Author: Syrie James
Title: Dracula my love: the secret journals of Mina Harker
Publisher: Avon A
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My rating: 3 of 5 stars
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.
The book starts with a prologue that gives the whole novel a flashback perspective, so, unfortunately, we know from the first lines how the tale is going to end. I had picked it up hoping to see Stoker's Dracula redeemed, so it was not exactly the most gripping way to open the narrative, but still I decided to give it a chance.
I must confess that Syrie James must have done it right, because by the end of the text I was almost sure that I would get my happy ending. The writing was very much on par with the original in style and vocabulary. The descriptions were detailed and full of a vivid imagery. And still, somehow, I can't say that this is a book I would recommend.
Let's go step by step:
Her Dracula is, perhaps as today's trends dictate, a handsome and fascinating fellow with a keen mind and an interest in progress and culture. He is more intelligent and educated than Stoker's Dracula gave him any chance to be, and he offers his own explanation to every event detailed in the original book so that the reader is left wondering who is the monstrous hunter in truth: the vampire, who has fallen hopelessly in love, or Van Helsing and his obsession to destroy something he does not even understand.
The way James presents this dilemma, turning Dracula into an individual without freeing him entirely of the demonic traits we see in Stoker's novel, is nothing short of masterful. The hope to read something like this made me choose the book, persevere through the first pages, turn page after page till the very end.
Unfortunately, I felt like Mina was not up to the task of being the companion of such a passionate, fascinating being. She carries the burden of telling the story through her journal entries, and while it is true that the author has some remarkable experience writing in the corresponding historical period, I found the dialogue to be forced and the prose much too rich and flamboyant for a diary. I am in love with Jane Austin's novels, for example, but Mina read over the top when compared with Austin's heroines.
The same can be pointed out about the moral system: Mina's is so rigid that, even taking into account the time period, I could not relate to her and her dilemma. The book didn't provide us with enough reasons, beyond Mina's own assertion, for her to love her betrothed and husband and so the endlessly dragging anguish of talking to the one when she should save herself for the other does not translate well for the reader.
When she finally makes a decision, though, the action does pick up and the book improves drastically, making us forget what we know about the ending and about the original Dracula and cheer them on every step of the way.
It was a pity that this perfect woman who was so scared of society's rules should become an action heroine towards the end, finishing the story in a way that, even though compliant with Stoker's events, pulls a whole new twist that was unnecessary in my humble opinion.
Between one point and the other, during the long agony that is indecision, there are a couple of plots that might or might not be of interest for the reader: James takes the chance to explain Mina's origins and the tale of how Dracula came to be. I would have liked them, specially the latter, if she had not written that blond, pale Mina had an ancestry which was genetically impossible with such coloration and if a character from the Bible had not been mentioned in a remarkably non-crucial point to explain away what Dracula had done with the first three hundred years or so of immortality.
All in all: an interesting take on the archetype of all vampires that should be enjoyable if the reader looks past the aforementioned issues.