Off the Shelf: Mina

MinaMina by Marie Kiraly
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Mina by Marie Kiraly bends genre in fun & curious ways. Not quite historical fiction, not quite erotica, not quite a feminist reinterpretation of high literature, Kiraly instead takes the most interesting aspects of all three genres & gives readers a story about coming back to “normal life” after having brushed up against something strange. I’ve read many of the other comments on GoodReads about this book & many people seem disappointed that the novel isn’t easily categorized. Honestly, I think Mina falls into a certain type of storytelling that gives authors space to play & reinterpret their favorite types of literature.

The scale I used to compare Mina included books like Mistress of the Art of Death & The Poe Shadow on the poor side of the scale, The Diary of Elizabeth Frankenstein and Dragonwyck in the middle, and Passion & The Mists of Avalon at the top. Mina would come in above average on this scale. All of these books rely on a specific literary touchstone or author to give them life & try to create a fantasy that other fascinated readers can relate to. I totally picked up Mina because I had always dreamed up interesting futures for Mina Harker after the story of Dracula ended. (One included her running off with a Russian violinist & seeing the Revolution in action.)

Kiraly is a writer who not only knows the Dracula text inside & out, but has clearly done some serious research on Victorian society & the parts of Eastern Europe her characters travel through. Her prose is natural, approachable & competently structured. My only quibble is that the details of the England landscape were often overlooked in favor of the wilds of Carpathia, but who can blame the author wanting to hang out there? Kiraly also has fun integrating or hinting at other influences. One of the main characters is an exercise in Byronic excess. Russia romantically beckons from just off-stage. The social novels of the era are also alluded to as Mina volunteers at or is confined to various hospitals. In short, Mina was a great book for an English major like me because it mixed both critical thought & pure fantasy in equally pleasing measures.

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