Sunday, October 2, 2011

Dracula My Love: The Secret Journals of Mina Harker by Syrie James

Rating: ★ ★ ★  ☆
Obtained from: Local Library 
Read: Sept. 23, 2011 

Many have read and loved Bram Stoker’s Dracula. But questions remain. What is the true story of Dracula’s origin? What if Mina could not bring herself to record the true story of their scandalous affair—until now? In Dracula, My Love: The Secret Journals of Mina Harker, Syrie James explores these questions and more. A vibrant dramatization, told from Mina’s point of view, brings to life the crucial parts of Stoker’s story while showcasing Mina’s sexual awakening and evolution as a woman, and revealing a secret that could destroy her life. Torn between two men—a loving husband and a dangerous lover—Mina struggles to hang on to the deep love she’s found within her marriage, even as she is inexorably drawn to Dracula himself—the vampire that everyone she knows is determined to destroy.

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Bram Stoker's masterpiece is one of my favorite classics. Lucy and Mina are the quintessential embodiment of Victorian chastity, purity and virtue. Stoker's Dracula is especially evil as he seeks to corrupt these women, seducing them and thus corrupting their innocence. They play an essential role in Stoker's work but for all that, they are victims of shallow characterization, necessary personalities in a fundamentally masculine novel.  

James' story beautifully remedies the situation. Dracula, My Love is a fleshed out re-telling of the story from Mina's perspective, something I don't imagine to have been easy as Stoker wrote little of her character in the original. According to Dr. Abraham Van Helsing, "[Mina] has a man's brain - a brain that a man should have were he much gifted - and a woman's heart." I was frustrated with the inconsistencies in Mina's character but for the most part, I was really impressed with what James was able to do.

Mina is deeply in love with Jonathan but like a moth drawn to the flame, she finds herself attracted to the darkly sensual Dracula. One represents a pure, innocent affection. The other, a dangerously passionate seductiveness. Mina finds herself caught between two very different men and questioning the very nature of love. Very similar to the situation Christine Daae faces with the Phantom and Raoul in Gaston Leroux's Phantom of the Opera, but intriguing just the same.

The plot revolves around this conflict of the heart which is why I was concerned by the lack of connection between Mina and Jonathan. James spent a lot of time revamping Dracula's character but I don't think she gave Jonathan the same amount of attention. Dracula is dark and interesting where Johnathan is conventional and drab. Mina's character grappled with her indecision but for the life of me I couldn't understand why. Johnathan's inattention and disregard for his wife turned me off almost from the beginning. James' story could have been much more convincing if she extended the same amount of consideration to both of her leading men.

Characterization issues aside, Dracula, My Love is a wonderfully engaging read that breathes new life into Stoker's well known tale. Recommended to fans of Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian.

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Oh! Why must I dream of him? What treacherous thing the subconscious mind was! Such dreams and imaginings, I believed, were as much a betrayal of my marriage vows as any physical act. And yet, I found myself in the dark for several shameful minutes savoring the imagined memory of his embrace...
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