Mina Harker, disappointed — “Dracula, my Love” by Syrie James
Syrie James’ “Dracula, My Love” is that kind of book. This is incredibly unfortunate because the central idea – Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” told from Mina Harker’s point of view – is absolutely killer. Stoker didn’t pay much heed to his female characters, and despite her importance in the plot, Mina is relegated to subordinate femininity for much of the novel. Though he pays her the compliment of saying she “has a man’s brain,” she spends much of the novel typing and standing by the sidelines.
In “Dracula, my love,” we get a feminine touch to this classic and epic tale of vampire horror.
Our heroine, Mina Murray (engaged from the start to Johnathan Harker, already off to Transylvania) goes on holiday with her friend Lucy Westenra. There, she meets a mysterious and handsome man, Mr. Wagner. Even as passionate and naughty feelings begin, Mina struggles with her pure and innocent love for Johnathan. (This Mina is a little cloying in her perfect-ness. She’s beautiful and innocent and an upstanding woman, we get it. We’re reminded constantly.)
Meanwhile, in the world around Mina, stuff is happening.
Lucy begins sleepwalking. Johnathan seems to have vanished. People are showing up dead. Things spin around, la-di-da, and Van Helsing has arrived, with the rest of the Stoker suitors in tow, and Lucy – who has become a vampire – has been staked and decapitated.
From there, events unfold as they do in the original novel.
However, there’s one BIG change.
And it’s the horribly disappointing part.
Anyone who knows anything about Dracula knows that an important thing in Dracula lore is that he is evil. As sexy or appealing as he might be, he’s an evil dude. (It doesn’t matter if Gary Oldman is playing him in a movie version, he’s still evil.) He is an evil, old, vampire. Done and done.
Be forewarned: I’m going to spoil stuff from this point forward:
Yeah, he’s not evil here.
This Dracula isn’t Vlad the Impaler, the stuff of legends.
No, no. – He’s the NICER BROTHER of that infamous vampire. I’m not kidding. (Total let-down. For some two hundred pages I read in eager excitement to see how James would justify Mina’s falling in love with a vicious centuries-old vampire, only to pull the “oh, thats not me, it was my brother” card?) All the excitement of Mina falling for a monster is instantly erased and the threat considerably lowers, thereby taking the suspense with it. It’s the literary equivalent of an epic fail, and from there I lost all interest in the book. Even an attempt to bring back the suspense by having Dracula try and keep Mina with him because – gasp, she’s pregnant – doesn’t restore the drama.
When a novel containing characters like these is disappointing, it’s a shame.
And that, my friends, is a waste of time. Le sigh.
(However, there’s hope: James isn’t the only author to attempt the “Let’s make Mina the storyteller” idea. Karen Essex has done the same thing in her book, “Dracula in Love” which I’m absolutely going to read just to see how the two compare.)