Once again, I find myself looking at all the 5-star reviews a 'classic' has gained and wondering why? I've realized that when it comes to classics, I'm like those people who don't 'get' The Beatles and wonder why everyone else in the world screams & swoons over them. (Disclaimer: Of course I absolutely adore The Beatles, but now I get how those odd, random non-fans feel.) I should also share that since I am actively working on one epistolary novel with a vampire character and have an idea for a different vampire-centric novel, I was especially interested in this most famous, defining, & beloved vampire novel. I took mental notes. I paid extra attention. I still came away with an overwhelming feeling of Meh.
The first half of the novel just dragged on so very slowly for me. I mean, it took me a full month to read this book, and the last half (where it finally picked up for me) in only two or three days. It just didn't hook me at all, and had I not already known of its infamy and had active reasons to study the novel, I probably wouldn't have even bothered finishing it. The setting was described well and fully conveyed the imposing, gothic enigma of a castle; I have a personal soft-spot for epistolaries; I've been studying vampires and wanted to learn all I could about the original novel & movie sources; questions were brought up to which I really wanted answers.
But it was a surprising bore. The pacing was too slow, the male characters all sounded the same unless steeped in stereotyped dialects &/or clichés (similarly, everyone described Dracula/Lucy/Mina using the exact same terms), it was heavy-handed with sexism (I give a reluctant 'pass' for the time frame and the strength that the character Mina was written with, “man-brain” and all -cringe-). For me, it finally picked up once people actually started being victimized/dying, and that was really the highlight of the whole thing. And really, it was more the descriptions of the vampiric feeding on others, or what they looked like at various times, that were the stand-outs of the book.
Towards the end, a lot of tension is built up and just...goes absolutely nowhere. I'm trying to recall if I've ever read a book with so much lead-up and so little follow-through. How to avoid spoilers? Tension...tension...tension...look at all this foreshadowing...overwhelming evil & strength...just kidding, let's go home.
Two stars given for endurance and sparking a huge and awesome genre, and an extra star given for the vivid descriptions and well-done epistolary timeline. IMO, that's pretty generous.