It Started with Dracula

The Count, My Mother, and Me

Non-Fiction - Autobiography
352 Pages
Reviewed on 09/12/2011
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Alice DiNizo for Readers' Favorite

Author Jane Congdon is a devoted fan of the Christopher Lee Dracula movies. As a teenager in the 1950's she loved going to the movie theater in her West Virginia hometown to watch the tall, elegant actor play Count Dracula. It was a welcome escape to her as, at home, her mother was an abusive alcoholic, a monster who spewed out cruelties to Congdon and her brother, Joe, scaring and scarring them both. At age 59, having endured divorce and single motherhood, the author had saved her money and was able to afford a trip to Romania,
home to Count Vlad, the original Dracula, the medieval ruler who tortured sadistically endless numbers of citizens.

In It Started With Dracula, the author gives the reader an easy-to-follow tour throughout Romania as she visits one "Vlad" site after another with her guide, Lucian. At the beginning of each chapter, a chilling black and white illustration of a castle by moonlight gives ambiance as the author writes of visiting Vlad's castles, his supposed grave, and farms nestled in Transylvania. She also intersperses her travels to various Dracula sites with memories of her own monster, the alcoholic mother of her childhood.

Jane Congdon has written a wonderful travel guide to the entirety of Romania as she writes of how her girlhood fascination with all things Dracula saved her from the horrors of an out-of-control alcoholic mother. It Started with Dracula is well-written and brilliantly organized into chapters with a book discussion section offered at the conclusion. Condon's dedication to "kids who have to come home to monsters" is poignant. She is fortunate that her fascination with Dracula saved her the fate faced by many children of alcoholics.