Title: The New Annotated Dracula
Author: Bram Stoker & Leslie S. Klinger
Release Date: October 17, 2008
Publisher: W.W. Norton & Co.
Review: Originally posted at Curled Up With a Good Book
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
The New Annotated Dracula is, in no uncertain terms, a masterpiece. The book itself is physically beautiful, a huge tome with all the heft and weight a classic such as Dracula deserves. The black cover with blood-red lettering only serves to increase the atmosphere once the book is opened and the first pages are turned.
Dracula itself is an interesting enough read, shrouded in mystery at every turn; there is nothing definitive about it. Stoker builds the story slowly, layer by layer. For a long time, the reader feels in the dark about what is going on, and this mystery and insecurity increases the foreboding. While Stoker’s writing is beautiful and haunting, it can also be tedious. One of the main complaints about Dracula is that nothing really happens. That’s not actually the case, but there is a lot more exposition in this book than action. This is a book of subtleties, where everything creeps up on the reader from behind rather than jumping out and yelling. That’s part of the magic of Dracula.
As a result, the ending is somewhat anti-climactic – to be expected, considering the tone of the rest of the novel, but readers wishing for an all-out bloody fight will be disappointed. Instead, the novel ends as quietly and subtly as it began.
The real gem of this edition is in Klinger’s annotations. Stoker’s writing is not always clear; whenever the reader has a question, Klinger is always there to jump in with an explanation, and it’s immensely helpful in reading this brute of a novel. Klinger’s approach to Dracula is also thoroughly enjoyable. In his introduction, he writes that Stoker claimed that he happened upon Harker’s papers, that he didn’t write them himself – and that all the events that occur within Dracula were true. Klinger accepts Stoker’s claim at face value then proceeds to go through the novel pointing out discrepancies galore. It’s an interesting approach, and Klinger should be commended for his fastidiousness and amazing attention to detail.
The annotations can be overwhelming at times, but they are easy to ignore if the reader just wants to focus on the story. If you just want a nice copy of the book to sit on your shelf without ever reading it, this beautifully executed book will impress the best of them. If you are reading Dracula for the first time, the annotations are extremely helpful if you get confused but easy to ignore if you just want to focus on the storyline. And if you’re a true Dracula fan? I can’t believe you haven’t run out and purchased this book yet. The annotations here provide an entirely new reading experience that you don’t want to miss.
I highly recommend this edition of Dracula to anyone and everyone. Bram Stoker’s novel gets four stars from me, but Klinger’s new edition gets a full five.