This is one of those odd situations where you're sure you've read a book but it turns out you haven't. I must have been confusing film with book that's all I can say but I quickly realised as I was reading that I certainly had *not* read Dracula before. Hardly anything about it was familiar and I think that's because it's written in diary form and thus, to my mind anyway, is quite unlike any of the movies.
The story begins as Jonathan Harker, representing his Exeter firm of solicitors, is on the way to Transylvania for a meeting with Count Dracula. His subsequent experiences scar him for life and he's lucky to escape with said life intact. In the meantime the count has set off for England with his boxes of native earth in tow. Harker's fiancé, Mina, is in Whitby with her friend, Lucy, when the count's ship lands up there with all hands dead. Lucy has a deadly encounter with Dracula in the churchyard and thus begins her decline. Dr. Van Helsing from Holland is called in to help and joins forces with Lucy's fiancé, Lord Godalming, Dr. Seward, a doctor in mental health, Quincy Morris, a friend, Mina herself and Jonathan on his eventual return from Europe. Together they hatch various plans to ensnare the clever and evasive count and there are many twists and turns before they finally have to pursue him back to Transylvania.
I was really quite surprised at how much I enjoyed this one. It was creepy, full of suspense and beautifully written. There were times, I have to admit, when I thought, 'How can they be that stupid?' But many books rely on the stupidity of its characters, so that's okay... there would be no stories if everyone used their common sense. I very much liked the 'diary' format of the book, I think it was used a fair bit back then (late 1800s) in supernatural writing - not so much now perhaps. It enables you to get the story from many points of view in a way that works very well and Stoker gets the voices right, imo - even down to Van Helsing's not quite correct English. The blood transfusions made me smile. I've no idea when the medical profession started doing those but I'm thinking that in 1897 they didn't know about different blood types! But, small nit-picks aside, this is such a good read and I honestly have no idea why I never bothered to read it before.
I feel fully prepared now to read Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian, looking forward to it in fact and intrigued as to how it connects to the events or people in Dracula.