I received this book for Christmas, it's an updated version of one of the original books to delve into the life of the 'real' Dracula, Vlad the Impaler/Vlad Dracula, and to investigate the origin of Romanian folk-lore about vampires. Regular readers of my blog will know that Dracula is one of my favourite books and that I'm fascinated with the vampire myth (though not the paranormal romance kind!). As McNally and Florescu are both scholars who have travelled intensively in the Wallachia region and researched all over the world, I was excited to start reading this book. As well as covering the life of Vlad Dracula, it looks at the origins of the myth and how the representation of Dracula on stage and screen has changed over time.
In Search of Dracula was concise, but packed full of interesting facts. Although much of the information was already familiar to me, it was presented in an interesting way and there were some new facts. I had no idea of the connections between Dracula and the Bathory family, and McNally and Florescu do a great job of portraying the context of Vlad Dracula's cruelty, while not excusing it. Vlad Dracula was constantly fighting challengers to his power (sometimes from within his own family), as well as attempting to push back the Ottoman threat. If you've never read anything about the historical Dracula, this book would be completely fascinating.
For me, the most interesting part was when the authors veered away from strict history and considered whether all the myths about Vlad Dracula could be true. Did he really dine among a field of impaled humans, dipping his bread in their blood? Translations of the original German anti-Dracula pamphets are included in the appendix and whilst they are grossly exaggerated, the authors conclude that the historical Dracula did probably commit some of the acts ascribed to him, those that he had the motive for. Again, this part was morbidly fascinating to read.
The only place where the book fell down was in the later stages, where the authors moved on to considering how Bram Stoker's Dracula has been represented in film, and more broadly how books about vampires have changed over the time. Although this had the potential to be interesting, in reality it was mainly a list of books/films with a brief description of each, which I admit to skipping over.
On the whole, this is a short but fascinating book about the life of the historical Dracula and the evolution of the vampire myth. Fans of Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian will love it.
Source: Personal copy (Christmas gift)
First Published: 1972
Score: 4 out of 5
1. The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova - A scholar receives a mysterious book with a dragon inside it and his search for the origins of the book lead him through the history of the historical Dracula. Gothic fiction.
2. From Demons to Dracula by Matthew Beresford - Non-fiction account of the history of vampires.
3. Vlad by C.C. Humphreys - Fictional retelling of the life of Vlad Dracula, as seen by his confessor and friend. No vampires here.