A recipient of The Irish Post's "Novel of the Year" award, this tale explores the life of Bram Stoker around the time he penned Dracula, focusing on his complicated relationship with celebrated London actors Ellen Terry and Henry Irving—who many say served as a model for Dracula's character—while they all worked together at Irving's theater.
... a vibrantly imaginative narrative of passion, intrigue and literary ambition set in the garish heyday of a theater presided over by a tyrannical Irving and an exquisitely vulgar Ellen Terry, Britain’s answer to Sarah Bernhardt ... opens in Dublin in the winter of 1876, with O’Connor painting that ravishing city with a soft lyricism that Stoker himself might have envied ... Artfully splicing truth with fantasy, O’Connor has a glorious time turning a ramshackle and haunted London playhouse into a primary source for Stoker’s Gothic imaginings ... Throughout this vivid re-creation of one of the most fascinating and neglected episodes in the enticingly murky history of the Gothic novel, the storyteller keeps his reader deliciously in the dark.
... a gorgeously written historical novel about Stoker’s inner life ... I wasn’t prepared to be awed by his prose, which is so good you can taste it ... O’Connor dazzles ... O’Connor’s virtuosity more quietly reveals itself in his descriptions ... Joseph O’Connor’s magnificent novel does even more than fly, it soars.
Subtly drawn and intensely affecting, this portrayal of accidental friendship, enduring love, frustrated ambition and, dare we say it, the alchemy of acting, recalls, in its effortless grace, those 19th-century novels that made readers of us all. And Mr. O’Connor’s main characters—Stoker, Irving and the beloved actress Ellen Terry—are so forcefully brought to life that when, close to tears, you reach this drama’s final page, you will return to the beginning just to remain in their company ... a wonderfully variegated yet seamless narrative that takes us not only onto the Lyceum’s stage (Mr. O’Connor’s evocations here are splendid) but also into the consciousnesses of Stoker, Irving and, most beguilingly, Terry, whose voice, in an imagined phonographic recording, is clearest of all.