed additional details or internal thoughts (monologues) of the characters frame of mind. These build delightfully and add a sense of tension to the proceedings, especially when the book reaches certain pinch points – the Count’s castle and the slow turning of one of our main characters from woman to un-dead and then to the growing hunt for Count Dracula in England.
The only issue I had with the book, and this might be because I have been tainted slightly by modern society and the various interpretations of Dracula in film and subsequent books etc. But I was hugely disappointed that Dracula wasn’t in the book as much as the title may suggest – he for me was more of a bit-part character, with the story focusing more on the other characters in this unravelling story – we learn of their fears, anxieties, their daily lives and tribulations.
So I felt very let down when I discovered that Count Dracula was only in the opening chapters and then only spoke about from time to time, that is until the story reaches its conclusion where he emerges once again. The disheartening part of the book was only furthered by the fact that I believe the books strongest elements were those that included Count Dracula when he was stage centre. The opening chapters in his castle were eerie and horrifying, haunting and chilling but there wasn’t enough of this that followed, and it felt as if Dracula had been culled and instead we got a glimpse of social life which I cared little for because all I wanted to do was get back to The Count who’d been masterfully introduced but who was soon stuffed in a box of dirt and did not to return for well over 200 pages.
But regardless of the issues I had with the book, I can see its place in the literary world as a classic horror novel – when I take into account the time it was written and the shakeup it would have caused it’s hard to imagine a more impactful novel at that time. This edition from Folio Society ensures that the reader gets the best version of the work possible, a beautifully rendered edition that showcases an eternal beauty in horror fiction and the macabre and haunting images that grace its pages also heighten the horror on the page at every turn.
Dracula is a great book that undeniably has its place in the horror world, but it also showcases how much horror has moved on over the years, but this book serves as a landmark in the shifting tide of horror, a stepping stone that has encouraged and inspired other writers to horrify readers for many years and will no doubt continue to do so!
The Folio Society edition of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, introduced by John Banville and illustrated by Angela Barrett, is available exclusively from https://www.foliosociety.com/
Bram Stoker (1847–1912) was born in Dublin and graduated from Trinity College with BA and MA degrees. After working as a theatre critic, he escaped the monotony of a career in the Irish Civil Service by accepting the job of manager of the Lyceum Theatre in London, which he ran for 27 years. Through the actor Henry Irving (who owned the Lyceum), Stoker became acquainted with leading artistic figures of the day, including Arthur Conan Doyle, and he also travelled widely with Irving, for many years spending summer holidays on the Aberdeenshire coast, where he would concentrate on writing. Dracula was his fifth novel, and it was to have an impact and an enduring appeal its author could never have foreseen. Inspired by a visit to the Yorkshire coastal town of Whitby and Stoker’s research into Central European folklore, the novel reinvigorated the genre of horror literature and has inspired countless adaptations in film and other media. Bram Stoker died at his home in St George’s Square, Pimlico, in 1912.
Angela Barrett is a writer and illustrator – using watercolour, gouache, coloured pencils and ink – who studied at Maidstone College of Art and the Royal College of Art. She has illustrated a number of picture books and children’s novels, and is particularly well known for her work on fairy tales. One of Britain’s most respected illustrators of children’s books, she is the winner of a WH Smith Illustration Award and a Smarties Prize, and has been shortlisted for the Kate Greenaway Medal. Barrett has taught illustration at Cambridge College of Technology and drawing at Chelsea College of Arts.
Reviewed by Ross Jeffery
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