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Retrospective: Dracula Daily

This both is and isn’t a review. Yes, I’m among those who read Dracula via the Dracula Daily newsletter and I had a great time. On the other hand, it’s really hard to review or critique something that’s not only a book but also a minor cultural phenomenon, with the latter part being rather essential. You cannot talk about recommending or not recommending an experience that is unlikely to repeat for others to take part in, or at least not at such scale. But I had to write something for goodreads to mark it as read, and, well, turns out I have a lot to say.

I first heard of Dracula Daily only a few days after it started. I have had…poor experiences with classics in the past and I had heard many mixed things about Dracula in particular, so I was a little hesitant at first. But what the hell, it’s only a couple emails and I need to see what the fuss is about, I said, and subscribed. It turned out to be amazing. The combination of regular, real-time updates and post-update memes and discussion on tumblr was absolutely the best possible way to experience it – even if it did take half a year to read, and I did fall off the wagon for a while after that really long October 3rd entry.

Despite the pop culture omnipresence, I knew nothing about the actual plot beyond “there’s a vampire I guess?” I’ve never even seen a single of the movies. And I’m honestly pleasantly surprised. It’s about friendship and the power of meticulous record-keeping and knowing the train schedules.

There are the usual caveats for 19th century novels – lots of racism and xenophobia, weird treatment of mental illness, general medical inaccuracies, etc. All the expected ones. But what pleasantly surprised me is how much agency and how big of a role do female characters have, especially Mina. For all that she says she is not one of the “new women,” for all that the men try (and fail) to leave her out of the adventures to protect her, she is smart and competent and a total badass. It’s an interesting conflict between what’s told and what’s shown – a sense that even though both the male characters and to some extent the author tried to shove Mina into the role of proper Victorian lady, she just…refused to be boxed in.

Would I have enjoyed it if I had read it as a normal book? Probably not. The spontaneous internet bookclub with all its fanart and useful pointers for first time readers and jokes about paprika, trains, and the almighty polycule was essential for my enjoyment, and taking it day by day made quite a few moments hit harder than they would have otherwise.

If it happens again next year, I highly recommend joining.

Enjoyment: 5/5
Execution: 5/5 for the format, 4/5 for the book
I guess


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