Allie's Reviews > Dracula, My Love: The Secret Journals of Mina Harker

Dracula, My Love by Syrie James
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's review
Jul 25, 2010

really liked it
Read in July, 2010

Based on Bram Stoker's Dracula, the "original" vampire novel, Dracula, My Love tells Mina Harker's side of this famous story. But while Stoker's tale presents Dracula as someone to be feared and loathed, Dracula, My Love presents a more humanized Count Dracula, one with a conscience and deep feelings of sadness, remorse, and love. I enjoyed the clever way James fills in the blanks left from Stoker's story. Her thoughtful and well-imagined explanations for Dracula's seemingly brutal acts fit right in with the rest of the book and made perfect sense to me. The author also makes use of the popular Victorian trend of diary-keeping to explain much of the story as it happens, for each of the main characters keeps a diary at some point throughout the book.

There were aspects of this book that reminded me of another classic tale: Beauty and the Beast, where the Beast is not truly a monster underneath his evil appearance, but rather a misunderstood figure of legend. Outsiders only think they comprehend this complex creature, and tremble at the folkloric tales of his mythical existence. As one strange incident after another transpires, the entourage of men who seek to exterminate Dracula convince themselves of the worst, thinking him to be the most vile of all creatures. In actuality, he is entirely different from the imaginary being that fear has helped conjure in the minds of those privy to his existence. The famous quotation by Roosevelt comes to mind: "We have nothing to fear but fear itself."

All that Dracula truly desires is to spend the rest of his life with his love, but alas, the Beauty of his desire is a mortal and he cannot fully possess her. Something that annoyed me a little bit was how faithless Mina could be at times. Although she claimed to love Dracula, she could be so easily swayed. I guess she was torn up emotionally; she was, after all, in love with two men who were enemies, and her guilty conscience could explain why she was so hot and cold. But there were times when Mina considered what it might be like to live forever in immortality with Dracula...yet how could she come to such a conclusion after so little time in his presence getting to know him? It would be like someone in today's times getting engaged to be married after only knowing someone for a summer (hey, it happens), but instead they would be entering into a marriage that would last for all eternity. I suppose what I'm getting at is that I would've liked to have seen more of a courtship take place before Mina even considered the possibility of becoming his vampire bride one day.

One of the historical themes explored in this book is the Victorian view of decorum. There were times throughout the book when Mina would scold herself for acting in a certain way (for example, walking in a public space in broad daylight with a man who was neither her relative nor her betrothed) because such an action would be deemed unfit by the standards of the time. Mina is expected to give up her occupation as a teacher immediately after she is wed, despite the fact that they have little money between them and that Mina quite enjoys employment as a teacher. This was something which Dracula, a man over 300 years old, could not quite wrap his head around. So, while sometimes it is true that the earlier we go back in history, the more stringent propriety rules become, the Victorian age was an anomaly in this regard. While things were progressing immensely in terms of science and medicine, social manners were not modernizing along with the times and were in fact becoming even more rigid. While some may attribute this to Queen Victoria herself, most historians seem to think that it was in fact her consort Albert who encouraged this stricter manner of behavior. One reference I found delightfully entertaining was where Mina explains that dancing The Waltz with a man who was not one's husband had been considered totally risque in years past...until Victoria danced the Waltz with Albert before they were wed in full view of the royal court. This was big news back then! As the young queen had deemed the Waltz appropriate, social protocol was altered and dancing the Waltz out of wedlock deemed permissible.

I didn't love the ending of the book. I like how it differed from the original Dracula and offered a slightly altered ending (I won't say'll have to read the book for that!), but again, Mina's indecisive naiveté grated on me by the end. However, I will say that the writing is charming, breezy, and easy to follow, and James has quite perfected the art of the cliffhanger. I had never read any of Syrie James's books before but now look forward to exploring her earlier works as well as reading her next novel when it is available.
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