Wednesday, 28 October 2020


             Dacre Stoker's great, great uncle was Bram Stoker. I suppose it could be said that my great, great uncle was Genghis Khan (a faux claim to a lineage a large part of the known world can apparently make in ways which are in no way apparent to me. I exaggerate off course. Or do I? What secrets would a DNA test reveal? Where am I rambling with this...) It may well account for why Dacre stoker writes so authoratively and confidently about the subject matter his great,great uncle made immortal, in print anyway. by that reckoning at least, Bram stoker was a great uncle of more than one sort or another.
              "it is believed that the strongest of them can assume any form, be it bat, wolf,
              a swirling mist, even human. they can appear young, old, or any age between.
              some can manipulate the elements, producing fog, storms, crashing thunder. 
              Their motives remain unknown, but one thing is clear, they leave a trail of death
               in their wake, thinking no more of a human life than we would a fly..."
Although Mr Renfeild from the original novel might feel differently about that given his taste for flies and spiders.
              Dracul is an old school gothic novel , with a story assembled from a series of journals, letters and notebooks. In much the same way bram stoker's original was. This lends the current novel an equal level of authenticity. Well, as much as can be credited to a novel about the undead.
              Style wise i think the book leans more towards Sheridan Le Fanu than Bram Stoker, although that said it may be that I am just more familiar with Le Fanu than Stoker, having absorbed more of his output. Dracula was considered, and probably still is, considered quite a swarthy tale in its day. It boils with undercurrents of the then prevailing class attitudes and it bubbles with all manner of repressed sexuality. Dracul, feels to me, more like Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu than it does the work of Dacre's great, great uncle. I was even reminded of more recent fare, a story called Dorabella, written by Robert Muller, for the television series produced by the BBC in 1977 called Supernatural. Ellen Crone, the spooky nanny at the center of events in Dracul reminded me very much of Dorabella, perhaps the attended the same vampiric girl's finishing schools where they all slept in wormy beds of dark soil. 
             Dacre Stoker writes the Stoker siblings as quite odd ball. He understands that though brothers and sisters might share the same dinner table, they may well be bonded in few other ways. In life we can pick and choose our enemies, our friends and our lovers, but we cannot pick who we are related to.the young Bram Stoker was a sickly child, in this narrative mostly confined to bed in a house shared with his parents and his siblings. The famine in Ireland has by this time cost the lives of thousands and starvation and misery abound.The Stoker family are better off than many of their countrymen and see it as their Christian duty to help feed as many others as they can. Into their lives comes the nanny Ellen Crone, a live in nursemaid for the sickly Bram, one who's power and influence over her charges and the lives of The Stokers grows in mysterious ways. When Ellen uses her undefined healing gifts  to seemingly pull young Bram from the very brink of death, she cements her position within the Dublin household. Until one dramatic night when strange things occur and she vanishes from their lives for years, reappearing as they reach young adulthood, and once more she inveigles her way into their lives. During it all we see the many threads which bind this prequel to the work it will become. All the "secret" origins all everyone from Mina harker to Van Helsing are touched upon here and its not too meta to watch them evolve into what shall become tropes for the whole genre.
             Its heady stuff, a mix of biography and dark Gothic romance.
             A perfectly distilled concoction for this time of year, an October vintage.