If when you read Dracula by Bram Stoker you wished you could get into the head of one of the characters and get an intimate first-person account, then you’re in luck. Dracula, My Love is a revisionist novel that retells Stoker’s novel from the point of view of Mina Harker (neé Murray). The author, Syrie James, is no stranger to this subset of the historical fiction subgenre, having produced such novels as The Lost Memoirs of Charlotte Brontë and The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen. Through beautifully written prose, she tackles the chain of events in Dracula from Mina’s mind and presents what happened in a highly defined manner that gives new context to the original.
Thankfully, it’s not told in the epistolary format, through diary entries, or through newspaper clippings. Instead, the reader gets Mina’s recollections after the fact. Although there are some changes and additions to Mina and to her history, as well as the sequence of events, James hasn’t made too many departures from Stoker’s tale and she has, for the most part, lent a sense of discovery that fans will gobble up. She presents a fresh new look that considers many different angles.
Lucy’s sleepwalking problems are more drawn out in this novel, and a focal point of the plot. But if you’re expecting a lesbian makeout scene a la Francis Ford Coppola’s 1993 interpretation of Dracula, you won’t find it in this book.
When Dracula shows up, the intensity amps up — Mina is headed for trouble right from the start. James’ novel has a rich Gothic romance flavor and Mina is not so dismissive of the Count, who introduces himself as Mr. Wagner, an Austrian. James’ Mina knows her attraction to Dracula is wrong, because she’s engaged to be married to Jonathan Harker, but the novel becomes a race to see when she will eventually succumb to the desires that have overtaken her.
The style is refreshing, because it isn’t stilted or antiquated but remains true to the speech of the time. What’s also good is that James deviates from some traditional plot points and the chronology of Stoker’s novel. In doing so, she evokes pathos for Mina by establishing that she doesn’t know that Dracula and Mr. Wagner are the same creature, and she’s actually not that into Jonathan Harker — she respects him and is grateful for his kindness, but she doesn’t really have the hots for him the way that she does for Dracula. This Mina is, although still innocent, not as naive as Stoker’s Mina, a welcome change.
James also delves into a plotline that revolves around Mina discovering the truth about her parents. She was handed to an orphanage as a baby and never found out who her real parents were, something she discovers in this novel. She also met Jonathan at the orphanage and they fell in love later in life.
However, for fans of Van Helsing, he definitely has a role in this book but it’s underscored because of the focus on Mina — something I didn’t mind. Jonathan is pretty much the same as his portrayal in Stoker’s novel, but with a few more moments of tenderness. And as for Dracula himself, he’s not a one-dimensional cardboard cut-out villain. Although Coppola managed to make him come off as more sympathetic, James has outdone him. Her Dracula is incredibly more charismatic. He doesn’t want to make more vampires, nor does he want to take over England. He has traveled this far to be with Mina, because he believes her to be his soulmate and wants to be with her forever, but he’s also an adept liar with the ability to make his claims seem like the truth. When Mina finds out that Dracula kept all the letters that Jonathan tried to send to her, and that he left Jonathan for dead in Transylvania, she reacts with fury. But Dracula didn’t survive for hundreds of years without learning how to charm the pants off of pretty much everyone.
In this version, James tries to prove that Mina loves Dracula out of her own will, she hasn’t been hypnotized or fooled, and although the largest pull to him is based on desire and a physical attraction, they share a strong mental connection. Still, Mina is no dummy and she knows that Dracula is playing her. The author puts forth the idea that Dracula wasn’t actually Vlad the Impaler but rather one of his brothers was. Dracula is still a Transylvanian prince in this version, and the three vampire women in his castle turn out to be his sisters. Apparently, King Solomon was the originator of vampires, as well.
A great, entertaining read with a satisfying conclusion, James has repainted Dracula as a fully fleshed out character with a complex set of motivations and driving factors as well as a rich backstory in Dracula, My Love. James has answered the questions that fans of Dracula have had for many years. It’s a romance novel at heart, but Stoker fans will definitely enjoy the added perspective of telling the tale from a fresh angle. Well worth the read.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
*Note, there’s a discount version of the novel available for only $6 right now.