Book Review: Dracula, My Love by Syrie James

Dracula, My Love: The Secret Journals of Mina HarkerDracula, My Love: The Secret Journals of Mina Harker
by Syrie James
Avon, 2010

When the Borders bookstore by us closed in September 2011, I took advantage of their final clearance sales to pick up two Dracula retellings: Karen Essex’s Dracula in Love and Syrie James’ Dracula, My Love.  I made the mistake of reading Dracula in Love first, an experience that put me off Dracula retellings for several months. Maybe as long as a year. I won’t go into why here, as this Goodreads review by M– basically covers it.

This week after taking all the time I needed to recover from my previous experience, I decided I was finally ready to read Syrie James’ version. Basically, James’ novel tells the story of Dracula from the point of view of Mina Murray, one of the women Dracula pursues in Bram Stoker’s original.

At first, James’ version of the early events in Whitby reminded me so much of Essex’s novel that I thought I’d made a mistake and had already read it. But Goodreads assured me I had not, so I powered on. Once the story left Whitby, the plot became sufficiently distinctive and engrossing that I no longer cared whether I’d read it before. I was enjoying it too much to put it down.

Every once in a while James’ writing veers into an angsty Victorian blend of judgmentalism and misogyny, peppered by predictably disastrous dialogue. But those episodes are mercifully brief, rarely lasting more than one or two paragraphs, and I found I had the fortitude to get past them.

Throughout the book, James uses the incongruities in Stoker’s Dracula (why would Dracula return to his castle in a box when he was perfectly capable of traveling by day, etc.) to fuel her plot. I caught enough of these on my own to make me wish that I had read the original Dracula more recently. I’m sure that if I had, I would have appreciated James’ version even more.

However, while this was a solid read, it’s not one that I feel the need to revisit. Instead I think I’ll bump James’ Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen up on my to-read shelf a bit.

Have you read any of James’ novels? What did you think of them?

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