Author: Karen Essex
Never mind Dracula in Love, I think I’m in love. My love affair with vampires began as a young teen with Bram Stoker’s classic Dracula and throughout the years since this introduction I have found many vampire tales; none have ever touched me in quite the same way as Stoker’s classic.
Dracula in Love is Mina Murray’s tale of events and as I am reading it I can hear Mina’s voice in my head; spoken by Winona Ryder as voiced in the movie adaptation of Dracula. I’m less than 100 pages in and it was definitely love at first glance.
Karen Essex has turned back the clock and returned to the 1890’s, this book has the same feel to it as Dracula which really is quite a mammoth feat. There have been many people attempt to tackle a sequel or a different perspective to the classics, I can think of quite a few that I’ve read, and for the most part they feel different.
The characters look a little different in your head or the voices feel a little different; there is always something that demonstrates that it came from someone else’s imagination. Not so here, Karen Essex has captured the spirit of Mina and her 1890’s England and pens her story well.
Dracula In Love is an extremely well written tale, it captures the essence of Mina as she survives in my imagination from my introduction to her in Stoker’s Dracula. Having said that, it is also a totally new side of Mina that we have never seen before. This strips back some of the pious demeanour so ingrained in her to show a much less innocent and less naive aspect of her character. Essex has shown us a stronger side of Mina, a more wordly Mina.
The Author’s Note at the end of the book gives some insight to Essex’s mindset about this novel. It’s only 2 pages but it’s a very informative 2 pages that answers quite a few questions. Dracula In Love differs from Dracula in some very basic yet important details, Mina explains some of this quite concisely in the Prologue. In the Author’s Note Essex gives us a bit of insight as to why she changed these details.
Mina finds herself unhappy with the way her private life was twisted, rewritten and sold for money by a man who collects tales of the macabre to dress up as fiction and entertain people in the late 19th Century. Six years after the events in Dracula she decides to set the record straight and tell her story, keeping the fictitious names the author has given the characters to retain the flow and ensure readers do not become confused trying to keep them straight.
This is a style I quite like, she’s saying: Yes I know this story has been told before but it wasn’t told completely and it’s MY story so here I am to tell it right. Even better is the ironic paragraph at the end that wonders aloud what will become of the fictional account after it failed to sell well or receive critical acclaim. Stoker’s Dracula is still one of the best known vampires ever dreamt into existence.
The places Dracula In Love diverges from the path so well trodden in Dracula are what make this novel so fresh, it was a compulsive page turner. The characters are familiar and yet they have never been seen like this. Their essence has remained pure though their characteristics have become baser, their behaviour has become less of the pious 19th century gentlefolk.
“My fond hope is that both readers and the eternal essence of Mr. Stoker, whom I revere for his ingenious work, will take the book in the spirit of fun and adventure in which it was written” is how Karen Essex closes her Author’s Note at the end of Dracula In Love. I think this encapsulates this body of work quite well.
It was fun and exciting to see the story through these eyes and the changes were an adventure into un-chartered territory for these characters. It is a much more graphically sensual and erotic tale with these scenes clearly described rather than insinuated.
What looked to me like a new perspective on an old classic in the beginning turned out to be a new imagining which captured the essence of the original and didn’t leave me with a bad taste in my mouth.