Monday, October 29, 2007

The Historian

by Elizabeth Kostova

I came across this book in a to-be-lent pile at my local book club and was so excited to see it there that I practically jumped up and down. I make a fool of myself like this on almost a daily basis, so no big news there. Anyway, this find seriously upped the fun factor of the reading challenge, since it was a book that I was really curious about but didn't have access to.

The Historian was the most enthralling read that I've had for a long time, so I cannot recommend it enough to someone looking for a nice way to spend a rainy weekend. Or perhaps pick a longer period of time, since the book is a little over 800 pages. It's so much more than your basic mystery, and is a book that informs as well as entertains. The scope of the novel is fairly vast, beginning with the time of Vlad the Impaler, also known as Dracula, and ends somewhere near the present time period. The narrator (who remains unnamed throughout the book -- I didn't notice until the end) is a girl who finds a myterious book in her father's library and is lured into becoming part of his search for the secrets surrounding Vlad the Impaler. Where does the book come from? Why is it blank, except for a picture of a dragon? Who is this Vlad and where are his remains? And more importantly, are the rumors true -- is he immortal?

As the name might imply, there's a lot of history in this book, so much so that I wish I had taken notes because it was easy for me to get lost. This is the main drawback to the book -- a plethora of important details that were difficult to keep track of for someone who has not had more than 4 hours of consecutive sleep in over 7 months. Still, I learned about the struggle against the Ottomans as well as a bit about Eastern Europe in the '70s, not to mention that it was confirmed that Bram Stoker was right about vampires. Garlic really is the wonder food. From what I've heard, the novel itself is mostly historically accurate and should satisfy the pickiest of nitpickers in that respect.

There are also a lot of characters from a variety of different countries, but it was written coherently enough that I managed to keep track of most of them. As well, there is a surprising lack of gore for the's a vampire novel and although a few historical details made me feel a little queasy, the suspense kept me on the edge of my seat without turning my stomach. The plot unfolds through alternating first person narration and letters, but the transitions between the two are nicely done and not jumpy. Another bonus is the existence of a secret society that doesn't involve the Knights Templar, which has been a bit overdone these days.

The Historian is destined to be a classic, and if I had the startup cash I'd create my own Historian Tour that would leave The Da Vinci Code in the dust. Bring your own stake and silver cross.


PutYourFlareOn said...

Can I borrow this book from you??

The Wife said...

So...I picked up the Historian and got kind of freaked out in the middle. I'll go back to it. I will. I will tryyyy.

Seriously, are you reading Bleak House? I LOVE that book! You'll love it too! Dickens is Fantastic! And it's perfect for Fall...with the rain and the fog and the endless Chancery. It's great!

Kristy said...

I am so glad you liked it! I loved the history, but it was a bit hard to keep up with. Great review.